In the heart of London's theatreland, Kopapa is a new addition to the hoards of restaurants in Covent Garden. Kopapa is brought to us by Kiwi Chef Peter Gordon (ex Sugar Club) and has been open (soft) since Tuesday. Kopapa is a stone throw from both Hawksmoor and Dishoom Restaurants.
When I first walked in I was shocked by how few people where there. Do people know who Peter Gordon god-father of fusion cooking is? Why isn't there a queue around the block? Keith and I like to joke that when we open the fridge and dump whatever food we have on the island in the kitchen and throw it in a pot, we are experimenting with fusion cooking. I often get the humoured look from Keith as I argue that it is ok to mix certain foods together. Unfortunately for us, none of our “experimental” meals have either the finesse or grace of Peter Gordon's. Of course fusion cooking is not about the reinvention of leftovers and avoidance of waste. Rather it is about the utilisation of an ingredient in a dish regardless of where it came from in the world. We were therefore hoping to be wowed and inspired by our dining experience.
Kopapa were obviously erring on the casual upmarket cafe dining style. The setting was relaxed and the informal atmosphere, cultivated by ambient house music would be perfect for dining with friends. We also noticed concertina windows on the facade of the restaurant, which would make Kopapa an ideal location in the summer.
We were slightly under pressure as we had tickets to the ballet but the staff reassured us that they would be able to get us out on time. Two glasses of a delicious 2009 George Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages were swiftly ordered and we chose to share a platter. The wine list was varied but not extensive, which was ok for a restaurant of this size. Interestingly, Kopapa offered carafes of wine, which is a safe half way house for theatre goers. The platter consisted of almonds, cumin olives, thickly sliced gravlax with dill, Zamorano cheese (similar to manchego), grilled chorizo and Guindilla chillies. The piece de resistance was an oversized cigar like ciabatta bread-stick. This tapas dish was so diverse and enjoyable I did not want it to end.
For our mains I chose a duck leg confit with Malaysian sweet potatoes, sour cherry jus and pak choi. Keith picked the pork belly on almond skordalia and buttered kale with moromi miso and tarragon dressing. My duck leg was a very generous size (bordering on an impressive Henry VIII look) and piping hot. The sweetness of the cherry jus was an excellent accompaniment to it. The cute soft dumplings provided an additional treat. Keith's pork belly was tender and the crackling was crispy, but not over cooked. It was attractively presented. Keith commented, in ignorance, to the waiter that his skordalia* was cold, but apparently this celeriac side dish (normally made with potatoes) was supposed to be served luke warm.
We were running out of time for dessert. We decided to go to the ballet and then return for pudding afterwards. The accommodating waiters were more than happy to oblige. Interestingly, there was more of a buzz by the time we arrived just after ten. I picked the boiled orange cake with passionfruit custard. Keith chose the brulee with light and fluffy fruit fritters. Both were packed with flavour, and my only complaint was that my dessert had been refrigerated and was slightly too cold.
The food was on par with our expectations of Peter Gordon (who was cooking in the kitchen). The staff were terrific, but there were some minor but completely curable first week teething problems. We are not going to mentioned these as they are solvable and we do not envisage them becoming a problem. Keith had always wanted to dine at the Sugar Club when he was younger, so I was pleased for him that we had fulfilled that dream in another guise. The menu was innovative and refreshingly different to so many classic or commercial restaurants in Covent Garden. We shall definitely be recommending Kopapa.
*skordalia– almonds, mashed potatoes, lemon, vinegar olive oil