Kopapa, an all-day cafe in the heart of theatreland in Covent Garden, is the latest venture of renowned New Zealand fusion chef Peter Gordon, he of The Providores and Tapa Room fame. The restaurant was busy on the Friday night we visited, but the atmosphere was relaxed, and the service polite and efficient. Tables are very close together, the seats not overly comfortable, and the food comes out quickly, so this isn’t really a place to linger, although in fairness we did not feel at all rushed during the evening. Mostly tapas based, the menu here can make for some heavy reading – Gordon’s cooking is complex, even the smallest dish making use of a quite a number of ingredients. After much deliberation, we opted for 4 items from the tapas section, and one main, all to share.
The meal started off on a positive note – the first two dishes to arrive, South Australia Yellow-tail Kingfish sashimi with dashi jelly, rhubarb & wasabi tapioca and Seared Yellow Fin tuna on green papaya, green mango & coriander salad with nori sauce were both good. The rhubard & wasabi tapioca in the sashimi dish was especially clever, adding a striking colour to the presentation, and also combining well with the fish. The tuna, meanwhile, was nicely seared, with the papaya, mango and coriander salad making it a fine, refreshing dish. The nori sauce didn’t contribute much, however, and in fact had the effect of weighing down the dish. It was a distracting, detracting presence on the plate, the first example of Gordon over-complicating matters.
Next to arrive was the Panko crumbled Iberico pork, Cheddar & shiso on Vietnamese coleslaw with tamarind caramel. This was basically a glorified Japanese tonkatsu dish; even the tamarind caramel tasting just like a tonkatsu sauce. The cheddar and shiso added little. The Smoked eel crepe with apple, & umeboshi salad was very well presented, but the crepe was a bit too thick, and lacking any sort of element to lift it, the dish remained completely unremarkable.
The sole main course we choose, Tempura spicy dahl stuffed inari pocket on caramelised coconut with samphire, fried plantain, pickled green papaya & coriander was reasonably nice, if nothing all that special – it reminded me a bit of a Malaysian stuffed tofu dish, even to the extent of the use of deep fried tofu, albeit slightly more creatively done in this instance with the tempura inari pocket. Servings were small, so we added a couple more plates of tapas - Deep fried chilli salted Cornish squid with chorizo mayonnaise and our waiter’s recommendation, Char-grilled aubergine with tahini tofu, black-bean Moromi miso & ginger dressing. The squid was done well – light and crisp, with the chorizo mayonnaise a somewhat unusual, welcome, twist. The dressing on the aubergine dish was far too strong and overpowering – we ended up having to scrape most of it off before we could bring ourselves to eat the aubergine, which itself was very ordinary.
This was a meal that started well, then got progressively worst through the night. Dessert only served to accelerate that trend further. We had the Sticky banana pudding with rum caramel and peanut butter ice cream and Toasted marshmallow pumpkin pie with thyme anglais & maple pecans. The banana pudding was alright, if a bit dry, but the peanut butter ice cream was extremely salty, a combination that did not work at all. The marshmallow pumpkin pie was no better - the flavours, again, uneven.
In a nutshell…
A couple of good dishes to begin with raised expectations, but these were rapidly deflated with each successive plate that then followed. By the end, we had experienced a hugely confused, unbalanced meal with flavours that simply did not mesh most of the time. I guess it might be possible to have a good meal here, if one orders very carefully – read fortuitously, but not on this night.
32-34 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9HA
Average price: £30-£40