Monday, 13 December 2010

Kopapa, Covent Garden



"Good in parts" was how the curate famously described his egg, the humour (such as it was in 1895) deriving from the fact that if any "part" of an egg is bad, the whole thing is spoiled - poor old curate was just trying to make the best of a bad situation. Ho ho ho. "Good in parts" is also a phrase that quite accurately describes a lunch I had at Kopapa, Peter Gordon's new gaff in Covent Garden, although how well the curate metaphor stretches in this situation is up for debate. A restaurant probably can be partly bad without the whole thing being ruined - one lousy dish may not necessarily spoil an entire meal, especially if there are enough interesting and tasty bites elsewhere to offset the disappointment. And with that in mind, I am happy to describe Kopapa as "good", despite one disastrous dish that never should have left the kitchen and nearly derailed the whole meal.




It being opening week, and with 50% off the food bill, there were many issues with timing it would be unfair to dwell on - I'm sure in the fullness of time everything will settle down and future guests at Kopapa will not have to wait quite so long between courses as we did. Service otherwise though was friendly if a bit elusive, and perhaps we are as much to blame as anyone for turning up as a party of eight then ordering two of everything on the tapas menu - a challenge for any restaurant, never mind one a few days old. First to arrive were three styles of New Zealand oysters, and were classic Antipodean fusion food - reading badly (oyster and miso gazpacho, oyster and sake broth) but tasting good. Padron peppers didn't look "deep fried" to me, just prepared in the traditional Spanish way, lightly salted, and were no worse for that. And a breadcrumbed chunk of butternut squash was firm inside and crunchy out, delicately spiced and served with a refreshing cucumber raita.



Chorizo beignets were surprisingly flavourless for what is normally a strong and spicy meat - perhaps it was lacking a little of the main ingredient, because a separate order of "grilled chorizo" demonstrated that there was nothing wrong with the meat itself - these were crispy and rich and moreish. Parmesan and bone marrow on toast was fantastic - silky and beefy with a good sharp blob of beetroot and horseradish to fight the fat, but a duck liver parfait was fairly one-dimensional and hardly better than anything you could buy ready made from a supermarket. There were a number of other dishes that ranged between OK and good that it would be too tedious to list here, but overall I got the impression that this was a competent kitchen cooking innovative and interesting food, the kind of thing we could do with a lot more of in London. That was, until the "steamed buns" arrived.


They were basically raw. Not just undercooked, not merely past their best, completely and utterly raw - sad, soggy sacks of claggy dough that coated the mouth like putty and tasted of nothing other than bitter flour and water. We mentioned this to a waiter, who apologised but didn't appear to take anything off the bill - a detail with the 50% off offer you may think, but even at half price these were still £2.40 and a second glance from anyone checking the food leaving the kitchen would have immediately spotted something was wrong. It wasn't just that Kopapa can't do Chinese food, either - prawn siu-mai were very nicely done, with delicate thin coatings and a firm seafood filling. So who knows what story is behind the production of those buns - all I know is they were a disaster.



Looking past the catastrophic steamed buns though, Kopapa is still a restaurant that shows promise. The bold inclusion on the tapas menu of "chickpea-battered lamb's brains" won't be everyone's cup of tea (it wasn't really mine - I tasted one in a spirit of daring adventure but the creamy, formless texture of brain still doesn't quite do it for me) but at least shows confidence, and they were cooked as well as you could cook anything that came out of a baby sheep's skull. House bread, too, was genuinely fantastic - nicely seasoned, good crusts, light and buttery inside, I'd like to think they are made in-house but if not, they have a good supplier.

Trying to get an overall impression of a place from a shaky soft opening is difficult - and possibly rather unfair - but judging from dishes such as the marrowbone toast and the oysters I would like to think Kopapa could grow into an interesting and characterful restaurant in a location - Covent Garden - hardly blessed with a surplus of such places. Nothing was mind-blowingly great, and some things were pretty awful, but at least it's not another branch of Nando's and I'll take promising and enthusiastic over predictable and anodyne any day of the week. Good luck Peter Gordon and Kopapa, then, and here's hoping, in the end, that "good in parts" is good enough.

6/10

Kopapa on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

Karin said...

Completely agree with all your observations. Loved the bone marrow on toast! Could have done without the brains...

gastrogeek said...

oh dear. Raw you say?! That's not very nice.

Mr Noodles said...

Assuming there was no cock-up's like the steamed buns, would you be happy to pay the full price at Kopapa?

My own limited experiences with Mr Gordon's establishments is that it can be overpriced for what it is.

PS: That toast looks well burnt.

Laura Nickoll said...

I hope they find their feet. The menu sounds promising, and good on them for serving brain (I love it, having tasted a beautifully cooked sample made by Stefan Gates), but that toast looks burnt!

tori said...

Burnt toast, raw buns. Oh dear. Lovely writing, as ever though...

Lizzie said...

Ewwwww raw buns! still, as it was in soft launch I suppose you have to forgive them, or it's not really fair is it?

dining room table said...

I would love to visit this place one day. The food looks great and delicious.

Joshua said...

The traditional Spanish way to prepare Padron peppers is to deep-fry them. Just dump the lot in the oil as is and give a few minutes till soft and going brown before draining and sprinkling with salt. As such I'd think the Kopapa ones were deep-fried too.

For the money I enjoyed the meal and when they're giving you 50% off I think one has to be sympathetic. As soon as they start charging full price though, whether they're a week old or not, I'd expect full service.

Just noticed on londoneating someone disapproving of the bone marrow on toast, for me it was arguably my favourite dish.

Keith said...

I think your review pretty much sits alongside our impressions of the place when we went last Thursday. Although one thing I can't get past in my head - 50% off?? Really? 50% off!!?? Hmmmmmmm.........

What day did you go? We experienced the opening week teething and would have hoped for a kick back to compensate a few and minor mis-haps, but no mention or a hint thereof. We had also popped along to Barbecoa within a few days of opening and got 25% off which seemed reasonable.

Anyway, I'll move on. What a shame about the buns, big #FAIL, but there are some really tasty and well made dishes. To someone who hasn't really experienced fusion to this degree, I would say it was a good experience overall and I'm fairly confident that things will tighen up and improve within time.

Chris said...

Josh: Fair enough! Didn't know that about the Padrons.

Keith: Very poor show you didn't get the 50% offer even though you went before us! I have the press release email invite here - this is what it says - "...opening on Tuesday 7 December, Midday. There will be 50% off the total bill on 7th (open Midday-11pm) and 8th December (open 8am-11pm), and it will operate as usual from 9th December.".