My new haunt..
I didn’t want to rave about Copita for many reasons. First, I loved its intimate ambiance of high wooden counters and stools. I could stand, sit, perch, perv, do whatever I like. Second, I loved its “No Reservation” policy and the carefree tag line on its website reading “Dinner 5.30pm to Close”. Third, I liked it very much today that I was the only diner there. No queue. Dishes arrived at a highly appetising pace. So tranquil and perfect…
I would hate for punters to flock Copita. I wanted to keep this place to myself!!
Back to reality of London restaurants, Copita offered something truly endearing and adequately inventive. While such repetitive terms as “small”, “sharing”, “tapas”, etc. could easily kill my culinary excitement (for the fact that the concept has been done, redone and undone to buggery in the last couple of years), this little Spanish tapas gem stood out. Say, a decent sized menu with prices hovering between £2.50 – £7.95 with the exception of Jamon de Bellota (40g) at £13.50. Dishes were, of course, as lilliputian as the prices. I could demolish one in a matter of less than 3 spoonfuls.
The twists were the raw beauty and precision that accompanied these small plates. Ajo Blanco with Beetroot (£3.95) was this coy almond soup. I was blown away by the subtlety of flavours. Served chilled, the soup was milky and sweet. Little pearls of grapes rested alongside cubes of beetroot and chopped almond rendering not just multi-dimensional sweetness but a maelstrom of pleasurable texture, while the courageous topping of dill brought it all to life. A good note of vinegar-y acidity in the background. Razor Clams & Chevril Roots (£3.50) was no less beautifully created. Lightly cured and sliced razor clam was pleasantly springy and served on a bed of olive oil-infused potato puree and garnished with nano-cubes of potatoes and smashed chevril roots. Creamy and delicious (though I think some more acidity would have made it even more stellar). I was also in love with my Baked Duck Eggs, Girolles & Summer Truffle (£5.95). The just congealed and faintly salted egg yolk added sumptuousness to girolles, peppers and sorrel. There was some truffle dust but hardly any aroma. (They could have cheated with truffle oil).
My next dish was John Dory & Shrimps (£5.95), which featured this pretty and fresh JD fillet and bulb-y, shelled shrimps braised in parsley, garlic, chilli and white wine sauce. It was packed with sea flavours but verged on having too much salt content for my liking. Less distinct in deliciousness was Lamb Sweetbreads & White Asparagus (£4.50). While the sweetbreads were wonderfully crispy outside and sponge-y within, I found the flavour combination to be ordinary. White asparagus puree did not have much taste and the sourness – from the fresh scattering of sorrel leaves and the pickle-y sharpness of the capers – was intrusive. An okay dish, nonetheless. Squab Pigeon, Pear & Chocolate (£4.50) brought the grin back to my face. The meat expertly done at medium oozed robust goodies. The layering of fruity garnish, from pear paste, sugary roasted figs and (if I didn’t get it wrong) tangy dehydrated redcurrant (if not, Goji berries), proved that the inventiveness of the kitchen had paid off.
Desserts were less inspiring. Nata (£2.50) was curd-y and delectable, though the pastry was not as immensely flake-y as them ones at Fernandez & Wells. Olive Oil Ice Cream Choc Ice (£4.95) arrived very much a Magnun ice cream. The milk chocolate coating was lightly salted and made my mouth water insanely. The down side was that its richness overwhelmed the silky ice cream inside. I couldn’t taste olive oil as billed but detected some vanilla note. Not bad but again not how I envisioned the taste of an “Olive Oil Ice Cream”.
My meal at Copita made me feel as if mopping up a superbly constructed tasting menu rather just tapas-ing. It brings to mind two disparate dining experiences that I love – say, hip tapas bars in Spain + Parisian bistronomy! This is food that is playful and inventive without negating comforting honesty. Risks are, certainly, paid off. (I hope the kitchen will be able to deliver precision and consistency during its busy hours).
Last question.. did the nano portion bother me?
Not one bit (this does not mean some others might not have issues). Flavours at Copita were bold enough to make themselves tasted and loved in a few bites. Be careful about the bill, though, as it could mount!
But, as it happens, I bloody love the place and can’t wait for a reprise.
My head rating says, “8.5 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.
26-27 D’ Arblay Street
Tel. 020 7287 7797