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|Address:||32-34 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9HA|
|Tel:||020 3589 4500|
|Price: £49.00||Wine: £23.50||Champagne: £60.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 8.30am-10.45pm (Sat 9.30am- ) Sun 9.30am-9.45pm|
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I had some misgivings about Kopapa from the start. Despite looking rather sultry from the outside, once inside that mood lighting appeared more brusque than beatific, serving to highlight the ugly tiled floors, the factory-form walls and the tightly hemmed seating. Worse, we had several minutes to enjoy this view as we waited for our ‘host’ to seat us, in spite of a surfeit of other waiters buzzing around the floor. A fear was rising – I had brought my date to London’s most expensive, most pretentious greasy spoon.
Of course, this was not how Kopapa thought of itself and the menu was an exotic – if somewhat exhausting – tour across diverse continents and categories. However that feeling that this might be all veneer remained, and our waitress, though friendly, had a distinct lack of conviction about both the food and wine we enquired of.
We pressed on keen, at least, to drink through it with a serviceable and reasonably-priced Sauvignon Blanc to help mask the cobbled together food we were surely about to receive.
An opener of babaganoush and olives hardly helped, the olives having a sharp, almost pickled hit, while the babaganoush, though texturally sound missed a hit of seasoning that might have taken it above shop-bought standard.
Happily, however, this lack of substance did not continue and some dishes hit real high notes. A chickpea, pepper and feta salad was bold and bright. Beef cheeks were tender and well-balanced with mash and a just-sweet grape sauce, while spiced squid was well-cooked for crunchy bite and with a smoked aioli that stayed just the right side of charred. A plantain and sweet potato tortilla missed the mark slightly, though more because of odd, rectangular presentation than any fault in cooking. The feeling, overall, was that most of what we ate was good and that actually, there was plenty more on this menu that we could come back and try.
Kopapa makes for a slightly strange experience then. We walked out well-fed and with barely a memory of the industrial-styled dining room. And yet, it has some serious flaws in service, style and even some of the cooking. Treated as a restaurant it might not pass muster, but underneath those bright lights, one could also easily read Kopapa as a greasy spoon for the crème fraiche generation, somewhere relatively calm and comfortable, but also somewhere to try out new fun, fresh new flavours.