Soho dining now has some of the best elements of the 'tapas' culture, with plenty of choices, Spanish or otherwise, for dipping in and out and taking in several courses over the course of an evening - this small patch of London is in the throes of a restaurant renaissance, a new addition or two added to the mix almost every month.
Copita takes the accepted notion of tapas and funks it up a little, inspired by the obsessive attention to detail of the pintxo bars of San Sebastián, one of the finest spots in the world for eating. La Cuchara de San Telmo is one of these tiny places pumping out small dishes of considerable élan, several leagues above your standard Spanish tapas bar, and Copita takes some of its inspiration and direction from this genius little place in the Basque country.
In the evenings the place hums with the right mood, not feeling forced or staged - screw your eyes up a little, and we could very well be in one of those tiny side streets in San Sebastián getting slowly merry on wave after wave of the local wine Txakoli.
The kitchen is now headed by a young buck, twenty-one year old Nye Smith, who has already gained valuable experience cooking at Morito in Exmouth market. He's a rising star and one to keep an eye on.
Octopus & Chorizo
Familiar sounding combinations like octopus, chorizo, potato and the smoky paprika Pimientón de la Vera are perked up with the addition of fried chick peas, punchy shards of crisp chorizo adding verve to every bite. The slick of olive oil and smoky paprika left behind is perfect bread dunking material.
A simple sounding dish of grilled gem lettuce is adorned with toasted hazelnuts and parmesan - no fanaticism of using only Spanish ingredients here - and the dressing is beautifully balanced with moscatel vinegar and good olive oil. Another dish which demands mopping up after you've finished off the main attractions.
Ajo blanco is one of the regular menu items, a thrillingly refreshing and cooling blend of whizzed up Marcona almonds (in a snazzy Pacojet machine beloved of many avant-garde chefs), a light and fluffy spoonful studded with bits of cooked and raw beetroot, garlic, red grapes, and chunks of more almonds. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar finishes things off.
Nye Smith has already added his own playful addition to the menu with a dish announced as a pork kebab. It comes out looking like a mini burrito, sliced in two and wrapped in silver foil. Apple and kohlrabi are in the mix with some harissa paste and yoghurt, and its all encased with a chapati style bread - a cocky little dish which has an element of NYC about it, slightly tongue-in-cheek but bloody good to eat.
Egg, smoked haddock, broad beans
A visually engrossing dish is the smoked haddock with duck egg and broad beans, a preternaturally solid looking yolk having been cooked slowly sous vide for twenty minutes. The result is a silky yolk that can practically be sliced in two - it's a quirky little showpiece.
We particularly like pea croquetas with Mama Vaca fresh cheese from Burgos in the north, laced with the subtle funk of white truffle oil. Crisp casing, creamy within, the decadence of truffle - it's a winning take on the traditional jamón croquetas.
Chicken liver parfait, St. George's mushrooms
Chicken liver parfait with some tiny toadstool shaped St. George's mushrooms looks simple, but a feather light parfait is a good foil for little mushrooms that pack in a fair punch of earthy flavour, dressed with olive oil and vinegar and some fresh tarragon.
Owner Tim Luther has a wine trade background and the wine list is notable. Big Dog wineries of La Rioja Alta are here, their Viña Ardanza a classy drop at £7 a glass, and it's good to see wines of gluggable good value from Jumilla, the brilliant Pacheco wading in at just £3.70 a glass or £11 for a carafe. There are more glass and carafe options than you can shake a chorizo at.
Wade into the sherries from the classic aperitif style Manzanilla from La Guita and La Goya, with their twang of saltiness like a blast of ocean air, before moving onto the noble Palo Cortado from Regente. It's pleasing also to see the excellent Madrileños beer Mahou served by the bottle, a rare sight in London, and better than the more prevalent Estrella Damm from Barcelona.
Best of all are the huge goblets of Donstia style gin and tonics, charged with a double shot of gin and large enough to floor an Ibérico pig. Two of these will get your night off to a spectacular start. Finish off with lemon sorbet topped with delicate rosé cava if you're in the mood.
Copita is a surprising little joint. Surprising because D'Arblay Street always seems to disappear when you're looking for it. Surprising because some of the dishes being flung out of the kitchen are "cheffy" in a very good way. Surprising because dropping in for one or two plates invariably turns into a few more. San Sebastián done Soho style ain't a bad habit to acquire.
26-27 D'Arblay Street, London, W1F 8EX
Monday to Friday: 12:00 - 16:00 & 17:30 - 22:30
Saturday: 13:00 - 16:00 & 17:30 - 22:30
Lunch Offer (available through June) - 20% off lunch bill
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