★★★☆☆ / Spanish / Tapas

Copita review – back street Soho tapas

Catalan tapas within spitting distance of Oxford Street

There’s no shortage of tapas restaurants in London and Soho has more than its fair share, so a new tapas place has to have a little something extra to pique my interest. Copita serves up Catalan-inspired tapas and is located on a small side street in Soho so it’s almost impossible to stumble across. Most of London’s tapas eateries are restaurants rather than bars, but Copita aims to replicate the more casual, grazing, dip in and out style of traditional tapas eating with its all-stool and bench seating although it’s still more of a restaurant than a bar.

Copita’s menu changes monthly and I managed to sample a broad swath one lunchtime with the help of the Squinting Brummie, Socialist Worker, Templeton Peck, Higgs Boson and Resumé. We all started off with some rather unremarkable bread that was livened up by some light, grassy olive oil.

The Squinting Brummie may have a certain air of bohemian decadence about him, but he chose some simple but surprisingly effective dishes. The simple cherry tomato salad was sweet, refreshing and dominated by a hefty sprinkling of parsley.

cherry tomato salad at copita

Appropriately, cherry tomatoes date from pre-Columbian South America.

The rare and tender slivers of beef onglet had an offaly quality to them which was complimented well by an accompaniment of sweet tomatoes and potatoes which had a gently crispy exterior that gave way to a still soft and fluffy interior.

onglet with fried potatoes and tomatoes at copita

Onglet, hanger, skirt – steak just as tasty by any other name

Morcilla de bellota is effectively a Spanish black pudding. An initial bite might not yield many differences between it and a more familiar British black pudding, but each slice has a soft, rich and creamy centre resembling a smooth, delicate pork pate that’s contrasts nicely with the bolder, heavier outer coating.

morcilla de bellota at copita

It’s like black pudding and pâté combined.

Resumé greatly enjoyed the green beans served with cow’s curd, although I had some reservations. The texture of the fresh beans was just right – neither too soft nor too firm. The curd was mildly creamy, but seemed a touch out of place next to the vegetables and I couldn’t detect the alleged hazelnut component in this dish.

green beans, hazelnuts and cow's curd at copita

Curds and whey.

The soft quivering duck’s egg wasn’t quite as runny and rich as I was expecting with most of the flavour coming from the accompanying smoked haddock and spinach. Resumé rightly pointed out that the haddock and spinach ended up resembling kedgeree which is by no means a bad thing, merely an unexpected one.

duck egg, smoked haddock and spinach at copita

Eggs-ellent?

Ajo blanco is a rather unusual chilled almond soup that’s rarely found in London tapas joints (as far as I can tell) and here it has the addition of beetroot. Templeton Peck greatly enjoyed the creamy moreishness of the dish which was enhanced by the earthy boldness of the beetroot.

ajoblanco and beetroot at copita

So tasty, it went in a flash.

Our aubergine dish looked a little unappetising but it turned out to be surprisingly good. The soft butteriness of the egg plant was enhanced by the sweet tomatoes and tart, creamy yoghurt. I wasn’t quite as enamoured with it as my dining companions were, but there’s no doubt that it’s a tasty dish.

eggplant and tomatoes in yoghurt with mint at copita

Eat your vegetables and you’ll grow up big and strong.

I couldn’t resist ordering some Spanish ham and opted for the San Augustin jamon de bellota which is made from pigs that have been fed on acorns. The thin waxy slices of pork were gently salty and fatty, but they didn’t have the woody, grassy flavours that make the best jamon de bellota a joy to behold.

jamon de bellota ham at copita

Did they run out of plates?

Pork scratchings are usually found in pubs creating new work for the nation’s dentists. I’m not really a fan and the ones here aren’t as dangerous to tooth enamel as the pub variety but I still couldn’t find much to love in their hard, crunchy saltiness. Anchovies as an accompaniment seemed like an odd choice and both Socialist Worker and I struggled to eat them together in anything resembling a dignified manner. The little fishies were gently salty, but they didn’t have the same visceral intensity as the Cantabrian anchovies often available at Terroirs.

anchovies and pork scratchings at copita

You won’t find these in a packet down at your local pub.

Resumé picked out the scallops served with pea purée and chorizo breadcrumbs. The scallops were small but fresh and squishy. The creamy purée and the salty breadcrumbs were a little muted so they didn’t overwhelm the scallops, but that also made the dish less interesting. An interesting Catch-22 of a dish that doesn’t quite work.

scallops, pea puree and chorizo breadcrumbs at copita

You could have it so much better.

I was a little worried that the mussel croquettes would be too oily, but that wasn’t a problem. The crisp exterior gave way to a creamy interior filled with firm chunks of fresh mussels (sorry folks, no photo of this one).

The grilled sardines were a bit bony and their natural mild oiliness was reminiscent of mackerel, although they didn’t taste quite as bold as that fish.

sardines grilled at copita

Why don’t we see fresh, non-tinned sardines more often?

Higgs Boson wouldn’t leave without ordering the cheese plate and quite right too. She enjoyed the creamy and sweet manchego, but I was more enamoured with the light and sweet Catalan blue cheese. The musky, pungent, incredibly soft and creamy goat’s cheese was my personal favourite though and I’m not usually a fan of goat’s cheeses.

cheese selection at copita

Quince deserves to be eaten in its own right, not just alongside cheese.

Although the Squinting Brummie knows squat about wine (despite his oenophile heritage, his best descriptive evaluation of the house red was that it was ‘nice’), he wisely chose the apricots with creme fraiche, pine nuts and honey for dessert. The apricots were very syrupy, while the creme fraiche was thick and dense and the honey was delicately sweet although neither of us could find any of the alleged pine nuts. Even so, this the dish came together quite nicely.

apricots, creme fraiche, pine nuts and honey at copita

Not quite as good as it looks.

I’m a big fan of churros and Copita’s version is crisp and sugary on the outside with a liberal dash of cinnamon too. The insides of each pastry stick were fluffy and not at all oily. The dark bitterness of the chocolate sauce was best appreciated with a spoon though as its flavour wasn’t bold enough to stand out when smeared all over the churros which is a bit of a shame as the two should go together like a horse and carriage.

churros at copita

Chocolate and churros at Copita.

The Verdict

While there are some gems among the dishes we tried, such as the onglet and the morcilla de bellota, most of them were merely satisfactory rather than outstanding. This wouldn’t matter if London had a real tapas bar-crawling culture where you merely sampled the best dishes of each establishment before moving onto the next rather than staying at just one restaurant for the night. As it is though, Copita will have try a little harder to stand out amongst all the excellent tapas competition in London.

Name: Copita

Address: 27 D’arblay Street, London W1F 8EP

Phone: 020 7287 7797

Webhttp://copita.co.uk/

Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 11.00-23.00 (kitchen open noon-16.00 and 17.30-22.30). Saturday 13.00-16.00 and 17.30-22.30. Closed Sundays.

Reservations: only accepted for lunch.

Total cost for one person inc drinks (when shared between six): £20 approx.

Rating★★★☆☆

Copita on Urbanspoon

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