Yopo is the newly launched restaurant at The Mandrake hotel in London. It’s also the update of one of my favourite restaurants, Serge et la Phoque that I reviewed last year. Luckily for all of us, one of the chefs behind the South East Asian meets Peruvian cuisine still stands at the helm. Now the focus is less on Asian flavours and instead, the small plates focus on purer and simpler notes, with the same exceptional quality. The vibe is also a lot more casual. Enter via the bright cafe and be greeted to an open dining area, with a courtyard and glass wall on one side. Natural light, a ton of greenery and the friendly faces at reception will make you feel like you’re at a chic new restaurant in the Mediterranean.
The decor has been given a big update by the interior design fairy, something with which the rest of this avant-garde venue is familiar. Gone are the pink and yellow pastels of yesteryear and in with the new: sea-life motif on the ceiling and pared down gold tones give Yopo a luxe jetset look. The cocktail menu from the Waeska bar is something of a botanical beauty. Their speciality in ethnobotany translated into alcoholic beverages have tempted this wine lover to the dark side. Try the truly original Skullcup (£15), a whisky based drink which comes with a chocolate skull crafted in-house. If you’re into something more floral, the fairy-like creation Calamos (£15) is made with gin and blood orange sake. It’s this element that truly makes this restaurant live up to the meaning of its name – Yopo is a tree in South America that has seeds with psychedelic properties. Its traditional use is medicinal, and for spiritual and ceremonial practices.
It is no secret among my friends that I am the world’s no.1 oyster fanatic and I can shuck like an amateur fishmonger. So how could I resist when I saw that my favourite food in the world had a special twist, in the form of mezcal granita? The salty sweetness of the mollusc with the sugary bitterness of the spirit is a wonderful an unexpected experience. It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect at a restaurant in The Mandrake.
Throughout your meal at Yopo, pleasant delights like this pop up now and then. Unfortunately, the ceviche was not one of them. Standards for this popular raw dish have been set high and I would recommend opting for a third large dish than try the scallop (£13) or seabass (£12) – even though they are extremely photogenic.
I was very impressed by the greenness of the gnocchi dish (£18), which is accompanied by asparagus, swiss chard and capers. If you like cold press healthy juices this is so up your street. The pasta is handmade and pillowy-soft, soaking in chlorophyll with the tiniest hint of garlic.
The beef sirloin (£28), crowned with crisps, tenderstem broccoli and a very subtle pickled onion is for those of us who would like some veggies with our meat rather than the other way round. It’s also a dish made for sharing, which is served as two tender chunks. Then there’s the creamy miso side dish which comes generously sprinkled with sesame. This weightier part of the meal is reminiscent of Yopo’s predecessor and those nostalgic flavours make this the preferred portion for me.
After the revamp, I knew I had to make room for dessert. Interestingly, I think that this is one of the menu’s greatest strengths. Nothing is too heavy or sweet – it’s perfectly balanced, much like the delicate desserts you’ll find in Japan. There’s a wonderful Itakuja tart (£12), the lightest dark chocolate slice topped with a slick of chrome gold leaf. The texture within sits between a chilled mousse and fondant, luxuriating in an olive oil and accompanied with yoghurt sorbet. It’s a must-try even for those that aren’t that into chocolate. It’s true, they exist. Then there’s a blood orange themed beauty. This is the airiest, easiest dessert to eat – vanilla cream without that dense dairy taste (which I truly detest) in between layers of wonderful arlette pastry.
Will you be booking your next get together at Yopo?
20 – 21 Newman Street,