London: Day 1, Monmouth, Kopapa, Yauatacha

2 years after having my daughter and being at her beck and call constantly and exclusively, I went away for the weekend, alone for the first time. With plans to eat, drink and be merry.

The first two days I was giddy with euphoria and loving the freedom to do as I pleased, sleep uninterrupted and eat food that was still hot. By day 3 I was missing her a lot and turning most conversations back to the subject of how wonderful, clever, fill in the blank she is. By day 4, I wanted to go back in the mommy cage (gilded though it is). That is the conundrum of mother hood. 
I had the most ludicrously long and unrealistic list of things I wanted to see, places I wanted to eat at and people I wanted to meet. First up on my list was the newly opened Kopapa, a cafe and restaurant by Peter Gordon.  I once did a 14 hour stint of work experience for Peter Gordon at the Providores on Maryelebone.   I remember being very surprised that 70% of the kitchen staff were petite females and that the kitchen was miniscule with allocated workspaces of less than 50cm per chef!  There were plenty of ingredients in his kitchen I had never seen before and I took copious notes to look them up later (‘barba di frate‘, palm sugar are two examples).  Their dishes were refreshingly original and weird riffs on classics, like vegetarian dolmades filled with quinoa and herbs (of which I made over 100).

I only had 45 minutes in which to eat before I was due at Aveda for a much needed haircut  so I opted for three small plates; smoked eel crepe with maple, apple & umeboshi salad (£7.00), sesame infused tuna tartare with soy wasabi tapioca, & crispy lotus root (£6.00) and the Iberico pork cordon bleu (£6.90). I sat at the bar and watched the lunch service unfold (which by the way, is the most gorgeous matt marble, I was stroking it the entire time).  Being a New Zealander means that service at a Peter Gordon restaurant is usually friendly, smiley and efficient.  Friday was no exception, they could and should give lessons!  I found the tuna dish to be a little too sweet, and the pork to be on the dry side but the eel was delicious.  Sadly I had not time to for dessert.

But I did manage to scoot across to Monmouth and pick up a latte and a chocolate financier.  Normally I dislike lattes, all that warm milk just sloshes around in my tummy and gives me a stomach ache.  But a Monmouth latte is short and squat, two shots of rich espresso, creamy unhomogenized milk with the silkiest foam I have ever encountered.  Love them, miss them.

I had a couple of hours to kill before my reservation at Yautacha and given that London was feeling a bit like wading through thick pea soup, I went to Liberty to dry off (attempt to save my newly blow dried do) and drool over flowery porcelain dishes and catch up with the british cook book scene.  If you’ve never visited this department store, then you must!  It is quite possibly, the most elegant store in the world (I would even put Barneys New York behind it).

By the time 7:30 came around, I was ready to murder a ceiling high stack of dim sum (I crave these babies so badly in Berlin, I can not tell you!).  Luckily my friend was equally greedy so we ordered with abandon until our beautiful waitress warned us that we had quite a lot (when did Yauatcha staff become so friendly?  They used to be a surly, skinny but gorgeous bunch!).  I noticed that a lot of the tables were ordering only one or two dim sum and then main courses. Wrong!  Not the way to go at Yautacha where you are better off getting many small plates and sharing.  Must orders include; prawn cheung fun (£5.80), jasmine ribs (£11.00), spicy soft shell crab (£12.50), scallop shumai (£7.50), Szechuan wonton (£4.00), har gau (£5.00) and the char sui bun (£3.80).  And that XO sauce they have, I could eat it by the bucket load (in fact, confession, I eat it straight out of the bowl at Yauatcha).  
If I could be any restaurateur when I grow up, it would be Allan Yau.  Yauatacha, Hakkasan, Wagamama and Princi are all his creations!  Before Yauatcha, there was plenty of dim sum in china town but it was hard to decode the menus, he took Dim Sum and elevated to Michelin star status.  Despite selling Yauatcha and Hakkasan to some investors from Abu Dhabi in 2008, they both remain my favorite Chinese restaurants anywhere. 
Afterwards we went to the new W hotel in Leicester square (where my friend works) and rubbed elbows with the beautiful people until I looked down at my watch and exclaimed “Wow! It’s 11:30!!!”
“Yeah? And….?” my perplexed friend of over 15 years asked?
“Oh, nothing, it’s just that usually, I am asleep by 10pm!”

Kopapa Café and Restaurant
32-34 Monmouth Street
Seven Dials, Covent Garden
London, UK WC2H 9HA
tel +44 (0) 20 7240 6076

27 Monmouth Street
Covent Garden
London WC2H 9EU

15 Broadwick St
London W1F 0DL
020 7494 8888

Liberty of London
Great Marlborough St
London W1B 5AH
020 7734 1234


  1. says

    I just had a very mediocre lunch at Facil and to come home to this post! Your dim sum baskets make me deeply envious. London! (& welcome back)

  2. says

    Dim Sum is our family favourite. M and D can’t get enough of dumplings and shumai. Our place does not have a menu, just Chinese ladies pushing carts and calling out Chinese names for food.

  3. says

    I bought some Barba Di Frate once in Switzerland! I had no idea what it was but I sauteed it in garlic and squeezed lemon over, twas good – I blogged it about 6 months ago I think. Welcome back!

  4. says

    Suzy, it doesn’t really compare with the array of what you’ll find in London (or Hong Kong!) but Wok Show’s jiaozi are very nice:

    I used to glimpse a woman in the back room filling the dumplings one by one. Last time we ordered them I had the terrible feeling they may have been cooked from frozen, but perhaps the funky texture was because we got them to take away? It’s a very child-friendly place, I’m always game to go!

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