Kopapa, 32-34 Monmouth Street, London WC2

Looking at the annual best restaurant round-ups, there's a striking amount of crossover, with the same restaurants serving versions of the same kind of food, appearing on lists produced by everyone from heavy-hitting critics to obscure bloggers. Clearly the food scene is subject to fashion, and we supposedly independent commentators are as easily seduced by new trends as fashion editors looking for the new black.

The small plate, shared tapas-style, was the little black dress of 2010, and the Josper charcoal grill dominated the autumn/ winter season, turning out impeccably seared hunks of protein at Hawksmoor, Les Deux Salons and the Savoy Grill. But after a run of new openings all serving variations on the same back-to-basics theme, we start to crave something different, just as fashion editors grow tired of tasteful neutrals.

So the timing of a new opening from fusion king Peter Gordon couldn't be more perfect. Often imitated, never bettered, the New Zealander's eclectic style, pioneered at The Sugar Club, blows apart the tasteful conventions, bringing together ingredients and techniques from around the world in revelatory combinations. In the wrong hands, this approach can be disastrous – the culinary equivalent of sitting through a stranger's gap year photos. But in the hands of Gordon and his team, the results are always interesting, and often thrilling.

Pitched somewhere between Gordon's existing London restaurants, The Providores and Tapa Room, Kopapa is an all-day café that trades up to a restaurant for lunch and dinner. It's usefully situated, just off Seven Dials, an area still preening itself after the opening of the warmly received new Hawksmoor.

If Hawksmoor is the cool, successful older brother in the new Covent Garden family, Kopapa is the eccentric art student cousin who rocks up, complete with facial piercings, to keep things edgy. The neutral, brasserie-style decor, with tessellated tile floor and bare black tables, is dominated by wilfully ugly wall coverings, which ripple ominously like black corrugated iron. The effect is of sitting in a closed hawkers' market, and as my guest Frank Skinner said, "I associate closed shutters with disappointment".

Frank's initial scepticism melted at the first sip of his cocktail, a wake-up call to the taste buds which combined guava, nutmeg and lemon juice in a weird salty-fruity combo that was surprisingly addictive. The food menu conforms to contemporary orthodoxy by offering quick bites and small plates (dubbed "ko-tapas"), though they are far from orthodox; the more outré offerings include chickpea battered lambs brains, and pork, chilli, coconut and gapi salad.

The starters and mains take us into what David Sedaris calls "15-word entrée" territory, each dish sweeping exhilaratingly across continents like a gastronomic Google Earth.

To list the ingredients of everything we tried would consume the rest of my allotted word count, so in summary, our meal supplied many vivid, original moments, while never quite coming together as a dining experience. Highlights included the inevitable laksa – smoked coconut and tamarind – which flooded the palate with successive waves of flavour: sour, smoky then chilli hot; a welcome reminder of the Sugar Club cookbook-inspired laksa fever that gripped fashionable dinner tables in the late Nineties. Equally punchy was the partnership of smoked Dutch eel, in a sweet, mirin-style dressing, with cold green tea noodles.

A hunk of Middle White pork belly, the crackling so crisp that Frank had to call for a sharper knife, didn't benefit from being paired with almond skordalia rather than conventional mashed potato, and the impact of my own miso-cured Norwegian cod was tempered by its similarity to that eel starter. But a black sesame brûlée, with black sesame molasses, was fantastic; a delicate, dramatic reinvention of a flavour normally only encountered in Chinese pastries.

It was only with some effort that we managed to stretch our evening out to a full-length dinner, so keen were the young waiters to hurry us through our meal. Perhaps "Kopapa" is Maori for "get a bloody move on". The rhythms of the place seem set for a rushed pre-theatre meal, and there's something distinctly studenty and no-frills about it – with no cloakroom, we had to share our small table with a mound of coats and Christmas shopping.

"It feels a bit like a gourmet evening at All Bar One," was Frank's bewildered conclusion. Still, Kopapa may not be beautiful, and it may not be particularly on-trend, but there's something informal and youthful about the place which sets it apart from all the tasteful new arrivals. And it's heartening to see Peter Gordon opting to stay small and interesting rather than going corporate. If he can smooth out the clunky service, and make the room feel as inviting as the food, Kopapa should make it on to a few best-of-the-year lists in 12 months' time.

Kopapa, 32-34 Monmouth Street, London WC2 (020-7240 6076)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 2 stars
Service 3 stars

Around £50 a head for three courses, including wine and service

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Fab fusion

Lunya

18 College Lane, Liverpool (0151 706 9770)

Try the Catalan version of Liverpudlian Scouse (£5.95), or oxtail and horseradish cream (£4.50) at the UK's first Catalonian fusion deli.

The Modern Pantry

47 St John's Sq, London EC1 (020 -7553 9210)

The miso-marinated onglet steak (£16.80) and prawn omelette (£8.70) are popular signature dishes at this acclaimed restaurant.

Caravan

Exmouth Market, London EC1 (020-7833 8115)

The fusion food here includes a confit duck leg and spicy lentils accompanied by an edamame purée and pickled mushrooms.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Account Executive - Hotel Reservation Software - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly growing Hotel ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

    £15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Receptionist / Warranty Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent Motor...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game