I think I owe the Spanish nation an apology. I’ve been ignoring their fine cuisine for years now, most unfairly, so here it is: sorry, amigos, I’ve been a dick.
It isn’t entirely my fault. I blame the Milton Keynes branch of La Tasca and its terracotta bowls of greasy chorizo that, in our youthful ignorance, my little mates and I mistook as representative of the entire Spanish nation. I didn’t realise until now just how much La Tasca had subliminally tainted Spanish food for me, but last night Mike and I ended up in Copita after an hour of the usual tedious song and dance of finding somewhere – anywhere at all – to eat in Soho without a 90-minute queue. We headed over after the man holding the fort at Flat Iron told us there was a two hour wait for steak – I mean, really, what is the fucking point – and, well, colour me converted.
I’d like to say Copita is a hidden gem – that is, if I was the kind of person to use a phrase like ‘hidden gem’, which I’m not – but actually I am just woefully late to the party. Admittedly, we get seated within ten minutes on a Thursday evening, but the restaurant was heaving with people who knew that a better time could be had drinking wine and sucking the brains out of giant prawns than standing out in the cold waiting for a cheap piece of meat. It’s not the place for intense conversation or an in-depth discussion about Brexit because the acoustics are a bit shit, but it doesn’t matter anyway because you’ll be too busy talking about the food.
Ah, yes, the food. Well, it’s tapas style, obviously, and tapas usually means that you get at least one dud. That’s okay though, because having new dishes arrive every few minutes is quite exciting, sort of the grown-up fat person alternative to opening piles of presents on Christmas morning. Except at Copita there are no disappointing slippers two sizes too small or shower gel that smells like the medicine your dad paid you a fiver to down when you were seven and had worms. This is the Christmas morning dreams are made of.
A round of fresh bread and olives came first, swiftly followed by a gaggle of other dishes that all appeared over the course of about 15 minutes. Mike’s favourite was a pair of enormous meatballs (£5.25), served with a gently spiced and clearly freshly-made red wine and tarrgaon sauce that allowed the balls’ natural beefiness to shine through. Jamon croquettes (£5.25) couldn’t go ignored, even though it meant breaking my usual ‘no specials’ rule (on the basis that specials are usually both rubbish and overpriced), and weren’t regretted. Hot cheese and ham, whipped to a velvety puree, oozed satisfyingly from crisp panko-style breadcrumb shells: the sexy Spanish equivalent to the flabby British cheese and ham toastie.
Seeing as our original plan had been steak, we had to have the Peppered Beef Onglet & Piquillo & Pepper (£7.25), which was tasty enough, but stone cold within a minute. I know small slices of rare meat will never be piping hot, but I found myself wishing we’d ordered more meatballs instead. The Honey and Ginger Chicken Wings (£4.85) were nicely flavoured but too small and fussy compared to the easy eating of the other dishes. But I’m nit-picking, really: we ate every last bite.
Mike likes to keep veggie small plates to a minimum, because he has some ridiculous notion that it’s not really food if it doesn’t have animals in it, but clearly a lot of thought has gone into the vegetarian options at Copita. As President of Plant-Based Plates, I was tempted by the Truffled Goat’s Cheese, Almond & Honey, but eventually plumped for the unmissable Sweet Potato Bravas (£5.45), which came slathered with tomato sauce, alioli and peppered with peanuts. Even better was the Roasted Aubergine (£5.45), whose silky texture provided a backdrop for a kaleidoscope of creative flavour – tomato honey and whole hazelnuts.
Including a bottle of a light and delicious Rioja (£27.00), the standard service charge and an incredible pudding of fresh churros with hot chocolate sauce, our bill at Copita came to a hair under £40 each – just over £20 on food that was just enough to feel full without wanting to rush home to pump ourselves full of laxatives. (I’m not joking; over the last couple of weeks Mike and I have been to Dishoom and Gunpowder, also the sharesies kind of restaurants, and on both occasions we had to go home straight afterwards because we’d both eaten too much and needed to go home to slip into something more comfortable. i.e. with an elasticated waistband. The struggle is real.)
Copita doesn’t take reservations for dinner, but its website advises that the wait shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes if your party is smaller than four, which I reckon is reasonable. I love Flat Iron, but 15 minutes for Copita’s tapas is a much more palatable option than two hours for steak.
Copita, 27 D’Arblay St, London, W1F 8EP
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.