Although East London is known for being full of hipsters and new cool restaurant openings, that's actually more just Shoreditch and until this year there has been a bit of a dead area around Aldgate and the bottom of Commercial Road. A smattering of new openings and redevelopment around there has started to change things however, it started with misschu back at the end of last year and has continued with the likes of Discount Suit Company (love them) and the Culpepper (still on my list of places to visit). I'm always excited to hear about a new opening as that area is the perfect mid-point between home and work for me and so the ideal place to head for a weeknight dinner.
When I read that not only was a new tapas restaurant, Copita del Mercado, opening but that they would be doing a soft launch with 25% off food, I immediately got myself booked in. Booking into a new restaurant is always a bit of a gamble but Copita del Mercado has been opened by the same people behind Copita in Soho and so I was hopeful that the food, even in soft launch phase would be decent.
After pre-drinks at Discount Suit Company (I told you I love them) we left to find Copita, luckily it's on the same road, Wentworth Street so it wasn't too difficult. Located in one of the commercial spaces in the bottom of a new development, there is currently no sign outside but the other retail units aren't really occupied quite yet so it's more a case of spotting the one with the lights on than having to investigate too closely.
Although the building and retail unit are new, the people behind the fit-out have done a pretty good job of making the place feel like it isn't brand new and bare. It feels cosy and warm.
We were seated in a table towards the back, tucked away from the main body of the restaurant, not the best table with a view into the kitchen as staff came and went, not the fancy open kitchen at the front (although I did also have a view of that) but the kitchen prep area at the back. If you can, try and get a table in the main part as it definitely has a better vibe there.
We sat down to contemplate the extensive drinks menu. In addition to an impressive selection of sherry and other drinks, they also have a special gin and tonic menu. Although I do love a good G&T, we opted for wine instead, next time though we'll definitely have to sample something from the G&T menu.
The menu is set out on the place mat along with the daily special, it's a nice balanced menu with plenty of choices to suit all tastes. We were offered bread and oil which we nibbled on while we debated what to eat. In the end we settled on a selection of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. I can never resist the jamon iberico and so ordered that from the snacks section. Delicious and rich with fat that melts in your mouth, I could eat it all day.
We weren't quite sure how much to order and so chose two meat/fish dishes and a vegetable dish each. From where we sat we could hear our order being given by the head chef in the open kitchen. The first dish to be delivered to our table was the tuna tartare with tarragon butter, apple and pine kernels. I only had a small taste of this one as it was really my boyfriend's choice and so it was only fair he got the lion's share but this was good, nice and light with a balance of ingredients and what I thought was a hint of fennel in there too (a taste I've come to enjoy this year).
The tuna was swiftly followed by my boyfriend's choice of vegetable dish - truffled crushed potatoes, spinach, slow cooked duck egg yolk. Nice but the description of 'crushed' potatoes was probably a bit misleading as they would more accurately be described as mashed/pureed potatoes.
Next up was the roast hake, toasted ajoblanco and grapes. Well cooked the toasted grapes were an interesting twist on the traditional ajoblanco and a nice addition to the dish. Although I was expecting tapas, these are definitely less tapas and more like small dishes. So, I'd advise ordering maybe two and a half dishes each - a vegetable dish, a meat/fish dish each and a dish to share would be perfect.
I am a big fan of sweet potato and so I couldn't resist the sweet potato, peanuts, salsa brava and alioli. The salsa brava gave the dish a little bit of a kick and the peanuts added some texture and crunch to the dish.
The pollo borracho (drunken chicken) was unbelievably tender and practically fell off the bones. It was one of my favourite dishes from our selection.
Pork was served pink with pincho moruno salsa and for my personal taste in pork, it was maybe a tad too pink. So as a dish, nice enough but not my favourite of the night
For dessert we shared the churros and chocolate. I loved that once we'd finished the churros the waitress brought over two spoons in case we wanted to delve straight into the remaining chocolate.
We also shared a pear tart which came a la mode. A good dessert, although a little tricky to cut through with just a spoon.
Our food bill came to around £65 (including 25% off for the soft launch) but we definitely over ordered a bit. However, having said that we over ordered, I asked my boyfriend what he'd drop if we we were to visit again in the future (which we will) and he said that he'd order exactly the same thing because he liked everything he had. Although of course I did point out that he would then be unable to try any of the other dishes he liked the sound of but didn't choose.
Although the staff need to become familiar with the menu (this will come with time and is obviously the reason for the soft launch), they were so obliging and keen to make sure we had everything we needed. I have confidence that this place is only going to get better and we really enjoyed our meal. I'm so pleased Copita del Mercado has opened in the neighbourhood.
If you fancy trying it out for yourself, the soft launch is on until 23 December and offers 25% off food. You can book via their website.
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