The Mandrake Hotel in Fitzrovia has taken inspiration from the dishes and ingredients of South America for their new restaurant YOPO, opened earlier this year. Our contributor Adrienne Fung was recently invited to review the restaurant and was blown away by the unexpected and complex flavours of every dish.
YOPO at The Mandrake Hotel
Words and photos by Adrienne Fung
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit YOPO, a trendy new restaurant that took over the space of Serge et Le Phoque at The Mandrake Hotel.
The Mandrake, a luxury boutique hotel in Fitzrovia and a stone’s throw away from Soho, is a destination in itself: funky decor, an award winning outdoor terrace, renowned artworks on the walls (including pieces from Salvador Dalí) and, last but not least, the most show-stopping loos I’ve seen in London outside of Sketch!
You may or may not have heard the word “yopo” before. It is the name of an indigenous plant native to South America said to have great healing powers. Fortunately, there’s no hallucinating involved in your meal at YOPO but there is plenty of South American influence in both cuisine and décor.
The interiors are filled with green leafy plants, plush seats, wooden tables and a mural spanning across the entire ceiling to make you feel like you’re glamping in the Amazon!
YOPO gets plenty of natural sunlight from the windows spanning the entire side of the restaurant facing The Mandrake’s famous outdoor terrace, an underrated quality when it comes to restaurant spaces. A little light goes a long way in my book!
We started our weekend lunch with a few cocktails. My friend ordered a classic Negroni, while I tried their signature Mandrake: a vodka-based cocktail with a hint of citrus. Both drinks were nicely done and provided a great start to the meal. The Mandrake cocktail was particularly refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness so as not to ruin the palate.
YOPO serves an À la carte menu as well as a Set Weeekend Lunch menu. We decided to try the set menu after we noticed some amazing dishes on offer and a great price of £26 for 3 courses.
To start, we had the Octopus in Escabeche with artichoke, broad beans and mint as well as the Aji Amarillo ceviche with burrata and gooseberries. The burrata was rich and creamy which paired really well with the citrusy aji amarillo sauce.
The standout, however, was the octopus! The fish was tender and we loved all the other textural components in the dish. Each element was seasoned well and helped elevate the subtle flavour of the octopus. The coolness from the mint, tang from the sauce and fat from the fried tostada all worked harmoniously.
For the mains, we tried the Sirloin steak served with spiced chickpeas and Swiss chard and the Lamb in adobo with salad of herbs and guindillas.
Both the steak and lamb were cooked to the right temperature and of high quality meat. The steak was elegantly served on skewers. I really enjoyed the spice in the seasoning which made the dish more interesting than your standard steak dish. It also paired nicely with the chickpeas and Swiss chard to make a balanced plate.
We were extremely impressed with the lamb dish which felt particularly unique and special. There were two different cuts of lamb and both were equally tasty. Fresh blue corn tortillas and a vibrant green sauce were served alongside. We made our own tacos combining all the elements of the dish together and the end result was a delicious success. I only wish I could bottle up the green sauce and take it home with me.
We finished the meal with two gorgeous desserts: a Coconut Sorbet with candied blood orange and gariguette strawberries and a Poached Pineapple with yoghurt sorbet and hazelnut.
I’m not usually that keen for dessert, but the ones we had that day at YOPO may have been the highlight of the meal. The poached pineapple dessert came highly recommended and it was absolutely delicious. The sweetness from the pineapple paired with the tartness from the yoghurt sorbet plus crunch from the hazelnut made for a winning combination. This was my friend’s favourite bite of the day!
I, on the other hand, fell in love with the coconut sorbet. While it was light and refreshing, it also delivered on flavour and complexity. The dessert was perfected by the candied blood orange. We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our meal.
We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at YOPO. We grew more impressed with this restaurant with each course that was served!
The refined cooking technique and South American flavours produced complex, beautiful dishes. There was a harmonious blend of salt, sweet, spice and acid in each of the savoury dishes we had which introduced unexpected flavour combinations in each bite.
Excellent food and cocktails plus a fun, trendy space makes YOPO a spot I’d happily return to soon!
Disclaimer: Adrienne was a guest of YOPO. All opinions are her own.