Please note, Copita del Mercado is now closed. Time Out Food & Drink editors, Sep 2016.
Tapas is great for groups – you order loads, descend on every plate en masse, then order more. So imagine my disappointment at being stood up at this larger, shinier version of Soho’s teeny-tiny Copita. It sits incongruously on a rag-trade thoroughfare that’s home to Petticoat Lane Market – lively when its textile shops are in full swing, but dauntingly deserted at night.
Happily, Copita del Mercado was great for solo dining: sit at a communal table, order small plates and a ‘copita’ (literally, ‘little glass’), and watch the dining room. A warmly lit space decked out in brass, tiles and dark wood, it retains some of the original’s cosiness despite its size. There are non-communal tables, too, plus stools overlooking the kitchen.
Executive chef Ignacio Pinilla could easily have just repackaged Copita’s popular menu. Instead, his slightly larger dishes and showpiece specials (hello, white truffle en papillotte) breaks new ground while continuing the theme of flavoursome, cliché-dodging Spanish comfort food. No must-order dish rivalled Copita’s ajo blanco, based on the chilled Andalucian garlic-and-almond soup. But I didn’t miss having one stand-out dish, because everything was good.
Flame-roasted aubergine was delicious with a lightly spiced tomato salsa and chopped boiled egg – a chunky take on gazpacho. Hake atop that earthy ajo blanco was set off with juicy cooked grapes. Moorish-style pistachio-crusted lamb neck with apricot jam was tender but almost sweet enough to be a dessert. Chestnut mousse (more of a gelato) was deliciously smooth.
It’s early days, but Copita del Mercado has lots to offer – not least a reservations system and a dedicated G&T menu featuring more than a dozen gins, all served Spanish-style – and Spanish-strength – in fishbowl-sized wine glasses. They’re a fun way to kick off the meal, but they do bulk out the bill.
Don’t neglect the ravishing all-Spanish wine list, organised by style, with lesser-known grape varieties highlighted. There’s plenty by the glass, should you require a ‘table for one’.