Having scrutinised the website of Kapara, Israeli chef Eran Tibi’s new Soho venture, my friend and I were seriously intrigued.
Designed to appeal to a hedonistic crowd – Kapara’s strapline is ‘A Tel Aviv fantasy’ and its ethos is ‘inclusive and indulgent’ – the restaurant wouldn’t, however, look out of place as a brunch venue for Sex and the City aficionados. We went at lunchtime, not long after it officially opened, and loved it.
With a relaxing peach and dark pink colour scheme and comfortable seating that includes curved booths upstairs (the downstairs is more atmospherically moody), Kapara (Hebrew slang for ‘darling’) is definitely not a place to rush your meal. The food – offered in substantial tapas-style plates – is beautifully inventive and its presentation is pitch perfect.
Foodies will know Cordon Bleu and Ottolenghi-trained Tibi first from Zest at JW3, which he set up with Josh Katz in 2013, and then from Bala Baya, Kapara’s ‘little sister’ restaurant in Southwark.
Tibi is said to love food, music and nightlife (it runs in his family) and Kapara’s website says: “Kapara is what happens when you give a bunch of crazy Israelis free reign over two floors in central Soho.”
Well, these crazy Israelis have devised an eclectic and modern Israeli-influenced menu; the ‘All Day Foreplay’ features olives and nuts, but also more substantial fare. We chose the romano carpaccio: slivers of red charcoal-marinated peppers with goat’s cheese and basil and rose and chopped almonds providing crunch; and borekitas, soft, pillowy cheese-filled pastry triangles with brandy and green peppercorns.
From the ‘Plates menu’, my friend had the chicken soup, which was served in a small glass from a brass-coloured teapot. Delicious, she said, with a bit of a kick. She devoured the cheeky bums – beautifully succulent chicken oysters served on a skewer with purple lettuce and house pickle.
The ceviche of black bream was wonderfully fresh; the spring onion sprigs delicately cut through the sweetness of the sauce made from tiger nut milk and lemon verbena and the apple tempura was an inspired touch.
The soft aubergine heart, with pine nut jam, tahini and clementine marmalade, had a creamy, smoky-sweet umami taste. The cod chops were imaginative; neither of us had ever had cod served like this. They came with a crusty polenta collar, fermented and dried tuna aioli and a citrus glaze that, again, delivered umami flavours.
There are three ‘Sweet endings’ and we chose the Gramps’ cigar – a brick pastry filled with a pistachio cream, rose, coco, passion fruit curd sauce, chocolate soil and smoked tuile complete with presentation matchbox – and Open sesame, a black sesame mille feuille with yoghurt and black tahini, with the morello cherries providing rich sweetness and the rose petals a pop of colour.
Given we had substantial errands, we weren’t to be trusted with the alcohol menu so had the blackberry and lavender and lemon and rose house gazoz – ‘old-school’ Israeli soda with home-made infusions. If that’s too tame, you can add alcohol by way of prosecco, vodka, gin and arak and Israeli wines are also available, along with cocktails with names such as part-time lover, space cowboy and dirty talks. We did, however, knock back a ‘Katani’, a short espresso martini and promised each other we would return for a considered night of debauchery very soon.
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