A must-visit South American restaurant in London
The Mandrake the hotel is quite distinctive. Based just off Oxford Streetthe luxury boutique hotel is seemingly standard on the outside, but as you venture beneath the seeing eye logo, you’ll enter a curious concoction of evocative artwork, jaw-dropping rooms and of an otherworldly logging yard (which, here at Secret London, we credit a visit as one of 100 things to do in London).
Following a recent major renovation, the hotel’s flagship restaurant YOPO re-opened last month (October 2022), serving a seasonal menu of South American gastronomy with European influences. The restaurant is run by Executive Chef George Scott-Toft who draws inspiration from his travels through Argentina, Chile and Peru to compose the menus. We headed over to YOPO to see if it lived up to the hype, and here’s what we thought.
1. The interiors are out of this world
Entering both the hotel and the restaurant is like stepping into another world; you enter YOPO through a cave-like branching network encrusted with black sand, obsidian, and stones.
At the heart of the dining room is the “Showgirl” designed by Enrique Gomez De Molina. An ostrich at first sight, but on closer inspection, one notices a snake’s neck, giraffe’s legs… this mystical mixture of animals says a lot about the uniqueness of this place. If you look up, you will find a hand painted fresco on the ceiling, depicting creatures from the Amazon, while clusters of electric candles atop gothic candelabras illuminate the room.
2. You can expect a live not just a meal
The restaurant is practically a stage for the amazing sharing plates; you can expect a full multi-sensory experience, rather than just a meal. After picking up our coats, we sat down with a glass of champagne, setting the tone for the evening: luxurious yet quirky. Given the eccentricity of the restaurant’s interiors, we wouldn’t expect less from the flavor and presentation of the food, both of which have a lot of flair.
Service is another key part of the experience, and it was exemplary. We could barely finish our drinks before another’s offers came, and the staff chatted with us every time they passed, sharing ideas about signature dishes, asking our opinion and generally welcoming us. making them feel incredibly welcome.
3. The flavors are incredibly well balanced
Scott-Toft uses a blend of local and indigenous Amazonian ingredients to create its dishes. Flavor is king at YOPO: everything is like this well seasoned and balanced. On one side you have the light Scottish scallop, whose sweetness is lifted by a mango salsa, while on the other you have the deep flavors of beef and white bean empanadas, coated in a perfectly puff pastry… mmm . Ordering a mushroom tostada with Iberian pork pressa anticuchos also offered radically different but complementary flavors.
Some dishes are packed with opposing yet complementary flavors in every bite: if you order the yellowtail, plantain and aji tiradito, place the soft fish on top of the crispy plantain and add a dollop of hot sauce – voila! Their sea bass with signature cilantro rice (which is divisive, I know) also offered a balance of flavor in every bite: charred bits, buttery bits, fragrant and light.
We ended the meal with dessert, of course. Highly recommend going for the Island Chocolate Royal, with coffee and mezcal ice cream. Although it looks delicate and pretty, it packs a punch. The coffee flavor deepens the chocolate flavor, the outer layers add crunch to the chewy center, and the ice cream is light and flavorful.
4. Even the drinks are well seasoned
YOPO’s drink menu is particularly exciting; the care given to the perfect seasoning of the dishes is also found in the drinks. The cocktails on the menu are fully tailored to The Mandrake, and our favorite by far was the top-selling Mangosteen. Take a margarita, add some mango, add some chilli to the edge of the salt, and elevate the drink into something completely new: that description doesn’t even do it justice, but it’s as close as it gets without trying it (this which I recommend you do). It’s soft, with a bit of sweetness and a little touch of fire. So good, we ordered it twice…then one more for luck.
If cocktails aren’t your thing, we highly recommend browsing the wine list. There are low-intervention Argentinian wines that pair well with the varied dishes on the menu.
5. The West End location is quite ideal to make your visit a day or overnight
Whether you’re staying at The Mandrake (lucky you!), wanting a gourmet dinner before a show at the theater, or craving a meal after a shopping spree, YOPO is in the perfect place. The Mandrake is a few minutes from the Elizabeth line Tottenham Court Road exit, and it’s just far enough from Oxford Street to escape traffic, but less than a three-minute walk if you want to reach it. Covent GardenSoho and the Shaftesbury Avenue theaters are also easily accessible.
All in all, YOPO and its home at The Mandrake Hotel lives up to the hype. While a restaurant meal isn’t nearly as jaw-dropping as the cost of an overnight stay, it’s even more of a treat. Whether you choose to visit for lunch or dinner, you’d be hard-pressed not to be impressed.