Lunch with The Lady Ostrich at Yopo Restaurant
They say you can't put a price on happiness, but at The Mandrake hotel's South American flavoured restaurant Yopo, they have.
They've not only priced it; they've made it into liquid dopamine.
So what should I expect? An escape from reality? Psychedelic dreams? Dopamine heaven?
Time will tell.
Only now, I'm fixated on the raindrops sky diving off the ferns above to the central courtyard. It's where we want to retreat to after the meal, this tree fern-covered courtyard. Except the back end of Eunice's wild partying dictates differently.
Instead, our table inside Yopo, heavily guarded by a lifesized ostrich on the mark, getting set to go, is a calm respite. Its creation from recycled materials, a conversation piece.
She (must be with such high-end plumage) looks sufficiently friendly.
Satisfied we'd come to no harm from this majestic creature, attention turns to the menus now in front of us. Paper versions of the ones we've perused three times before online. The third time just on the journey to the restaurant.
Under the watchful guard of Lady Ostrich, we peruse the menu as if seeing it for the very first time, assigning or rather reassigning who has what.
The options tempting, we choose from octopus filled Tacos and broccoli salad in hazelnut cream (starters) to Elwy Valley Lamb and Cornish roast pollock (mains), and why stop there? Mezcal granita and sorrel sorbet for dessert.
On its way to our table is an order of Rioja and a glass of liquid sunshine. The latter is mine because red goes to my head and not in a good way.
I take a sip. Ginger, elderflower, carrot and sesame, tussle for my taste bud's attention, engages my brain and sends me a feel-good feeling. This drink is officially called Happiness. Though only a rock glass of it, I share and cheers. My brain now delights in telling me one thing I should have expected. A carafe of it.
Lady Ostrich approves by staying put, and our whippet-slender model, hair to her waist is cleared to lay down the first of our plates.
As a matter of fact, we smelled it before it arrived. The smokey Tropea onions with long-stemmed broccoli in hazelnut cream, that is. Its aroma, ambrosial, garnish the air, I inhale even more.
A mouthful, and I feel certain I have been missing out. We no longer recall who inevitably ordered this dish, but ownership no longer matters with sharing plates. It is now down to who has the last mouthful. The gentleman in Mr PWT offers it to me (or maybe it's the Brit in him). I, however, suffers not from the Britishness of offering it back, so I happily finish it.
In comparison, the octopus, capers and avocado filled tacos ate slightly subdued in flavour.
We take another look at Lady Ostrich and note her neckline is snakey. A conversation erupts on the procedure of that platysmaplasty, but I sense she prefers our discussion on food.
Plates three and four are making their way to our table.
The camera eats before lips become acquainted with the regional fare. Pollock so fresh you almost taste its origins off the Cornish coast. The lamb tender, garnished simply with coco beans and sesame mole, is enjoyable. Holds its own conversation.
At this time of the afternoon, we have missed the crest of the crowd. There's a quiet hum, and the space feels more intimate. We take time to admire the mural-covered ceiling, the artist's recreation of an Amazonian jungle-themed tree, in the center of the room, and we like.
Outside, the raindrops are sparse. Staff busy themselves, drying the outdoor tables, chairs and patio floor. We may well be able to languour the remainder of the afternoon there with another glass or three of something from Waseka Bar. Inside, we sense an up note in the atmosphere, too, as tables transition into their evening outfits; tea lights, deep red roses.
The music changes tempo and party purple lights up Lady Ostrich.
Dessert is ready. It arrives served not by one waiter but two and pineapple in tow. Interest in the pineapple pipped by the attention-seeking rough-hewn sandstone bowl one of the desserts comes in -
the Mezcal granita. It is delighting our taste buds just as we noticed raindrops once again skydiving off the fern tops. This time with a little more vigour. Maybe they've had a little of the Mezcal.
Our mouths, now the homes of a carnival of tropical flavours, the mango and coconut getting jiggy. The sorrel sorbet fuels its own conversation, the clementines adding a zesty twist to the desserts' sweetness.
Though we've resigned ourselves to the fact that the rest of the afternoon will not be spent languorous in the courtyard, our dopamine levels stay high.
But before we leave, we take another trip the very instagrammable restrooms.
Why go: date nights, first dates, lunch with the girls, impressing your guests, romantic dining
Cuisine: South American Inspired
Address: 20-21 Newman Street, London W1T 1PG