Five Reasons Why South American Restaurant YOPO Is A Must Visit
The Mandrake hotel is pretty distinctive. Based just off of Oxford Street, the luxury boutique hotel is seemingly standard at its exterior, but as you venture below the seeing eye logo, you’ll enter a curious concoction of evocative artworks, show-stopping bedrooms, and an otherworldly, forest courtyard (which, here at Secret London, we credit a visit as one of the 100 best things to do in London).
Following a recent major refurbishment, the hotel’s flagship restaurant YOPO reopened its doors just last month (October 2022), serving up a seasonal menu of South American cuisine with European influences. The restaurant is led by Executive Chef George Scott-Toft who draws on his travels through Argentina, Chile and Peru to form the menus. We headed 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
Stepping into both the hotel and the restaurant is like entering another world; you enter YOPO via a cave-like, branching network encrusted with black sands, obsidian and stones.
At the heart of the dining room is the ‘Showgirl’ designed by Enrique Gomez De Molina. An ostrich at first glance, but at closer inspection, you’ll notice a snake’s neck, a giraffe’s legs… this mystical medley of animals speaks volumes to the uniqueness of this place. If you cast your eyes up, you’ll discover a hand-painted fresco on the ceiling, depicting creatures of the Amazon, while groups of electric candles atop Gothic candelabras illuminate the room.
2. You can expect an experience not just a meal
The restaurant is practically a stage for the show-stopping sharing plates; you can expect a full multi-sensory experience, rather than just a meal. After taking our coats, we were seated 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 anything less from the food’s flavour and presentation, both of which pack plenty of flair.
The service is another key element of the experience, and it was exemplary. We could barely finish our drinks before offers of another came, and the staff conversed with us anytime they passed, sharing insights into signature dishes, asking our opinions, and generally, making us feel incredibly welcome.
3. The flavours are incredibly well balanced
Scott-Toft uses a mix of local ingredients and those indigenous to the Amazon to create his dishes. Flavour is king at YOPO: everything is so well seasoned and balanced. On one hand, you have the light Scottish scallop, the sweetness of which is brought out by a mango salsa, while on the other hand, you have the deep flavours of homely beef and white bean empanadas, encased in a perfectly flaky pastry… mmm. Ordering a mushroom tostada alongside Iberico pork pressa anticuchos also offered starkly different yet complementary flavours.
Some dishes packed opposing yet complimentary flavours in every mouthful: if you order the yellowtail, plantain and aji tiradito, place the soft fish atop the crispy plantain and add a dollop of zesty sauce – voila! Their seabass with signature coriander rice (divisive, I know) also offered a balance of flavour in each bite: charred bits, buttery bits, fragrant and light.
We finished the meal with dessert, of course. I highly recommend opting for the Island chocolate royal, with coffee and mezcal ice cream. Although it looks dainty and pretty, it packs a punch. The coffee flavour deepens the chocolate flavour, the outer layers add a crunch to the soft centre, and the ice cream is light and tasty.
4. Even the drinks are well seasoned
YOPO’s drinks menu is particularly exciting; the care taken to perfectly season the dishes goes into the drinks too. The cocktails on the menu are completely bespoke to The Mandrake, and our favourite by far was the best-selling Mangosteen. Take a margarita, add some mango, add some chilli to the salt rim, and elevate the drink into something completely new: that description doesn’t even do it justice, but it’s as close as you’re gonna get without trying it (which I recommend you do). It’s smooth, with a little sweetness and a little fiery twist. So good, we ordered it twice… then one more for luck.
If cocktails aren’t your thing, we definitely recommend browsing the wine list. There are low-intervention Argentinian wines that pair well with the varied dishes on the food menu.
5. The West End location is pretty ideal for making a day or night out of your visit
Whether you’re staying at The Mandrake (lucky you!), want an indulgent dinner before catching a show at the theatre, or fancy a meal post shopping spree, YOPO is very well placed. The Mandrake is just moments from the Elizabeth line Tottenham Court Road exit, and it sits just far enough from Oxford Street to escape the footfall, but less than a three-minute walk away if you want to re join it. Covent Garden, Soho and the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue are all in easy reach too.
Overall, YOPO, and its home at The Mandrake hotel, definitely live up to the hype. While a meal at the restaurant isn’t as eye watering as the cost of an overnight stay, it is still more one for a special treat. Whether you opt to visit for a lunch or dinner, you’d be hard pushed to not be impressed.