If I told you there was a secret, tropical oasis just off Oxford Street, would you believe me? Chances are you’d think the hallucinogenic tree YOPO takes its name from was already getting to me, but no, deep within the (concrete) jungle of London’s bustling metropolis, lies an elegant, one-of-a-kind restaurant where the eccentric and extravagant reign supreme. Throwing open the doors after a recent refurb, would the shiny new spot live up to the hype? We went to find out.
Tucked within famous five-star boutique hotel The Mandrake, YOPO, alongside head chef George Scott-Toft, fuse modern European cuisine with an exciting South American twist. Nods to Argentina, Chile and Peru are clearly reflected in the menu, particularly the use of indigenous Amazonian ingredients, but also in the general vibe of the space. Think rainforest fauna, dried flowers, hints of iridescent green and feathers from exotic birds. Dimly lit and painted black, the surrounds scream gothic chic, from the exposed brickwork that looks like it has been ripped from the walls to the shimmering crystal chandeliers. Wednesday Addams would definitely approve. If you look up, you'll see intricate, Incan-like sketches of serpents and mystical patterns covering the ceiling and it’s quite easy to get lost in the detail of it all.
…bet you thought we forgot about the main centerpiece? Affectionately named Showgirl, this part-ostrich, part-snake hybrid is one hell of a looker and a talking point amongst guests. You’ll certainly catch yourself staring at her, especially after a few of the potent cocktails. Elsewhere, and highlighting The Mandrake’s love of all things culture and design, unique ornaments sit side by side in display cabinets alongside quirky, modern artwork. I'd happily snap up the custom-made Converse any day.
We clinked our glasses of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut (£22 each) as our minds wrapped around what to order. The waiting team, alongside being effortlessly cool, were so friendly and patiently walked us through the menu, giving their recommendations and inspiration behind each dish. This led us to share a few small plates to properly get a feel of what YOPO is about. Starting with two beautiful Ostra Regal oysters (£5.50 each), sustainably caught in Ireland. Served with refreshing Champagne granita and a sweet balsamic vinegar dressing, our voyage into gastronomy was off to a flying start.
Up next came the parmesan tapioca (£7), little bouncy cubes of joy where the nutty cheese is superbly offset by zesty lime. Contrasting textures are the name of the game for the mushroom tostada (£14) where three varieties are cooked in different ways. Although little, it packs a flavour punch with parsley, garlic, chilli and white beans. The hand-dived and gorgeously soft Scottish scallop (£19) ticked every box, from the citrusy sauce and slices of mango to the fiery jalapenos. The notes of aniseed from the bronze fennel were a nice touch too (my date honestly wanted to drink the leftovers, it was that good).
By the way, you won’t find an average cocktail list here, and after being advised to ‘push our boundaries’, we opted for the best-selling Mangosteen (£20) and Citrine (£19). The former was a heady mix of Patron silver tequila and chipotle agave, shaken up with grapefruit soda. And that kick at the back of your throat? That would be the chilli and jalapeno vinegar. A must-try. The bartenders have creative freedom over their concoctions, and it really shows with the latter. Herby and aromatic, this tipple was exquisitely brought together with Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger, rosemary, orange liquor and lemon.
I’ve never had burrata and Comice pear (£15) before but trust me when I say this combo works. Cleverly encased in maple vinegar-sauteed radicchio, this dish was well seasoned and looked as pretty as a picture with glittering jewels of pomegranate alongside candied walnuts.
Fish is the speciality at YOPO, so it’d be rude not to pick the line-caught, delicate Cornish seabass (£37). And it literally left my date speechless. Cooked over charcoal for that smoky but not too overpowering taste, this plate truly delivered with decadent chipotle butter, roasted pineapple, grilled avocado and coriander rice. A match made in heaven. Recommended by our host, the grilled aubergine (£11) followed shortly after. Soaked in a rich sesame soy marinade and charred for that hit of flavour, we can see why this puffed rice-topped showstopper is so popular.
More cocktails? Yes please. The Flores Sana (£20) was chosen because of the curiously sounding tonka bean-infused Grey Goose vodka, but it did not disappoint across the board. Decorated with a dainty flower, this frothy delight was slightly frangipane-esque but balanced out with a variety of fruity liquors. Taking me back to dreamy beach days in Mexico, the Yagul (£20) was a boozy blend of two Ojo de Dios mezcals, plus peach liquor and honey for sweetness.
Even if you’re not a dessert enthusiast, make sure to try at least one of the puds, as we hear they're the stuff of legends. The Island Chocolate Royal (£12) was a bold finale to our evening, featuring mezcal ice cream, precise cubes of mezcal jelly (there's a theme here) and a dusting of coffee. We have no idea what wonderful sorcery went on at YOPO, but we’ll look forward to seeing what tricks they have next up their sleeve.
The DesignMyNight Digest
To be honest, I could go on forever about how incredible YOPO is. Describing our date as a dining experience would be an understatement, as each aspect is so different to where I’ve been before: from the trippy yet classy interiors and focus on spiritual wellbeing to the remarkable, continent-hopping fare. The best restaurants in London? YOPO has surely gotta be up there.
💰 The damage: £249 for two, excluding service charge.
📍 The location: 20-21 Newman Street, London, W1T 1PG.
👌 Perfect for: Upmarket date nights.
⭐ Need to know: There's a hidden rooftop terrace for an unbeatable Sunday brunch.
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