Jungle-Themed YOPO Is Bringing Sexy Jumanji Vibes To Fitzrovia's Hottest Hotel

As the first leaves fall from branches and London looks forward to a season of layering up and weird hot cocktails, I begin my nine-month sulk. I despise winter with every atom of my body; from the white numb tips of my fingers through to my oft-rain-soaked toes. From mid-January my cold weather-abhorrence reaches fever pitch and I start googling Bora Bora and eyeing my room for things that can be whacked on eBay. But just as I was about to sell all my possessions and move to a desert island with nothing but a bikini and a pocket full of dreams, YOPO invited me in for the night - and they may well be the reason I’m still in the capital.

YOPO at The Mandrake DesignMyNight Review

A slice of the jungle has arrived in Fitzrovia.

Named after a mythical hallucinogenic plant, The Mandrake has already hosted a heap of famous faces in its three short years, from David Beckham to Jourdan Dunn. And not unlike its feted guests, the hotel has become the hottest face on Instagram, thanks largely to its award-winning courtyard - a green, foliage-draped deck that looks more like Mexico than the heart of Fitzrovia. As it’s mid-February, we’re headed inside to YOPO, the South American restaurant. The decor is just as incredible, looking like it’s been lost to the tendrils of a tropical forest; concrete walls are peeling and splattered with paint, broken by an exposed brick border and in the corner a Frankenstein ostrich-snake squawks silently to the room.

Any botanists in the house will know that YOPO, The Mandrake, and bars Jurema and Waeska are all named after South American plants - a theme that extends to the cocktail menu, literally. At the waiter’s suggestion we try Szechuan (£15); a lime green muddle of tequila, mezcal, yuzu agave, basil sorbet and its namesake - a small yellow bud flower, which when eaten electrifies the tongue and intensifies our drink. Dining is as innovative with plates combining subtle fruity flavours and seafood, all inspired by head chef George Scott-Toft’s travels. We get off to a fresh start with a small bowl of chilled Devon crab and avocado, that’s been infused with Granny Smith Apples and the tiniest bite of chilli which warms the dish without being overpowering.

YOPO at The Mandrake DesignMyNight Review

Crab, chilli, avocado and a fresh bite of Granny Smith apple inspire this dish.

Sea bass crudo (£15) is just as refreshing and could almost be drunk; raw fish, slices of mango and grapefruit are organised in waves with an extra tang of sugar from the raspberry leche de tigre (an onion based marinade that’s poured over last minute). Bites of mushroom empanada (£9) are topped with a marmalade-like confit lemon and my squid main (£19) has been dually created: the tentacles deep-fried and crispy while the main body is baked, both sitting on a black, earthy aubergine paste. It’s these kind of select details that elevate YOPO into the new wave of fine-dining hotel restaurant.

The DesignMyNight Digest

With its trancy jungle music, hybrid mutations of taxidermy and lost world interiors, stepping into YOPO has left me wondering if I’m actually a player in Jumanji. And not the original - the latest one with The Rock because in this central London rain forest everything and everyone is sexy, from the thirst-quenching South American plates through to the tongue-tingling cocktails. Next time you're after a taste of sunshine, save your annual leave and head here instead.

Looking for more South American dining in London? Check out our guide here.