You might be tempted to think of fusion cuisine as a past culinary fad if you immerse yourself too deeply in the current fashion for local seasonal dishes.
Or maybe you like the sound of crisp pork belly, coriander, papaya, green peppercorn, pickled carrot and pomelo salad with maple dressing and coriander cress. Plenty do. Providores has been serving such dishes for almost a decade and its New Zealand chef-owner Peter Gordon is opening a second London restaurant.
“I’ve never understood the antagonism toward fusion cuisine,” Gordon, 47, said in an interview. “People say, ‘Oh, fusion food, it’s really bad and it’s confusion.’ Well, I’ve had terrible meals in France and I’ve had terrible meals in Spain and I’d never say the whole cuisine is rubbish. Maybe when fusion came about some younger chefs started mixing dreadful combinations up. I mean, that’s not what fusion cuisine is about.”
Kopapa, which opens today in Covent Garden, will serve many of the dishes available in the Tapa Room, the casual eatery below Providores. Watch out for Gordon’s signature breakfast special -- the Turkish dish cilbir -- of whipped yogurt and olive oil with poached eggs and chili butter. The restaurant will be open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Gordon was born in the coastal region of Wanganui, trained in Melbourne and moved back to New Zealand to set up the kitchen at the Sugar Club in Wellington in 1986 before moving to London in 1989 and setting up Sugar Club restaurants in Notting Hill (1995) and Soho (1998). He opened Providores in 2001 and has a stake in establishments in Turkey and New Zealand. He also is a consultant to Gourmet Burger Kitchen in the U.K.
His business partners in Kopapa -- a Maori word he says can mean a storage house for food or a crowded place where people gather -- include the co-founder of Providores Michael McGrath and the founders of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Adam Wills and Brandon Allen. The chef is Auckland-born Leigh Hartnett.
As the father of fusion cooking in the U.K., does Gordon become tired of people sniping at the cuisine?
“I don’t think I need to bother too much,” he said. “We have a really busy restaurant in Marylebone. My restaurants in New Zealand are busy, the stuff I do in Istanbul is busy. I’m using food from around the world. I’m not British, I’m a Kiwi.
“Years ago, I noticed Marco Pierre White had a foie gras dish that was served with mango and I thought, that is so fusion. I’ve just carried on.”
Kopapa, 32-34 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9HA. Tel. +44-20-7240-6076 or click on http://www.kopapa.co.uk/. While the plan is to give a 50 percent discount on total bills today and tomorrow, please check.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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