Affectionately translated as “Darling” in Hebrew (slang), Kapara is Bala Baya’s Tel-Aviv-inspired incarnation in Soho’s hidden and lovely James Court.  Led by ex-Ottolenghian chef Eran Tibi, Kapara is influenced by the hedonistic attitude of modern Tel-Aviv, with elements of LA / Ibiza / Miami added to the mix.  With its spacious layout, the restaurant’s “anything goes” ethos works well to its opening hours: Kapara is an all-day affair, seamlessly sliding into the evenings accompanied by a debaucherous soundtrack.

The new space, located in the fancy Ilona Rose House (adjacent to Milk Beach) in James Court, ticks a lot of boxes.  These spacious interiors, designed by the Raven Collective, are a celebration of Tel Aviv’s eclecticism with sweeping curved booths, luscious planting, brass accents, and rich textures.  You feel like you’re totally outside of Soho.  A prime date spot.  Split over two levels, the ground floor features an alfresco terrace, lounge, bar area, and a raised stage for live music.  It’s a place made for entertaining. 

The basement meanwhile features a luxurious dining room, chef’s counter and an area known as “Grandad’s Naughty Corner” with a six-seater counter that can be transformed into a private dining area.

The drinks menu extends from contemporary twists on old Israeli favourites to fermented fruit and herbs combined with vodka and arak.  I went for The Glory Mole (£15).  A mix of tequila, hibiscus, cardamom, ginger, lime and soda, this tasted like a herby meets fruity (and boozy) taste of old Tel Aviv.  Very fresh and light.

Onto food, a Tel-Aviv inspired menu, the dishes are inspired by Eran’s mother’s Middle Eastern home cooking, and the generations of baking expertise that she learned from with an ethos focused around sustainability.  Today’s “All-day foreplay” from the top of the menu was Hummus (£9) with aubergine, tomato, amba spice, coriander, shallots, sumace & freshly baked pitta.  As the bread and butter of Israel, hummus and pita is irresistible for me, what’s more so at an Israeli restaurant.  And this reincarnation did not disappoint.  Kapara’s hummus is a dip of two halves (or stories): on one side, a lusciously smooth, silky hummus; on the other, a babaghanoush-like aubergine puree studded with smokey tomatoes, crispy onions and plenty of spice.  Alongside the warm and pillowy light mini fluffy pitta for scooping, the dish wet the appetite very well.  Temping foreplay for sure.

Also on the Foreplay starters menu are Swiss Rolls (£11) with Freekeh, apricots, Baharat, date molasses, swiss chard and pistachio.  Sadly, these weren’t available this evening but I’ll certainly be back to sample.

Onto Plates proper, the (competing) star of the evening was the Aubergine Heart (£12) seasoned with pinenut jam, tahini and clementine marmalade.  Tender soft and full of flavour – simultaneously smokey burnt yet envelopingly sweet thanks to the caramelised pine nuts and runny tahini – each bite was melt-in-the-mouth and totally deserving of the dish’s descriptor as a heart.  My only complaint was that the aubergine isn’t cut big enough – especially for sharing plates.  A tease made all the more heart-breaking this close to Valentine’s.

Given my companion and I were going all-out vegan this evening, we also shared the Winter Tomatoes (£15) accessorised with a vine leaf pesto, confit tomato garlic olive oil, an olive caviar, and more garlic and olive oil.  Whilst a fail-safe combination that’s difficult to tire off, this plate was a little underwhelming, particularly given the wet finish of these winter tomoatoes which lacked the sweetness and plumpness of their summer counterparts.

Bits on the Side can never be overlooked for veggies (and vegans) so my companion and I also shared Hispi Cabbage (£6) with a tempting-sounding seasoning of harissa ponzu, sesame and herbs.  This is a small plate not to be overlooked.  Full of flavour, freshness and a crispy texture, these greens make you feel alive and kicking.  The vibrancy of the citrusy ponzu means the cabbage arguably outperforms its role as a side, outshining some of the main players (the tomatoes…).

For a Sweet Ending, my companion relished the beautifully light and picture-perfect Open Sesame (£9).  A mille-feuille made from black sesame tuilles, the layers were juxtaposed with black tahini yogurt and cherries.  Having sampled the black sesame tuille, I can confirm this course represents the versatility of tahini, in both a (here) sweet and savoury context.  A light desert that finishes off a meal here effortlessly well. 

Thanks to the buzzy soundtrack, long bar and diners downing shots to start and finish, Kapara could well be in Tel Aviv.  A restaurant that will totally transport you.  Thanks to its vibe, location and of course menu, Kapara undoubtedly outshines its elder sibling, Bala Baya.  One of the few restaurants I’d return to, not least to the chef’s counter.

Kapara, Ilona Rose House, James Court, Manette St, London W1D 4AL

Website: https://kapara.co.uk/

Rating: *****

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