Named after the goddess of fruits of the earth, Karpo is a restaurant that prides itself on its natural and ethically sourced ingredients. Offering a multitude of bold flavour combinations with an ever-changing menu influenced by the US, this eatery is a breath of fresh air in the heart of King’s Cross.
Spread across three levels, Karpo boasts a stylish bar on the bottom floor, a casual dining experience on ground level and an upstairs area for parties and larger groups of diners. Deliberately mismatched furniture is charmingly scattered around a characterful lounge bar that also features walls adorned with retro prints and photographs. A welcome hidden secret in an area lacking drinking establishments with personality, Karpo’s bar is wonderfully quirky.
The ground floor level is themed around nature, with the ‘living wall’ home to numerous plants and herbs quite literally growing out of the wall. Various table options include heated concrete benches and round slabs made from tree trunks, beautifully adding to the organic feel of the restaurant. Upstairs features tables made from various natural materials such as leather, and offers larger dining areas for groups and parties.
Karpo’s atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, with tables hosting business dinners, dates and various lone diners soaking up the ambiance over their meal. The lighting is such that you feel like you're dining outside during the day, with white light providing the ‘living wall’ with the required brightness needed to flourish.
Karpo offers food all day, with five brunch options, three lunch specials and a wide variety of larder choices, hot starters and main courses. The menu changes on a daily basis and can even change throughout the day, depending on what type of fresh food runs out during service. Ambitious and unusual dishes pepper the menu, and whilst this might be perfect for the more adventurous diner, there is a lack of simpler dishes to please the less daring customers, which is a shame.
Influenced by the American heritage of the head chef Daniel Taylor, Karpo offers various twists on American classics. Homemade bourbon and chilli pecans from the larder are deliciously sweet and surprisingly mild, whilst various other offerings include plenty of pickled elements, adding a sharpness that is tasty but perhaps not to everyone’s taste.
Hot starters range from five to eighteen pounds and include the Southern fried quail (a quirky, British take on an American favourite), dipped in buttermilk and cooked to perfection. Other offerings include a soft and light fennel, buffalo mozzarella and lemon risotto and Manhattan clam chowder.
The main courses mix a number of flavours together in dishes such as mackerel, rhubarb, chilli and mint a la Rowley, or potato pancakes, cows’ curd and Swiss chard - priced between nine and just over twenty pounds. The sirloin, mushrooms, garlic and bread dish is hearty and filling, though the slab of steak is a little tough. The sea bass, potatoes, chorizo and salsa verde is a smaller, lighter option and is seared to cause the skin to gently crisp. The frites and aioli are overly salty, but the creamed spinach side is outstanding, cooked with onions, garlic and parmesan to create an incredibly tasty side.
Desserts seem to be a speciality here; ice-creams and sorbets are made on site, with mouth-watering options including green apple granite, coconut and lime sorbet, passion fruit sorbet and the thoroughly recommended rhubarb sorbet. The Pink Lady tarte tatin is fresh, sweet and well complemented by the slightly tart rhubarb sorbet, whilst the pink peppercorn meringue is perhaps a step too far in terms of adventurous flavour combinations.
A large selections of ethically sourced wines are available at Karpo, continuing the natural and eco-friendly theme of the restaurant. With wines influenced from countries from all over the world, the list is varied and reasonably priced. The downstairs bar also offers a variety of spirits, beers and cocktails, should a post-meal drink be welcomed.
The Last Word
Slightly overpriced and a tad over ambitious, Karpo nevertheless impresses with its ethical and adventurous take on dining.