Review: El Ta’Koy, Covent Garden

El Ta'Koy is an intimate tiki-den inspired bar in Covent Garden

In body, El Ta’koy is hidden in the basement of a graceful townhouse in Covent Garden. In spirit, it’s on an island somewhere in the Pacific.

With pu pu platters and tiki-inspired cocktails, Hawaii is its spiritual base, though chef Luis Pous, formerly of celebrity hangout Asia de Cuba, has devised a menu that jets you around Asia and Latin America.   

It’s refreshing to see a new restaurant making so little effort to be trendy. There’s no unrendered walls, no exposed ventilation system, and no no-dessert (that’s you, Kiln). Instead, after making awkward small talk with a concierge who leads you down some stairs, you find yourself in a smallish room with tropical green walls and plastic foliage, listening to a playlist that sounds like a collection of early George Michael B-sides, being served by waiters with T-shirts you can read. Be a pineapple – stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet inside, they say.

The pineapples aren’t just philosophical, there are real pineapples and neon pineapples as well, and if all this is telling you to stop reading right here then bear with, because somehow it all combines with moody uplighting to make you feel as though you’re in an intimate tiki den somewhere a long flight from 3 Henrietta Street, and you haven’t had to fill in a passenger locator form.  

El Ta’koy, which first launched in Miami before branching out to New York as a pop-up, is the kind of place you visit to feel like you’re on holiday, a place you come for cocktails and stay for the food. There are four different daiquiris, from the easy-on-the-tongue Spiced Mango, which comes with a cinnamon sugar rim, to the more challenging Strange and Fruity, which is only momentarily fruity before cardamom bitters make it a drink to lounge over. There’s also a selection of signatures, which vault from the Caribbean to Japan for their flavours, and some tiki classics.  

The food menu is formed of a sharing section, tacos, and small bites with which you create your pu pu platter, and whoever is in charge of customer over-ordering is getting full marks in their annual performance review. We’ve got tuna and caviar taquitos with rum chilli mayonnaise and coriander, we’ve got pork chicharron bao with honey miso glaze and crackling, and we’ve got some tequila cured salmon with avocado and wasabi.   

Not everything delivers on its promise but there are plenty of hits. The eggplant empanada with paprika dip (served, like most of the menu, on a banana leaf) is one of my dishes of the year, with bite, a nudge of heat and a cola-bottle sourness that fizzes on your tongue. The Hawaiian fried chicken is another standout, for those who’ve reached the bit of their own personal COVID roadmap that allows them to partake in finger food. 

This review originally featured in Metro.

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