Opera Tavern is a stunning two-storey restaurant and bar situated in the heart of theatre land brought to us by the same team from Salt Yard and Dahesa. (Husband and wife Simon and Sanja Morris-Mullins). Formally an old London boozer that’s been transformed into something quite special; casual walk-in bar service downstairs (the place to be) makes for a great atmosphere to dine with leather clad bar stools, non white table cloth seating, with wooden floors and a mini robata style grill visible makes for a rustic set-up. The brief is simple – tapas inspired dishes heavily influenced by Spanish and Italian ingredients which comes with a robust selection of regional wines from the same countries. I’ve been fortunate to dine here a few times now and have walked away time and time again. Any blog post from Grubstance wouldn’t be the same without pictures and descriptions.. Enjoy!
Gluttony was kicked off with the Morcilla Scotch egg (£5.50) from the bar snacks menu. The blood sausage is perfectly spiced, earthy and crumbly against the crunch of the bread crumb. The side of sweet jam cuts perfectly into the rich egg yolk.
This is a little slider on steroids and has become their signature dish: Ibérico pork burger (£7); a high quality piece of Ibérico pork with shaved foie gras cooked to a super juicy medium rare, sandwiched between a sweet brioche bun accompanied with aged manchego cheese (nicely melted), aioli, sweet onion jam and butterhead lettuce. It doesn’t stop there though as it’s all topped with red onion rings lightly coated in flour and crisped in oil. Every bite will send you into overdrive – this is pure unadulterated food therapy!
Chargrilled Octopus, Chickpea Fritter, Red Pepper and Mojo Verde (£9). Another successful dish and always features during my meals here – the octopus is perfectly tender with a meaty texture, smoky in flavour and the chickpea fritter has crisp exterior and soft, doughy interior.
Chargrilled Venison Haunch with Celeriac and Hazelnut Dressing (£9). This dish I could have eaten again, the meat tender with that sweet game flavour and the the earthiness of the celeriac worked well with the crunch of the hazelnuts – a perfect combination.
Chargrilled and Marinated Tuna with Soft Boiled Egg Pomegranate and Caperberries. (£9) This is all my favourite ingredients from a tuna nicoise, yep you guessed it, the tuna and the egg and personified into the perfect dish for me. Happy days.
Pan Seared Scallop with Butternut Squash Purée and Ibérico Manteca (£5 each). (Ibérico cooking fat to me and you). Again another successful dish and feature frequently on the menu, I’m not all surprised!
Padrón Peppers (£5) should also feature in any tapas meal and they’re done really well here. You will miss out if you don’t oder them!
Grilled Brisket with Pomegranate Glaze, Watercress, Radish and Tropea Onion (£8). The beef was super flavourful, tender, smoky and sweet but somehow lacked a bit of moisture with was a shame. It reminded me of a good piece of beef jerky – in a good way of course!
Confit of Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans. (£9). I’m head scratching over this one, I’m a big believer in pork and the belly variety for me is just gospel – I salut you Mr Piggy but this one didn’t hit the sweet spot. Sure the crackling did exactly what he says on the tin but the meat was too dry and the beans a bit nondescript.
Spiced Lamb Rump with Ajo Blanco, Swiss Chard and Camone Tomatoes (£9). Ajo Blanco is a cold almond soup from Màlaga and Granada. I couldn’t fault the lamb as all but somehow I was convinced by the Ajo Blanco. A Spanish grandma would probably disapprove too but that’s not being inventive is about!
Braised Oxtail with Bone Marrow, Truffle Mash and Parmesan Crumb (£8.5). You would be foolish not to order this, everything about it was just perfect. The oxtail braised so well, perfectly seasoned with the added baked parmesan made for an umami explosion. Just writing about this is making me salivate!
Ibérico Presa with Chicken Jus, Capers, Shallots and Lemon (£10). This is the cut of meat attached to the shoulder and head of the loin and after eating this juicy piece of would have confessed to being happy to eat only Ibérico pork for the rest of my life and nothing else!
Courgette Flower Stuffed with Goat’s Cheese and Drizzled with Honey. (£4.5 each). Ok no big description needed for this one, a classic and what isn’t there to like about the sharp tang of goats cheese against the sweetness of courgette and sweetened by honey?
Affogato with PX and Raisin Ice Cream. (£6). PX stands for Pedro Ximénez and it’s a Spanish white grape with an intensely sweet flavour and is considered to be a desert sherry for those who don’t know and want to make an informed decision when ordering this regular. And oh yes, it it worth getting if you want something beautifully rich.
Apple and Dulche De Leche Cake (£6). I loved this desert, the cake was served warm, texture light and fluffy and came with a wonderful crust.
Walnut Tart with Basil Ice Cream and Poached Gariguette Strawberries. (£6). Drool, drool. drool when I write this! It’s a shame it’s not on the menu anymore as I discovered from a recent visit but let me tell you that it was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten here. Warm buttery tart, not too sweet all balanced out by the aromatic sweetness of the strawberries and fragrant basil ice cream.
Cold Chocolate Fondant with Salted PX Caramel and Espresso Ice Cream. (£6.50). This little gem features on the desert menu every time I attend. Quite rightly as it is that good, a sure fire classic with the super chocolatey, rich, thick fondant, crunch of the caramel and sweet-salty ice cream. If you’re a chocolate lover and don’t order this you may end up in tears!
The Damage: Expect to pay £50-£75 pounds per head with wine of the later if you’re a piggy.
The good: Great small plate concept, Ibèrico pork is shipped in from Spain, simple menu, great wine selection and the jewel amongst the 4 restaurants in the group.
The bad: They need to make a full size Ibèrico burger!
23 Catherine St, London WC2B 5JS
020 7836 3680