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). It’s an old London boozer transformed into something quite special in my humblest. There is a bar with leather clad stools as you walk-in (the place to be), with wipe down wooden tables and dark wood flooring. There is even a mini robata style grill for all to see where they make those pine-worthy Iberico sliders. The brief is simple – tapas inspired dishes heavily influenced by Spanish and Italian ingredients, washed down 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 happy. Any blog post from Grubstance wouldn’t be the same without pictures and descriptions.. Enjoy!
We kicked off with the Morcilla Scotch egg (£5.50) from the bar snacks menu. The blood sausage is perfectly spiced, earthy and its crumbliness is accentuated against the crunch of the crispy shell. The side of sweet onion jam cuts perfectly into the rich egg yolk.
The signature Ibérico pork burger (£7); a high quality piece of Ibérico pork with shaved foie gras, cooked to a super juicy medium rare. It’s sandwiched between a sweet brioche bun, with melted aged manchego cheese, aioli, sweet onion jam and butterhead lettuce. It doesn’t stop there though as it’s all topped with crispy red onion rings. Every bite sends me 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 and again. The tender venison married well with the sweet the earthy celeriac and the texture came from the nuts.
Chargrilled and Marinated Tuna with Soft Boiled Egg Pomegranate and Caperberries (£9) was another gem to eat.
Pan Seared Scallop with Butternut Squash Purée and Ibérico Manteca (£5 each). Again another successful dish and features frequently on the menu, I’m not at all surprised as it’s wonderful.
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 was let down by a lack moisture. 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 is one of my favourite cuts. Sure the crackling did exactly what he says on the tin but the meat was too dry and the dish lacked seasoning.
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, but somehow I wasn’t convinced by the Ajo Blanco. A Spanish grandma would probably disapprove and slap the chef for it too.
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 down well, was full of character and the baked parmesan topping gave 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. If all meat can taste like this, then the world would be a better place.
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 honey?
Affogato with PX and Raisin Ice Cream. (£6) is beautifully rich. PX stands for Pedro Ximénez and it’s a Spanish sherry with an intensely sweet flavour. It’s considered to be a digestif for those who don’t know.
Apple and Dulche De Leche Cake (£6). I loved this desert, the cake was served warm and came with a light/fluffy texture and a wonderful crust.
Walnut Tart with Basil Ice Cream and Poached Gariguette Strawberries. (£6). I drool heavily when 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 dine here – quite rightly as it genuinely 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, you’ll revel eating this.
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