Monday, 22 October 2012

The Opera Tavern

This venue has been on my ‘wish-list’ for a while and during August I finally got to see what all the fuss was all about. Tucked away just outside of Covent Garden, The Opera Tavern specialises in Italian and Spanish tapas and so my lovely dad was the obvious companion for this jaunt – Spanish tapas is his absolute favourite. We had tickets for the Women’s Football Final at London 2012 and enjoyed a lovely meal here prior to a fantastic and atmospheric evening at Wembley stadium.

The downstairs area where we were seated, close to the open charcoal grill, was small but perfectly formed, smartly attired with stalls at the bar. We were in a bit of a rush so ordered straight away following some enthusiastic and knowledgeable recommendations from our friendly Spanish waitress.

My dad couldn’t help ordering the Italian Scotch Egg, which he loved – with a soft, perfectly cooked egg, covered in citrus-infused Italian sausage meat and herby breadcrumbs. Eggs are one of the few things that I just don’t like, so I left my dad to enjoy this, which he did so immensely – in fact he said it was the best one he’d ever had and would have happily ordered another if we didn’t have a full flurry of dishes coming our way. It did look very appetising too, though I didn’t try this.

One of the signature dishes at The Opera Tavern is the Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger – I’ve read lots about this dish from reviewers and other bloggers and so was keen to try it. The Ibérico pork at The Opera Tavern is imported directly from Spain, and the actual patty with the foie gras running through was divine, nicely pink and juicy in the middle and with an incredible flavour, an outstanding quality of meat. A little melted cheese and some gloriously sweet red onion chutney were included in the soft burger bun, with a little aioli and this was served on a board with a mild green chilli. It’s the kind of dish I’d happily pop into the restaurant for on my own and order with a Cruz Campo – one of my favourite bottled beers and sit happily at the bar with – gorgeous.

We also tried the Roasted Scallops with Braised Peas and Prosciutto, Pea Purée and Truffle Butter, which was presented beautifully on a slate in the shells. The scallops were ever so slightly over-cooked which was a shame but the flavours together were good and I can see that this would be a good dish.


Another dish that looked exceptionally pretty was the Roasted Salt Hake with Saffron and Almond Sauce, Courgettes and Broad Beans. This was one of my favourite dishes – the fleshy white fish was cooked just right so it flaked away nicely and with the flavours of the saffron and almond evident in the customary yellow hued sauce which had clearly been made with some glorious fish-stock as there was a definite flavour of the sea on this plate. The seasonal courgette and broad beans added to this dish, and again this is something I’d order if I were to visit again.

One of the standout dishes of the evening was the Confit of Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans. Now, my pictures really don’t do these dishes justice as the presentation was fantastic throughout, and I’d forgotten my camera so had to rely on my battered Blackberry, and for this dish in particular, the meat looks quite dry in the picture. It wasn’t at all – it had been slow cooked and the meat fell apart with a delicious overall flavour. Coupled with the rosemary-infused white beans this was really delicious, and something I’ll be trying to recreate at home. 

Our final dish was a salad of Buffalo Mozzarella and Heritage Tomato’s with Grilled Peaches, Thyme and crunchy breadcrumbs. I’d never have thought of combining peaches in such a salad but it was lovely, and the mozzarella had just the right amount of salt to contrast with the sweet flavours.

As we’re both greedy sorts, we couldn’t resist trying one each of the desserts – my dad had the Calasparra Rice Pudding with New Season’s Cherries, Marcona Almond Ice Cream and Fresh Thyme which he practically inhaled, despite complaining that he wasn’t keen on the thyme used in a dessert. I tried this and was delighted to find it was nothing like any other rice pudding I’ve endured, it was rich, creamy and flavoursome with a savoury edge. Our waitress once again gave me her recommendation for the best pudding and so I took her advice and opted for the Cold Chocolate Fondant with Salted PX Caramel and Milk Ice Cream. This was a chocolate-lovers choice and so suited me perfectly. The fondant was soft, mousse-like and pure, dark chocolate heaven and the ice cream was frankly to die for. It was a good note to end on. This was a great meal, thoroughly enjoyed and with great service to boot. I’d recommend The Opera Tavern to anybody who likes tapas and a laid-back atmosphere.

(Apologies for the dodgy photography - it was courtesy of my not-so-fabulous phone and for some reason I'm unable to rotate them so if anybody has any pointers on why this might be please do let me know!)

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