There’s been a massive influx of tapas joints (most notably Tapas Brindisa Soho, and sherry bars José and Capote y Toros) in the past few months, and judging from the popularity of these and that of more established haunts like Barrafina and Pepito, London’s love affair with jamón and jerez is here to stay.
A new, but less recent addition to the scene is Opera Tavern from the Salt Yard stable, in the heart of tourist central Covent Garden. I had had a fantastic lunch there earlier in the year and since that visit have been dreaming about their mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burgers – so outrageously good that Marina recently tweeted that it would feature in her last meal on earth.
I had originally arranged to pop in for a catch-up bite with G and K, but life got in the way and I ended up dining there solo (well I wasn’t about to pass up on sinking my teeth into one of those bad boys, was I?). The burger wasn’t quite as glorious as I remembered it, but still very good – moist liver-laced patty topped sparingly with cheese and sandwiched with fried shallots, lettuce and mayo in a crumbly bun. I didn’t have an issue with the over-salted meat as the sharp pickled jalepenos balanced it out, but the bun was a little dry and could have been softer so that it held together when bitten into. Instead, it fell apart after one bite and I annoyingly had to switch to cutlery.
Also off the charcoal grill was the pinchos morunos of Salt Marsh Lamb Leg and Kidney with Smoked Paprika which I greatly enjoyed. The juicy lamb chunks and gutsy offal was so tasty I wished I had ordered two – one dinky skewer just wasn’t enough.
Crispy Squid and Sea Purslane with Chilli Alioli was well-seasoned and not too greasy. The gloopy aioli however, had no chilli heat nor much garlic bite to it and I preferred simply squeezing the lemon wedge over the deep-fried rings and tentacles.
I always order courgette flowers whenever I spot them on a menu as they’re hard to find and a faff to prepare myself. Opera Tavern’s Courgette Flowers Stuffed with Goats’ Cheese were lovely – sweet crunchy baby courgette and delicate flowers wrapped around oozing melted cheese. The touch of sweetness from the honey paired well with the cheese, although they were far too liberal with it and near the end I did feel like I was eating a pud – just as well I didn’t order dessert.
A few minor niggles, but all round a solid option if you happen to be hitting up the West End. The downstairs bar is perfect for strolling in and grabbing a bite but I would recommend booking the restaurant area as I found on this visit that the friendly bar staff were often too laid-back, making it a real effort to get served. I actually considered ordering sweets or a coffee but it took so long to get their attention I figured I might as well just get the bill. The upstairs area may be a little more staid, but if memory serves, the service was far more efficient.
23 Catherine Street
London WC2B 5JS
t. 0207 836 3680