Opera Tavern in Covent Garden: Tapas at its finest
Having recently undergone a refurbishment, Opera Tavern has been showing off its new look and feel. Nestled among the theatres of Covent Garden, the Spanish-Italian restaurant and bar is here to serve eager diners world-class food in a warm and cosy setting.
The converted pub still retains all its character and charm, but the recent addition of an open-plan bar, exposed brick walls and jazzy artwork has given the place a modern lift. There is also a separate dining area upstairs for those who prefer something more intimate. Seated downstairs, we can’t help but let our eyes wander over to the orders of our fellow diners. But before there’s any time for food envy to set in, our courses are rolling out.
First up is a slow-cooked Galician octopus with saffron aïoli, datterini tomatoes and jalapeños. This cold starter is beautifully presented, with lots of vibrant colours jumping off the plate. Aesthetics aside, it is absolutely delicious, with bold citrus flavours and sweet hints of garlic running through.
After a course of wonderfully sweet charred Padrón Peppers, we move on to the Jamón and Manchego Croquetas. These have an impressive bite before giving way to a gooey, smooth filling loaded with full-bodied cheese and smoky cured jamón. All in all, the balance of flavours and textures is spot on.
Then it’s onto the Linguine Nero with Calamari Bolognese. Unfortunately the pasta is overcooked and the Bolognese is a little bland. Without anything really tying this dish together, it leaves me a little underwhelmed. We also have the Chargrilled Gamberoni with Garlic, Chilli and Warm Focaccia, which, despite a fair share of spice, could deliver a bit more on the flavour front.
Next, it’s the Ibérico pork burger with aged manchego, crispy red onion rings and aïoli. I’m not entirely convinced that a pork slider has the power to blow me away but I’m about to be proved wrong. The meat is fresh and tender, bursting with seasoned juices which are beautifully set off by the manchego, red onion and aïoli. The creative Spanish twist turns this unassuming dish into one of my highlights of the night.
We also have the Courgette Flower with Monte Enebro Cheese and Blossom Honey. The batter is crunchy and light, and the cheese feels moreish and indulgent. The ratio of honey to courgette is perfection – another impressive dish that I can’t get enough of.
Now for the desserts. We try the Chocolate Delice with Dulce de Leche Mousse and Honeycomb. Its bold, decadent flavours, paired with its silky smooth texture, almost have me licking the plate clean. The Saffron Poached Pear with Pistachio Doughnuts and Ice Cream is equally mouthwatering – another winning combination that strikes the right balance between fruity, nutty and sweet.
Overall, this is tapas at its finest. It is bold and inventive, and the marrying of flavour and texture truly is a work of art. I, for one, will be asking for more.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Alex Julie Woods
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Opera Tavern, 23 Catherine Street London WC2B 5JS, call 020 7836 3680 or visit their website here.