Sunday, 28 July 2013

Opera Tavern

I've been meaning to eat at Opera Tavern, part of the Salt Yard group, since it's opening  2011.  2 things brought it to the top of my must visit list this month, eating one of their signature iberico burgers at Taste of London, and reading Marina gives the dish top marks in her recent London burger round up.  'Virtually flawless' she calls them, so I head down there one Thursday night for dinner.

It was a warm night and our pre booked table was upstairs, it's clearly much more fun downstairs so we chose to eat at the bar instead.  The place is a lot smaller than I expected it to be, perhaps this is why they're pretty strict with their 2 hour table turning policy, we managed to avoid any time constraints by sitting at the bar, I don't believe you can book the bar stools, so my advise is to sit there if you can, but I know some people don't like bar eating.  Those people will have to give up their table after 2 hours.

So the main reason we were there was for these guys, the iberico and foie gras mini burgers (£6.50 each) and they didn't disappoint.  Much better than the one I ate at Taste, but anything served up in a temporary kitchen in the middle of Regent's Park is arguably not representative of the chef's finest work.

For me, what makes these little beauts is the 2 kinds of onion within them, crispy fried on top and jam beneath the patty.  I like the jalapenos that come with too.  These are really, really good.

We spent the evening drinking Sipsmith gin martinis, great olives.  We shared everything we ordered, next came the butternut squash and sage croquettes with quince aioli (£6.25).

These were fine, the aioli had a nice fruity tang, but as I've been saying since the earliest days of my blog, I don't believe Barrafina and Fino can ever be beaten when it comes to croquettes, and if you can have ham and cheese in there, why would you want anything else?  I don't really.

The courgette flowers were standard, with the mandatory goat's cheese and drizzle of honey (£7.95).  Bizarrely these were the most expensive dish on the night, they were good but whenever I have these, I'm rarely blown away, I keep trying but always end up feeling, yeah, they were just alright.

The surprise hit on the night was this Italian style scotch egg (£4.25).  Pork mixed with veal, surrounding a runny egg encased in a crisp golden bread coating.  There's a hint of lemon too and a sprinkling of marjoram.  They're so good.  Best scotch egg I've ever had.  With a bed of aioli rounding things off nicely.

Scallop was next, (£4.50 each, though we got 2 medium sized ones) served on a pea, fennel and mint puree with capers and brown butter.  I do love a scallop, these were excellent.

Our final dish of the evening was the Old Spot pork belly on canellini beans (£7.25).  Apols for the horrific lack of focus below, I'm just getting used to the camera on my new phone.  The pork was perfectly cooked, crunchy and succulent and the beans were creamy and salty, flavoured with rosemary.  We were stuffed after this.

I really wanted to try the cheese having seen the couple next to us tucking in to a board full, but we just ploughed on with the martinis.  There's a really nice atmosphere to the bar and downstairs dining room, it's lively and bright and airy and with the barman right in front of you, you'll not be struggling to get the attention of someone when you need a top up or to order etc. 

Salt Yard Group recently announced they plan to open a 4th site (joining Salt Yard and Dehesa) on Berwick Street in Soho, bringing them even closer to my office, excellent news, roll on October. 

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine Street
Covent Garden

Opera Tavern on Urbanspoon

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