Sunday, 30 January 2011

Opera Tavern, Covent Garden

Opera Tavern, a tapas bar and restaurant from the people behind Salt Yard, opened up at the end of January in Covent Garden. Taking advantage of their 50% off the food soft opening, 4 of us visited for dinner. The place was heaving, the downstairs nicely buzzy around the bar. We were led up to a quieter dining room upstairs.

The menu reads nicely, with bar snacks such as smoked almonds, padron peppers, smoked anchovies and the like. Charcuteries and skewers from the grill complete the page, and turning over the tapas dishes are listed by meat, fish and vegetable. There was so much we wanted that in the end, it probably would have been easier to tell our waiter what we didn't want.

We started off well. Sea bass carpaccio (above) with blood orange and deep fried capers was well balanced and pretty to the eye.

Lamb with brown butter and pumpkin gnocchi was similarly delicious, in particular the gnocchi drawing delighted gasps from us. Another gnocchi dish, this time with trompettes and Tallegio was pillow-like, earthy and unctuous with the crunch of the migas (breadcrumbs) on top.

Iberico & foie gras burger was highly recommended by others. Little deep fried crispy onion rings were intensely sweet on top of the meaty burger and the pickled chillis on the side complemented it. Pigs ears were salty and crisp, jamon Iberico was silky, creamy pig. And then it went downhill.


Short rib of beef with polenta managed to be strangely flavourless. Crispy squid with chilli aioli was well fried but the batter lacked seasoning. It also had something in common with the braised and seared octopus; the portion was so stingy that even at half of the £7.40 full price we still felt ripped off. Barely a whole tentacle was presented to us. We were agape.

After a second round of charcuterie and some meaty skewers from the grill to sate the hunger, we hit the desserts which were pleasant, if unremarkable. Though we'd had a host of good dishes, the mean portion sizes left a bad taste in our mouths and we left £41 lighter each, well aware that we would have hit at least £65 per head were it not for the soft opening. For that price, I'd stick to the far superior Barrafina.

Opera Tavern


23 Catherine Street
London WC2

Tel: 020 7836 3680

Opera Tavern on Urbanspoon

12 comments:

Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said...

I went during their soft opening and left with the same view that you have. If it weren't for the 50% off, I would be leaving in a much less positive mood. They do have a cheese with honey tapas that is really yummy though!

Helen said...

Yeah, looks shit. Nowt worse than being ripped off, although I very much like the idea of a deep fried caper.

Dan said...

Liking the look of the Iberico & foie gras burger's though!

Cat said...

That's a shame as everything we had was fantastic (well, maybe apart from the croquettes) but then we didn't have what you were disappointed with...

tori said...

Hmmm a pity about the pricing and the portions. Though I do like the sound of another option for padron peppers and a glass of wine- and the iberico and foie burgers

Gin and Crumpets said...

Those are some sad looking portions, although the gnocchi is tempting me.

Cooking Fairy said...

Looks great. loving the look of the burgers. Pricey though....

Laura Nickoll said...

Agree that the pricing is prohibitive, though it being tapas I wasn't surprised at the small portions (3 dishes each hardly sufficed for lunch). I was impressed by the service and quality of cooking, but for tapas I'd prefer to head to the bar at Moro and dig into their more hearty (and filling) dishes.

Salty said...

Blimey, that's steep - been looking fwd to this place opening for ages as I love Saltyard and Dehesa but £41 a head at a discount - might think again! Still, that gnocchi - phwoar.

Laura Nickoll said...

So glad I'm not alone thinking that this place is expensive. Incurred some criticism for saying so, and was starting to question my judgement, but £40 a head (for lunch), even with two glasses of booze, is dear.

Anonymous said...

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Laura Nickoll said...

Meant to add to my original comment: how do you get invited to soft openings?! I need to get in on this.