Opera Tavern, 23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
This post has been a long time coming, slightly to blame is Ben Mullock for making us eat so much food when we went to the restaurant. And getting married kind of got in the way a bit also. We felt very honoured to have the lovely Ben bake us some Rosemary Foccacia for our wedding party at Clerkenwell House.
We visited on my birthday in May, Ade asked me to choose ‘one of my restaurants’, and I chose the Opera Tavern. The five-star review in Metro helped in that decision, plus, selflessly, I thought it would be the kind of food he would enjoy also, he won’t believe that for a second.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and there weren’t many people in, am not sure if this is why we had such excellent attention from our lovely waitress, or if that’s just how it is. The Opera Tavern is located in the theatre district of Covent Garden, specialising in Spanish and Italian inspired tapas, yep, more small plates. There seems to be a bit of a divide on small plates, we like them as it means we get to try lots of different things, you don’t get stuck with a one meal with the possibility of disliking it (and it eliminates food envy).
Once inside, one of my first thoughts is how small the kitchen looked, and how I wished it was bigger and more open so I could peer in and watch its master that is sous chef Ben Mullock. We’re big fans of an open kitchen, plus it gives you a focal point if you can’t be bothered to talk, not that that happens with us of course. Although we are married now so perhaps that will all change.
We started with some Crispy Ibérico Pigs Ears, I was slightly dubious about eating such a thing, but once I got stuck in I loved them, like pork stratchings without the horrible cold, wet, fatty centre.
Alongside these were Pork Rillions, I wasn’t too keen on these, felt they needed a relish or sauce to balance them out a bit, they were very rich. Ade however, happily munched away. We also had Smoked Anchovies with Crostini, Ade’s current new favourite food, he thought he hated anchovies as his only previous point of contact was on dodgy seafood pizzas over the years.
Chargrilled Beef Sirloin with Bone Marrow, Ibérico Pork Fat Chips, New Season’s Garlic and Thyme Aioli was lovely, one of my favourite dishes, and the chips were amazing. Felt a bit greedy also having some Patatas Fritas with Alioli and Bravas sauce. And the Confit of Old Spot Pork Belly with Rosemary Scented Cannellini Beans was a welcome gentle dish, it helped to balance our all the richness.
Ade devoured the Chorizo with Piquillo and Marjoram while I ate the beautiful peppers within the sauce (am not a fan of chorizo, yes, I know…) I was gutted not to be able to eat the Arancini as they contained cheese, they looked so tempting. The Gressingham Duck with Fig skewer was another favourite.
I would have ordered more but we were saving ourselves for the pièce de résistance – the Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger. Now by this point I was full and ready to burst, grateful that I was wearing a stretchy maxi dress. Unfortunately this came with cheese but our lovely waitress soon came back with another sans cheese. I am a foie grass virgin so along with the pigs ears, this was another first for me. The burger was the perfect size as it is so rich and filling. It was juicy and tender – the quality and flavour of the Ibérico pork going perfectly with the ‘melt in your mouth’ foie gras.
There was no way we could squeeze in a dessert so we walked off our pork fest and wandered over to Spuntino for a Peanut & Jelly Sandwich and a Strawberry & Coconut Mess (blog post to follow – watch this space!).
The Opera Tavern is a gem in such a touristy area. When Ade went back on a Friday evening to collect our Rosemary Foccacia for our wedding party the place was fully booked. All the bar seats were taken and the waiting staff swarmed back and forth from the kitchen, yet Ben still had time to wish us good luck. How he produces so many delicious and exciting dishes from such a small kitchen is a mystery!
The Opera Tavern,
23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
0207 836 3680
Opening hours: Monday – Friday lunch 12PM – 3PM
Bar snacks, Charcuterie and cheese available 3PM – 5PM
Monday – Friday dinner 5PM – 11.30PM
Saturday 12PM – 11.30PM
Food served all day
Sunday lunch 12PM – 3PM
Closed Sunday evenings