I’m not sure why, but Spanish food is a cuisine I rarely indulge in. No particular reason I can think of; it just never seems to come up. A shame, because on the rare occasions I do eat it, it really makes me happy!
Opera Tavern, owned as part of the Salt Yard group (all Spanish restaurants) is located in the heartland of the theatre district and serves up Spanish tapas with what I like to think of as a gastro-pub twist.
Now please – enjoy my terribly darkened blurry photos taken with a 3GS iPhone, which in this time of blogging and technology may as well be a tin can with a piece of string attached to it.
Without a booking, we were kindly and luckily on a Friday night given 2 seats in the middle of the bar. Glasses of tap water poured immediately without asking. I refuse to pretend I know anything about wine, but I will say that I really love these big ballon-style glasses that Opera Tavern uses.
First up was the patatas fritas, piping mouth-burningly hot. So fresh from the fryer, these were eaten alternating with gulps of water, so crunchy and hot they were.
To go with the potatoes? What else but an Iberico and foie gras mini burger each. When we first ate here perhaps a year ago, I faintly remember these being more juicy and glistening with the foie gras that had been mixed through the patty. This time around these weren’t as juicy, but the same rich flavour was present.
Who doesn’t love pork belly? My #1 eating animal with my #2 favourite cut of meat. The first is bacon. Of course. I have previously made pork chops with rosemary spike cannellini beans for dinner, but they didn’t elicit the same amount of praise that this dish did from Duncan. Boo. Like all pork connoisseurs, I saved the crackling on top for last to eat.
Next up was the octopus. Lovely chargrilled and smoky, these were tender on top of a chickpea fritter. I’ve never eaten chickpeas in any other form than whole and in hummous form. It was an unfamiliar texture; quite smooth and firm and dense. Not unpleasant, just rather unfamiliar.
The scallops were a touch pricy at 4.50 each, but undeniably delicious. The only way you can ever really ruin a scallop is by over cooking which these were thankfully not. Opera Taverns scallops were bouncy and the celeriac puree underneath was creamy and smooth. I tried to restrain myself by making the scallop last into several bits, but failed – whole thing in one bite. I am nothing, if not lady-like.
Surprisingly, our vegetable dish was my favourites. Shocking, I know. It says a lot about the skills of a kitchen if they can create a memorable vegetarian dish. Batons of root vegetables, including carrot, beetroot and something that my memory wants to claim as parnsip elegantly placed on the plate with herbs, toasted pinenuts and dollops of cheese. So simple, but full of flavour and texture.
We had a proper pudding for dessert. Layered in a glass were fresh raspberries, crunchy hazelnut praline that just hit fainest edges of a burnt sugar taste. Meringue ice cream had a really light fresh flavour to it and mixed through it all was prosecco jelly. I really love puddings like this; they manage to have the right balance of creamy, crunchy, and fruity and every spoonful is just a little bit different from the last. Yum.
I’m not sure why it’s taken me a year to come back to Opera Tavern. The food is so well cooked and really makes the point of highlighting the flavours and textures in all of their dishes. If you plan ahead, I recommend booking as you’ll get a table upstairs with elbow room. We risked no booking and sat at the bar with pretty much no waiting time involved, but it was a little squishy. Definitely a place I’ll be back for; next time it will be much sooner than a year.