|Mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers. Yes, that's mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers. Ooomph.|
Opera Tavern opened in Covent Garden in February, joining it siblings (and Greedy Diva favourites), Salt Yard and Dehesa to provide a range of small plates inspired by Spanish tapas, with an Italian cicchetti twist. The biggest difference is the addition of the robata charcoal grill, where "pinchos morunos" are quickly sizzled up and skewered in all their smoky deliciousness.
|A selection of skewered meats( pinchos morunos) from the robata charcoal grill|
The restaurant is small (and rather noisy from the celebrations in the dining room upstairs on the night I visited with Gourmet Chick, MTV Boyfriend and A Girl Has to Eat) - perhaps not one to take your hard of hearing grandparents). Downstairs near the bar, where we're seated, feels like a typical Covent Garden pub turned simply into a place to eat ham and drink sherry with abandon.
|Grilled Octopus & Chorizo|
Although the pig's head terrine is catches my attention among the range of bar snacks (priced from £2.55 - £4.25), we move straight to the offerings of the charcoal grill for mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers, juicy and medium rare, topped with oozey grilled manchego, aioli and onion jam on a mini brioche bun - phwoar. Incontrovertible proof that size is not everything.
|Deep fried courgettes with goats cheese and honey|
We try a selection of grilled pinchos morunos - there's marinated Iberico pork, Gresshingham duck with fig, and octopus with chorizo, green tomatoes, cucumber and pomegranate (ranging from £3.25 - £3.95). The deep fried courgettes with oozy goats cheese and honey are a favourite from Salt Yard and are just as good here.
|Chargrilled Saltmarsh Lamb|
Try the range of hams, charcuterie and cheeses, or move straight on to the tapas - FISH like crispy squid and sea purslane with chilli aioli (£6.75) or roasted monkfish with crab and chickpea sauce and crab fritter (£7.50), MEATS like chargrilled salt mash lamb with faro, peas, broad beans, wild garlic and goat's curd (£7.25) or chargrilled beef sirloin with bone marrow, Iberico pork fat chips, garlic and thyme aioli (£12.50), or VEGETABLE dishes such as grilled asparagus with crispy duck egg yolk, fresh pea and truffle dressing (£5.75) or salad of grilled baby fennel and trope onion with orange and black olive (£6.25).
We manage to work our way through a couple of bottles of wine, both lovely and reasonably priced.
|Warm hazelnut cake with lemon thyme ice-cream|
Of the lovely puddings, my favorite was the warm hazelnut cake with lemon thyme ice cream (£5.35), or you might like the tonka bean pannacotta with English strawberries and white chocolate almonds (£5.35).
As usual when 4 gluttons get together and start ordering small plates, the bill sneaks up on you, although I think we manage to get away at around £40 per head including wine and service.
For atmosphere and stylish surrounds, I prefer Salt Yard and Dehesa, but Opera Tavern is certainly a welcome addition to the restaurants of substance infiltrating the former tourist trap haven of Covent Garden.
Opera Tavern, 23 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 (Tel: 020 7836 3680)
You can see my earlier review of Dehesa here. Another good addition to the Covent Garden area is da Polpo (sibling to Polpo, Polpetto and Spuntino) - I've visited da Polpo twice but have not reviewed as there's really not much to add to my reviews of its siblings. It's a place for fun food rather than anything gourmet, and as much as I like it, it lacks some of the buzz and charm of its Soho siblings (you can read my reviews of them at the above links). Nevertheless, it's much easier to get a table (walk ins only) at the Covent Garden newbie.