Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Opera Tavern - Pigging out at the 'Tavern

Opera Tavern @saltyardgroup
23 Catherine Street

Opera Tavern is by far my favourite restaurant in London. It's food lies in between great cuisine and indulgent sharing food. From it's marvellous mini burger, of ibérico pork and fois gras, to the incredible ibérico pressa. Yes, there is a theme in what they do well here, and it is the pork from the black footed acorn fed pigs. While, the other dishes are good these are definitely their USP. 




OT is found in the heart of theatre land near covent garden, over the road from Shrek at the Drury Lane theatre, and close by the Royal Opera House, hence it's namesake. I've been here a few times, mainly sitting in the upstairs dining room. This time for lunch it was warm outside, we had the option of going al fresco, a rare thing as they only have a few seats outside

What's on the menu today

Tapas is great as get a chance to pick a few of your 'own' options and then share your other diners choices.  This can be a bit of a gamble if they pick something that isn't as easily shared or you don't really like, but  it tends to work and leads to a lot more interactive lunch/dinner. For my choices it's a no brainer, the pressa is by far their best dish. The mini burger of ibérico pork and fois gras has also gained a great reputation, being touted in the top list of burgers for burgerac and youngandfoodish, which is saying something considering it's not actually beef. Today was a bit more special as their chef Ben Mulock, had tweeted that they were doing 'for today only' chilli pulled pork on top of the usual burger. No sooner had I replied back to say I was waiting for this than Ben actually came out to say 'hello' and went through a few other things on the menu. It's a nice touch when people can be this open and excited about the food they are creating, it really makes a difference.
Being lunchtime, we didn't order too much and went for 3 dishes each.

Special of the day - Ibérico chilli pulled pork on top of ibérico and fois gras burger
Usual iberico pork and fois gras burger with red onions, and pickled chilli on side

The mini burger is their most popular choice. The last time I had this it was a little over chargrilled, so didn't get what the great fuss was about. This time was near perfect. I'm not sure how much fois gras is in the patty, but allows for a great meat to fat ratio, that really adds to the richness and flavour. The pulled pork was great, but slightly too overpowering for the rest of the burger, was nice to deconstruct the burger and appeciate each bit on it's own as well as together. These burgers are mini but well worth their price tag (£6.50). Where else could you get anything like this in London for under a tenor ;). This is tapas though, do you really expect anything to be of considerable size?!

Octopus with chickpea fritter
Had to go for the side on shot aswell, fabulous presentation
Confession time: I've never had octopus...before this. I've always been intrigued but never really gone for it before, I like squid was knew I wasn't going to be completely repulsed by this. The suckers really conjure images in your head though! When this was put down on our table, it is a 'wow' dish. The octopus is beautifully cooked, with a chargrilled finish, and went very well with the red peppers. The chickpea fritter was nice, but became almost soggy with the mojo verde. This definitely converted me to be an octopus fan. I'd like to cook this myself  

Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese drizzled in honey
The courgette flowers are another great dish at OT, but was left a bit disappointed with it this time. However, the batter was too thick. Previous times I've been the batter is so delicately thin the colour of the courgette flower is still clearly visible. However, this just looked like a corn dog, and  instead of added a crisp finish, it was more chewy and overpowered the flavours underneath, especially as the thick batter just absorbed so much of the honey, 'meh'!

Chargrilled lamb cutlet with smoked garlic puree with tomato, courgette and cumin
The lamb cutlet was probably a bit of a mistake to order for sharing, their isn't much of the meat to go round 2 people, although Shahz did really like the courgette, tomato and cumin side. The lamb was good, but nothing more. That said the veg was very good, probably enough to be a side dish of it's own.

Ibérico pressa with shallots, capers and lemon


Finally the dish of the day, Ibérico pressa, a cut inbetween the shoulder and the loin with shallots, capers and lemon. It's this combination of flavours and textures that make your eyes roll back into your head, as you chew slowly and try to make that feeling last as long as possible. 'That's outstanding' was all Shahz had to say on the matter which just about sums it up. The acidity of the capers cuts through the pork really well. I could easily come here and order 2 of these (and maybe a burger for good measure). If you come here remember that with tapas the bill mounts up very easily, but you do get what you pay for. Normally £25-30 a head, depending on if you chose to plunge into their extensive spanish and italian wine menu.

I didn't have them this time, but I highly recommend the padron peppers, a great appetizer. No doubt I will be back again, try parts of the menu I've not had before. As you can see we are very meat orientated, just with tapas it's seems a wasted choice to get vegetables! OT also have a great charcuterie selection, of course with more ibérico, the cheese choices are extensive as well.

Owen

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