Opera Tavern is a former pub turned Spanish restaurant, which opened in the heart of theatreland in 2011. It was launched to great acclaim by the team behind Spanish/Italian-inflected eateries The Salt Yard, The Ember Yard and Dehesa before the group was sold to Urban Pubs & Bars last summer. Following an extensive renovation, the restaurant recently reopened with a brand-new menu and head chef – as well as a promise to keep perennial favourites, the ibérico pork burger and nduja scotch egg, firmly on the menu.
With its pub background, Opera Tavern doesn’t feel like a typical Spanish restaurant. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal yet polished, with contemporary artwork and exposed brickwork aplenty. The refurbishment has introduced a communal dining table downstairs and a sleek central bar. Upstairs you’ll find a more formal 45-cover restaurant which is also available for private hire.
It’s very easy to get tapas wrong. ‘Wrong’ in this context means hunks of bland potato slathered in ketchup and mayonnaise passing as patatas bravas. ‘Wrong’ doesn’t mean experimenting with different spices or adding a cultural spin. Dishes change, adapt and travel over the course of their history, so no recipe remains truly ‘authentic’. This brings us to the menu at Opera Tavern, which specialises in seasonal Italian- and Spanish-influenced tapas, charcuterie and small plates.
A simple yet satisfying tortilla and the classic dish of courgette flower stuffed with goat’s cheese and slathered in honey are the real McCoy. But other dishes are given Mediterranean twists: think slow-cooked Galician octopus with saffron aioli, datterini tomatoes and jalapeños, and spicy chorizo with smoked almond hummus. Traditional bar snacks such as padrón peppers and manchego and jamón croquettes are perfect for diners looking for light bites, while the standout dish of Ibérico pork served with piquillo pepper relish and pork glaze is a decadent sharing delight. As for pudding, the Brummell team wolfed down a rich chocolate ‘delice’ served with dulce de leche mousse and chunks of honeycomb and a serving of summer berries with homemade granola and chantilly cream with wild abandon.
Both the Spanish and Italians are renowned for loving a good party, so the drinks menu at Opera Tavern is reasuringly extensive. There’s plenty of purse-friendly wine and bubbles, as well as regional specialities such as grappa, sherry, sangria, limoncello and vermouth. We enjoyed a seasonal cocktail (or two) and would recommend, in particular, the rhubarb paloma, made with ocho blanco tequila, grapefruit syrup and craft rhubarb & cardamom soda.
Roughly £35 per head.
Opera Tavern is a sociable and varied dining spot – ideal for a pre-theatre pit stop, date night or a get together with friends and family.
23 Catherine Street, WC2B 5JS; saltyardgroup.co.uk/opera-tavern