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|Address:||23 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JS|
|Tel:||020 7836 3680|
|Price: £50.00||Wine: £16.00||Champagne: £76.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-11pm (Sun -3pm)|
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It's an old Covent Garden boozer, converted into a clever, classy little tapas bar. Split over two floors, bar stools predominate the converted pub downstairs, small table informality and big (slightly drafty) windows balance an open glass wine wall in the space up the small staircase. From the team behind one of my favourite restaurants in London, Dehesa and older brother Salt Yard, it's fair to say that the opening of the Opera Tavern had me salivating slightly.
The strong wine list mirrors the focus at sister restaurant Dehesa. Much of the menu appears to come from their older siblings too. The focus on solid Spanish swine is happily reprised. (Slightly sloppily carved) Jamon Iberico de Bellota is excellent. Salty and sweet with a nutty marbling of divine fat daring your heart to complain. Heads of deep fried courgette flower come next, stuffed with sticky goat's cheese and drizzled with honey.
Mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers fall apart without their skewer, the devil's own canapé. Rich little bundles popping with flavour, they feel a little out of place here, slightly too refined and worked, but unbelievably tasty non the less. This also applied to the (thankfully grease free) ‘Italian style’ Scotch Eggs. A clever take on the dish, soft cooked eggs lightly rolled in a spiced pork blanket served with garlicky aoli, it just felt slightly wrong in a tapas bar. The one bum note of the night came with a totally tasteless Short Rib of Beef served with over-cooked polenta and over-salted cavalo nero. Shame that. The gnocchi, taleggio cheese and mushroom gratin made up for this side step in the quality of the food. A perfect counterpoint to the meaty dishes served alongside.
We finish our savories with the full set of three different pinchos morunos, squat charcoal grilled skewers, a little pricy at £3 a pop, but stickily well cooked. The Salt Marsh Lamb Leg with smoked paprika stands out as a favourite of the three, cooked to pink perfection within a charred carapace.
Pannacotta with a tooth-tinglingly tangy tangerine granita was the least lardy of the puds but even that nearly finished me off. I wouldn't have had it, but our waiter was so insistent we try it. A great example of its kind, with creamy vanilla texture and biscuity swirls to give a contrast. Miss Jones had one of the interesting sheep's milk cheeses from the list, perfectly acceptable finishers to the meal.