The Opera Tavern

23 Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London

Somewhere for a quick tapas meal...

The Opera Tavern, exterior picture

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Address:23 Catherine Street
Covent Garden
Map:Map & nearby
Venue Type:Public Houses & Inns
Region:Covent Garden
Nearest Station:Covent Garden
Opening Hours:

Mon:11:00 - 23:00
Tue:11:00 - 23:00
Wed:11:00 - 23:00
Thu:11:00 - 23:00
Fri:11:00 - 23:00
Sat:11:00 - 23:00
Sun:12:00 - 22:30
About: From the team behind the ever-popular sister restaurant Dehesa, the Opera Tavern is a beautiful two-storey bar and restaurant in the heart of theatre land specialising in Italian and Spanish influenced tapas. It even has a charcoal grill on the ground floor where they cook up all manner of tasty meaty treats!

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"Somewhere for a quick tapas meal..."

Review Rating: 6 / 10
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Reviewed by

I was meeting one of my property clients in Covent Garden for an informal business lunch and the marketing manager there had been keen to try out this relatively new restaurant so I agreed to meet them there. I’d noticed it when I had recently been along to see Shrek the Musical as it’s right opposite.

My first impressions were good. Downstairs there is a high bench table facing the street with stools for fast eating. There is also an impressively large bar with stools against it – and also a good space around it for those who prefer to stand. This area looked ideal for a fast bite or informal drinks before seeing a show or for after work.

The attractive and formidable female maitre d’ swept over to me quickly and checked the reservations book. With a heavily accented voice she encouraged me to follow her upstairs to a restaurant area. Again, first impressions were excellent – it looked authentically Spanish with dark wood tables and a large floor to ceiling wine rack and distant windows overlooking Catherine Street. On one wall were intricate paintings – I noticed the name Carl Orff. On the facing wall was a large impressionist piece in bold colours. There was an ornate chandelier in the centre of the ceiling. The super friendly waiter quickly took my drinks order while I waited for my colleagues to join me.

There was no music playing but when my two colleagues joined me the loud ambient noise was noticeable – I had to strain to hear what they were saying. We selected what we thought would be enough dishes:

Chargrilled bread £2.55
Olives £2.80
Padron peppers £4.25 (These were excellent with just the right amount of sea salt)
Chorizo with piquillo and marjoram £5.25 (probably one of the best dishes)
Three manchegos with quince £7.95
Crispy squid with sea purslane with chilli aioli £6.75
Spring green vegetables with ricotta gnocchi, wild garlic pesto and black olive £5.50 (A bit of a disappointment)
Patatas Fritas with alioli and bravas sauce £3.75
Pan seared scallop with pea puree, truffle dressing and San Daniele shards £4.25 (We ordered two – they were served in small shells)

Our waiter was concerned whether this would be enough and recommended that we add some others. We asked his advice and he suggested:

Grilled Iberico Pressa with capers, shallots and lemon £8.25 (This was really strong and gamey – and very good)
Mini Iberico Port and Foie Gras Burger £5.95 each (We ordered two. These didn’t seem very “tapas” although I should imagine that children eating here would like them. They were served rather rare though so be warned)

As it happens, we felt that we had a little too much and our initial order probably would have done the trick. I was a little concerned too with the order in which they were served. I understand the concept of tapas being small bites but we received the meat and cheese dishes first and then the others and the patatas didn’t arrive until the very end. And I’m not going to go on about the fact that some expected tapas staples (e.g. tortilla) were not on the menu.

The wine selection caused some consternation as well – yes, they were mostly Spanish and Italian wines. Yes, the choice was wide. But we didn’t recognise many of the choices (and the three of us are pretty experienced in eating and drinking in a variety of upper, mid and lower market establishments). We took a chance with a white Campagni Flegri (£26) – described as a “volcanic” dry and light wine with “eruptions” of fruit. It was extremely light (almost like wine in mineral water), pleasant and very drinkable.

The bill for lunch for three of us, after three large espressos (£2.75 each) was £115.41 which I thought was a little steep. The restaurant also supports Shuktara – a charity for physically disabled orphans in India – and had added £1 donation.

So. If you needed somewhere for a quick tapas meal and/or drinks I think the downstairs bar would be ideal and I can’t fault the service provided by the waiting staff upstairs. But for me the noise levels, unusual menu and strange order of food delivery would deter me from going to the restaurant upstairs again. But then again, maybe I’m just old and miserable, and a younger group of people would find the atmosphere good and lively.

KimT reviewed The Opera Tavern on Wed 17 Aug 2011

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