Opera Tavern has been named by Zagat as one of the best 2011 openings. I knew food quality was going to be outstanding being the sister restaurant to Dehesa, my favourite Spanish restaurant. The unique selling point of Opera tavern is the addition of a charcoal grill that produces divine mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers.
Opera Tavern doubled the size of Dehesa with two floors. The downstairs bar hosts the grill with a more energetic vibe compared to the dining area upstairs. It’s essential to book, especially for weekends as it’s often fully booked. We booked a week before and only a 6.45pm slot was available.
The menu at Opera Tavern was very similar to Dehesa with a selection of bar snacks, charcuterie and cheese, tapas were divided by fish, meat and vegetarian. This is my favourite mix because you can order a refreshing vegetarian dish to offset those meaty ones. A contrast to the recently opened Pizarro, which was heavily meat focused. Their meat dishes were executed well but it’s also essential to keep a balance like Opera Tavern and Dehesa.
Crispy Iberico pigs ears
These were very similar to pork crackling with a tougher crunch. Be warned, it was very addictive.
Mini Iberico pork and foie gras burger
Here it is, now a signature of Opera Tavern. Surprisingly, it was rather light than heavily greasy from the foie gras. All because of the sweet yet lightly sour sauce (similar to a chutney), it balanced the greasiness of the foie gras to unload the burden on our stomachs without losing any heavy flavours of the burger. It was worth all the hype and definitely worth coming back for.
Jamon Iberico de bellota, aged 5 years
I had to try this 5 year old bellota ham which has to be the best ham in the world. I’ve only tried two year aged before which was already an unforgettable experience. The moisture content seemed to be higher than others, like it was never aged with only the cured meat flavours plus the oily shine giving it away. Bellota ham is the finest ham of Iberico with black footed pigs eating acorn alone during their last period. I’m not an expert but the difference between the 2 and 5 year ham seemed to be the salt content. I found Dehesa's two year ham much saltier. My dinner partner said he'd happily eat this every day, all day.
Slow roasted salmon and Datterini tomatoes, sweet shallots, ricotta and curly kale
It looked like a simple salmon dish but many tricks were hidden, which left me playing around the many textures and tastes with different combinations. I loved that sweet shallot sauce underneath the salmon which binded all the elements together. Without it the ricotta would’ve been strange with the crunchy kale. The addition of these incredibly subtle Datterini tomatoes also added great depth, giving it an earthy aftertaste without any sharp acidity.
Pickled salsify salad with chestnuts and winter truffle
You have to eat a salad to offset the burger (even for a mini one), this salsify salad was the perfect candidate. No strong flavours, simply a refreshing salad seasoned with a lovely citrusy dressing.
Chocolate fondant with cranberry sorbet
All the desserts looked very tempting but we wanted to try this freshly baked chocolate fondant with a 15min wait. It was spot on, that intensely rich chocolate sauce oozed on the plate as soon as I spooned into it. However the cranberry sorbet was too icey and sharp for the extra dark fondant. A traditional vanilla ice cream might’ve been better.
Verdict - 4/5
Food (delicious) - Dehesa is my favourite Spanish restaurant in London, now with Opera Tavern climbing up. I love the addition of the charcoal grill for that juicy yet well balanced Iberico pork and foie gras burger. The bellota ham aged 5 years has got to be the best ham in the world and the tapas selection were all high quality.
Service (busy) - Friday night was jam packed but we enjoyed every moment of it. Our dishes came at different times but all quite fast. The energetic atmosphere was great for weekends and the upstairs dining room was romantic for dates too.
Cost (depends) - you can spend a lot of money here if you order the £15 bellota ham and some expensive wine. Our bill came to £90 including a bottle of £30 red wine.