Two's company. A few words on food, drink and little adventures! @atablefortwoLDN
Tapas in Britain is shit. In fact most of it outside of small Spanish towns and cities is. Although there’s a good reason why it’s no good in Britain. As a nation we’re bound by three structured meals, the closest idea of casual snack-type dining was having a Ploughman’s at a pub. Following it’s Italian cousin, tapas tried to make the same leap across the Channel but fell short of delivering authenticity. Instead, we were left with La Tasca’s sweaty manchego and numerous olive oil soused grottos eponymously titled ‘La Bodega’. Most practised the great art of how many variations they can get out of the holy trinity – Bread, Ham & Cheese. Mediterranean visitors would cry ‘Britain can’t do tapas properly’ but in fact tapas can’t do Britain.
Thankfully there’s been a tapas renaissance of late. Brindisa, the marvellous Jose and Barrfina are all leading the way. Although, Opera Tavern could easily be a noteworthy trailblazer. Above the rest, Opera Tavern has a fantastic formula that makes it very appealing. The menu is refined and thankfully goes beyond the later ‘holy trinity’. You can dine like a king or as modestly as you like. Sit amongst the gaggle at the bar or sit snuggly amongst other dinners at the tables (much like its neighbour Mishkins, it is intimate on space). The wine list is broad and far from intimidating, with only three mentions of the damned Rioja. The staff are conscientious, efficient and will happily divulge their personal recommendations with confidence and vigour.
Inside they’ve gone some way in gesturing towards a ‘tavern’ aesthetic without falling into the traps of filling the place with agricultural tat. It’s casually lit and the atmosphere reflects comfort and ease. Much like the wine list the menu is reduced to its bare bones, with some fantastic vibrant choices. For those of the autonomous dinning habit there is safety in the set-menu (for over seven people). We would have to recommend ordering freely, although guidance is offered by the eloquent staff.
Without a doubt the Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger are as good as they sound, without promising a bout of gout after eating them. Pigs ears and of course padron peppers are a must too. Whispered on the streets of the West End is how they’ve sexed up the humble scotch egg, the Morcilla Scotch Egg is hauntingly fantastic. Breaking the deluge of meat we added Chargrilled Octopus with Chickpea Fritter, Red Pepper and Mojo Verde to the table. Notoriously hard to cook, this octopus was executed perfectly. Another dish that brought so much joy were the Stuffed Courgette Flowers. This dish combined all that your taste buds might desire all wrapped up in a flower.
Boasting such an accomplished menu it would prove too good to be true if the deserts carried on the same high notes. we were happily proven wrong. The Panna Cotta with Apple, Chestnut Crumble and Yoghurt Sorbet was silky and a perfect finish to the evening.
Opera Tavern is a true favourite. Go and go a lot.
23 Catherine ST