The Opera Tavern
Opera Tavern, the beloved Spanish-Italian small plates restaurant in Covent Garden, has now reopened following a sleek and much improved redesign with a brand new menu and Head Chef.
Before it became a restaurant in 2011 it was a pub of the same name and it served as a local to me and my work colleagues who worked in the offices above it.
To be honest it was never a great pub as I recall so when it was converted into a restaurant I suspect few people would have complained.
Besides, Covent Garden had no shortage of good pubs at that time but it wasn’t blessed with many good places to eat.
As a tapas bar and restaurant it was an overnight success.
The Opera Tavern shone out like a beacon.
Known for its high quality Spanish and Italian-style tapas and lively atmosphere, it quickly became something of an institution, attracting both rave reviews and loyal customers.
It is this ‘back to basics’ ethos that Urban Pubs & Bars Group, the team behind Opera Tavern, are keen to reignite, returning to the early days of the convivial atmosphere and top quality, seasonal Spanish and Italian-inspired dishes that the restaurant was so well-known for.
With a refreshed look and feel, Opera Tavern is buzzy, warm and inviting. Outside, the restaurant has had a full redecoration and really stands out from the crowd.
The façade is now a tasteful pale grey, offset by a smart pink awning and a neon swing sign.
Inside, the 24-cover ground floor has been cleverly rearranged to get maximum use out of the space.
The walls are adorned with striking graphic prints by the likes of Ben Eine, whilst the stylish bar is now the main focal point of the room.
Other attractive features that come together to create the feeling of a relaxed, vibrant tapas bar include midnight blue panelling, dark wood surface tops and floors, antique mirrors and exposed brickwork.
Add to that a communal table, counter seating, mood lighting and a backdrop of eclectic beats, and you may well be transported to the bustling bars and restaurants of Spain.
Upstairs, the more formal 45-cover restaurant features the same dark colouring, arresting artwork and soft lighting but with added touches such as retro wallpaper panelling, pale green booth seating and sumptuous curtains.
It has its own serviced bar and is available for private hire.
There’s a great, almost communal atmosphere in the restaurant.
It’s as though everyone there is a part of one large and fun dinner party.
When it’s less busy there’s a temptation to engage in conversation with those on other tables who may have ordered different dishes.
The waiting staff, who are excellent, will sometimes orchestrate these conversations and enthuse on what are the most popular items on the menu. Food talk and food sharing are guaranteed ice-breakers.
With the new look comes a new chef and new menu, although they have wisely retained several of the old favourites.
Head Chef Lukasz Kiełbasiński, formerly of Daphne’s and Michael Nadra Primrose Hill and Chiswick, and his team have created an exciting new menu, using the very best quality seasonal ingredients to provide a wide selection of dishes.
Choose from sharing plates of Iberico pork served with piquillo pepper relish & pork glaze, Chicken saltimbocca,with aubergine, capers and marsala; Welsh lamb belly, with summer vegetables, hazelnut and cabra pesto; Lemon sole, with courgette, basil and brown shrimp sauce and Chargrilled paleta, tropea onion and bone marrow.
Additionally there is Linguine nero, calamari bolognese, Slow cooked Galician octopus with saffron aioli, datterini tomatoes and jalapeños.
Old favourites include the Courgette flower, monte enebro and blossom honey, the famous Ibérico pork burger and N’duja scotch egg.
When creating the new look of Opera Tavern, the team really wanted it to feel like the kind of relaxed place where you could just as easily sit and have a leisurely lunch or dinner as you could stop by for a glass of something good and a plate of Jamón or piquillo peppers at any time of day – just as the Mediterraneans do.
And it does.