Monday, 31 October 2011

Small plates make me hungry

Continuing the theme of small plates (and I even did a tapas evening for friends on Saturday), I wanted to make note of the delicious meal I had at Opera Tavern, on the day I booked my trip to Spain. The Opera Tavern is the sister restaurant of the more well known Salt Yard, and they both specialise in tapas or small plates from Italy and Spain. Getting a table at a few day's notice was tricky - an online booking system makes it all the easier for everyone else to get in there, so we ended up with a very un-Mediteranean 6.15 start time.

The menu covers a range of cured meats, meat off the grill and fish, vegetable and meat based small plates. We staggered our order, savouring a small amount of flavours, musing and then ordering a couple more. First up was a chorizo and squid skewer topped with a tangy pomegranate seeds, cucumber and green tomato relish. The chorizo was clearly top notch and, chargrilled, went perfectly with the meaty squid. Very good.

This was followed by more squid, however, this time as battered rings with battered purslane too. It was my first purslane and a totally new taste, very salty and somewhere between seaweed and spinach.

After all that protein, we craved vegetables. A super green broad bean, tenderstem broccoli, gnocchi and pesto small plate was incredible. The pesto was particuarly fragrant and sweet, and every last spot was mopped up.

I'm a sucker for courgette flowers (and that's all my courgette plants were good for this summer - not the end of the world, seeing as they cost £3 a flower from Borough market) and particularly enjoyed Opera Tavern's, which left the flower attached to the baby courgette and was stuffed with a light, smooth goats cheese and drizzled in honey. Classic combination.

After a board of impeccable quality sliced chorizo, we climaxed on the Opera Tavern's most famous, and perhaps most unlikely dis - the Iberico pork and foie gras burger. It's a diminutive dish, but packed full of rich flavours, a velvety bite, and a perfectly formed little brioche bun. I ate it as slowly as I could, appreciating every last bite interceded by meat, bun, cheese and caramelised onions. Mmm.

We finished on a little plate of truffles, biscotti and a glass of dessert wine. Classy.

I'd definitely recommend Opera Tavern for the food, and it's possible to have a not-too-pricey meal there, although it's definitely in the 'treats' category. Atmosphere-wise, we were in the dining room on the 1st floor, and it was busy without being buzzy. The clientèle were clearly quite well off, but I didn't notice anyone as excited about the food as I was. Maybe that's what it is to be classy, eh?

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