After almost three years of being together, Julien and I were finally able to spend Valentine’s day together as for once this year, we weren’t separated by this big ocean they call the Atlantic. It’s been so wonderful getting to see each other at least once a week, just hopping on the Oxford tube and spending occasions such as Valentine’s day together. What did we do? I couldn’t go around a wonderful date night focused on food (and my Valentine ofc). So Julien took me to a tapas place in Covent Garden called Opera Tavern.
Our reservation was rather late so we wandered around Covent Garden looking for a cocktail bar which actually had room to sit. After a few attempts, we found a place which we already knew, Henry’s and ordered a couple of drinks to start the night. Julien has been on this quest to find the best place for a mojito in London since we went to Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill where he absolutely LOVED the mojito – I frankly think it may have been the only interest of the place, unless you are into very tacky and over the top decor as well as pretentious service and management totally out of sync with the cool hipster atmosphere they try to convey. But I’m not posting today to rant about it. Moving on.
Julien has ceased the opportunities to try mojitos in so many different places, even on Sunday pizza lunches, they were never as good as the one he holds so dear in his memory. However, while I sipped my pretty pink raspberry caipirinha – which had to match my dress on the night of love – Julien kept growing fonder and fonder of his mojito to the point where he had to admit this one may have been the best he had tried so far. I’m personally one to think it’s not so much about the add where you go, but more about the skilled bartender who serves you. Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite place for mojitos in London ;)
We then headed to the restaurant. I actually didn’t know where we were having dinner as JB tried to keep it a surprise but had had to give me hints because I had harassed him all day. We walked into this really old pub converted into a tapas place: Opera Tavern. It was very busy and had a great bar atmosphere downstairs.
Our table was upstairs where all the other couples were enjoying a romantic evening, and a group of three girls were having an “all the single ladies” girls night out in the middle of the room. It was more calm up there, therefore more intimate and appropriate for a Valentine’s day dinner.
Julien had had a look at the menu before coming and already had a rough idea of what we were to order. I let him do his thing but only had to request to try the deep fried courgette flower with honey and goats cheese – you must know from my travels in the south of France and north of Italy that I am mesmerised by courgette flowers.
The food arrived pretty quickly. Maybe too quickly… I guess the stressful night of Valentine’s day made the waiters and the people in the kitchen rush to make sure the couples would be satisfied with their promptness but it put me off a bit to be served the cod croquettes before the bread and Spanish charcuterie platter and then have those three plates on the table, making my palet slightly confused about the order of the food as I would usually think you would eat bread and butter with the charcuterie as a starter… Now I know it’s a tapas place but this is what happened with the rest of the dinner, making it very quick rather than slow, giving us time to enjoy each tapas dish or at least enjoying dishes which went well together.
The cod croquettes were quite tasty – I usually don’t eat cod (childhood traumas and I don’t like the dry texture) but I think the cheese and breadcrumbs made super crunchy from the deep frying as well as the mayo definitely made it more appealing to me.
We also had the duck and beetroot salad which looked less like a tapas and was definitely more difficult to eat as something to share, even between two. But I enjoyed the dish itself with its colours and textures, a good combination of crunch, sweetness, bitterness and saltiness from the duck.
Julien could not resist ordering beef so we tried the Iberico Presa which was very nice and flavourful, meat super tender.
We also though we’d order something typically Spanish but the potato tortilla that was brought to us was really average…
But our favourite of all the savoury dishes we tried (if you don’t count the charcuterie platter) was (surprisingly for Julien) the vegetarian tapas: my favourite of all time, the courgette flower. Yes, I say this in the singular because they only bring you one for £4.50 unfortunately… So we shared it, both wishing we could have had devoured our own. But the plate looked beautiful, and I don’t think you can really go wrong with the combination of honey and goats cheese in addition to the crunch and softness of a deep-fried courgette flower.
I was very happy about the tapas formula, just because I really love tasting different things from the menu when I go somewhere, but the issue was that it went all way too quickly and next thing we knew we were ordering dessert.
I had seen what the couple next to us had ordered and definitely had my eyes on that: Dulce de Leche Panna Cotta. Yum!
There were other appetising things on the menu but Julien is always a bit picky when it comes to sweet things – and yes he claims to have a bigger sweet tooth than me. M’okay.
This dessert was brought with chestnut crumbs and frozen yoghurt and it was seriously the bomb. I don’t think I had actually ever had dulce de leche which is actually fairly different from caramel sauce. It was really rich and creamy, and very well balanced again with the crunchiness from the crumbs and the tartness from the frozen yoghurt.
Honestly, wherever I have dinner, I only really need dessert to rock and I am happy as a clam!
Overall, I obviously had a lovely evening with my Valentine and felt absolutely spoiled but I think you should go for the ground floor area of the restaurant where it seems more fun and the atmosphere is banging. I was slightly confused about the tapas concept of the restaurant as you would usual have tapas at a bar and you have one or two at a time max, to share with you friend(s) or date. Another thing about the tapas, this place is for those who are look for tapas as the concept of “small plates”, not authentic Spanish cuisine. I’m not a Spanish culinary specialist but I am pretty sure there were various influences from other cuisines which made it sometimes confusing.
Foodwise, the food was really tasty, very well balanced despite the disappointing tortilla and I would totally recommend the dessert if it’s on the menu. However, some dishes like the bread platter and the courgette flower, which were delicious indeed, were a bit overpriced in my opinion. But it’s in Covent Garden and it’s always the risk of a small plate restaurant, you just have to make sure you order things you will truly love.
On the service side, despite how quickly our plates came and therefore went, our waiter was lovely and in the end, Julien and I left satisfied with our dinner, although we were mostly happy about having spent the night together for once.
Lots of foodie love to all of you out there, I am trying my best to post more consistently and regularly! xx