Opera Tavern Review: Guardian Voted Best Burger In London

Sep 27

opera tavern duck figs london restaurant review small platesBurgers are still a hot topic in London. You’d think people would have moved on by now, right? Well, we haven’t. The gourmet burger game was first upped by Yianna Papoutsis and his Meat Wagon back in 2009. This grew into the MeatLiquor / Mission / Market franchise and with it, a plethora of other places trying to achieve the coveted ‘best burger in London’ title. Many lists have been compiled, with all the big names featuring (Patty & Bun, Lucky Chip, Honest), and switched around the top 5, depending on personal taste. When The Guardian published their count down of the top 10 burgers in London, there was an unusual contender on the top spot – The Opera Tavern. So we had to go. But could it really be better than the perfection that is Patty & Bun (review here)? This review won’t just be about the burger, as the menu is far more exciting than a piece of meat in bread, but the burger will feature heavily.

Atmosphere & Decor – 6/10

The Opera Tavern is in the heart of Covent Garden and looks like an old pub from the outside. Downstairs is the bar and grill and upstairs you’ll find the proper restaurant with more tables. The decor left a little to be desired. Black tables and chairs and some questionably loud art work that didn’t do it for me. You’re in the heart of tourist town in London at the OT and it kinda felt like it – big family groups and upmarket-chain style design. I’m spoilt with the some of the modern / trendy design in my local east London haunts, and there was nothing wrong with the OT, but being part of the Salt Yard group I was expecting a little more.

Food – Burger – 8/10burgers london best burgers opera tavern

The burger is more of a slider, so you’d need a couple if that’s all you’re having. It came piled high in a perfectly toasted brioche bun (firm on the outside, a little softer in the middle), with a stick to hold things together. The meat is Iberico pork with foie gras and was deliciously tender and juicy. Often beef burgers are on the greasy-side, but the lean Iberico meat, meant it wasn’t at all AND the meat was pink in the middle, which is difficult with such a small patty.  Two-type onion – caramelised and deep fried – added flavour and texture. Everything worked well and the burger was really tasty, but you can’t really compare to the likes of Lucky Chip and Patty & Bun as the OT’s entry is made of pork and is a lot, well, posher.

Food – The Rest – 6.5/10

Other dishes we had were mixed. Fried courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese were great, but the accompanying courgette was bland and unnecessary. Pigeon breast was beautifully cooked and nicely pink, but the figs that came with it were straight out the fridge and so ice cold. The deep fried mozzarella was also a strange addition to this dish and didn’t quite work. Octopus with chick pea fritters was great. Thick pieces of octopus sat atop a beautifully smooth chickpea fritter that was smothered in a light red pepper salsa. The whole thing was finished with Mojo Verde – a green coriander sauce. Lots going on, but some great textures and the octopus gave the dish an interesting meaty/fishy edge.

opera tavern octopus restaurant reviewI finished the meal with a panna cotta dessert that came with strawberry sorbet, meringue and fennel. The sorbet was tart and not overly icey, delicious alongside the vanilla panna cotta and fennel flavour. However, the panna cotta had a tacky  film on the top, I suspect from being left out too long and not being totally fresh. They could have been more generous with the meringue and fennel powder too.

Service – 8/10

Service was great. Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the wine list and happy to recommend signature dishes. Food was brought one by one, with plenty of time to savour each one.

Price – 7/10

Wine was extremely reasonable with a decent bottle of Sangiovese costing just £24. Food was over-priced though. It’s small plates, so I’m used to ordering 5/6 between two to fill up. However, with most dishes costing around £7/8, the price stacked up. Two burgers, three small plates, two desserts and a bottle of wine was £70. Not such bad value for central London but the dishes are small and this was only lunch.

Verdict – 6.5/10

The burger was very good, as was the octopus and the wine, and service could not be faulted. However, a few dishes could have done with a bit more care and attention. The menu is imaginative but execution was amateur at times. Some dishes are a little over-priced, so not the place for a reasonable mid-week feast. Stakes are high for mediterranean small plates, (Bocca Di Lupo, Polpo, Spuntino…) let along burgers in London and the Opera Tavern didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

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