Category Archives: spanish

Opera Tavern, Covent Garden 

There are times when I find myself over faced with food, greediness takes over and before I know it, I’ve eaten far too much and kicking myself! You ever been in the same situation? Well early last month we’d hopped on the train into London to go for dinner, it’ll all been booked but having arrived around lunchtime which is basically 12pm in our house we couldn’t let it slip us by and started wandering around Covent Garden with more purpose. Around Covent Garden there’s so much choice it’s difficult to single one place out so we stepped off the track a touch, into the Opera Tavern. I knew the name rang a bell and it soon came clear it was a sister restaurant of Salt Yard, a place we’d enjoyed a birthday dinner last December. 

With a similar menu to their Salt Yard counterparts they offer up their small plates/tapas  which is fantastic for grazing, however, also too easy to over face yourself without realising and ending up with a hefty bill at the end of the meal. Trying to pace ourselves we ordered a selection from the charcuterie, bar snacks and tapas sections of the menu. During the lunchtime service it started to get busier with tables filling up, the pace of service fluctuated and the odd dish was forgotten about and staff needed reminding. As far as the food goes, there were lots of positives – a benchmark is always the charcuterie and the Iberico ham was soft, delicate in its savoury acorn nuttiness. I’ve had it carved thinner, but on taste and texture it was bang on.  The ox cheek was melt in the mouth, like it should be and the accompanying liquor and puree did all the right things to cut through the richness of the gelatinous flesh. Padron peppers had a good balance between charring, tenderness, heat and saltiness, then the crispy pigs ears were the perfect snack to nibble on, lasting a matter of a few minutes.

The only fault I could really find were in the scallops, even though they were cooked to perfection – on the fence to whether they were translucent or not, there was a bit of grit, argh! What a shame because it really spoilt them. 

img_6843-1

img_6849-1
Crispy Iberico pigs ears
img_6846
Padron Peppers
img_6888
Jamon Iberico de Bellota
img_6886
Patatas fritas with alioli and bravas sauce
img_6887
Braised ox cheeks with PX, carrots puree, agretti and anchovy dressing
img_6885
Scallops with parsnip, saffron puree, muscatel butter and jamon migas
img_6882
Pinchos Morunos – Iberico pork with paprika and cumin

Yes, there were a couple of mishaps, however both were handled well by the staff, rectified and wouldn’t stop me from going again in the future. 

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine St

London

Greater London

WC2B 5JS

http://www.operatavern.co.uk

 

Advertisements

José Pizarro, London

Apologies for any delay in posting this continuation from the all day session that started with Lantana Cafe, just the usual stuff like life getting in the way again. So after brunch at Lantana, a steady wander around Spitalfields and a few drinks later at a local pub followed. As always the idea of sustenance was never far from our minds, so the job came to me to find somewhere to graze – tapas was the suggested option. Fine, I was ok with that and had a couple of suggestions up my sleeve – the first was Copita Del Mercado, bit was the closest but their opening hours didn’t work for us. So my second option José Pizarro, part of the regeneration of Broadgate Circle worked out perfectly as it’s open all day!

With classy interiors and legs of ham hung from the bar, the place means business and all the better for it, as we were all well up for a mid-afternoon feed to match the watering we’d already had. Greeted by friendly staff, even though we had an idea of must-haves from the menu, our server was well on hand to make suggestions, which on this occasion I was happy to receive.

img_6015

All initial thoughts of ‘we’ll just order a few dishes….’, ended up becoming quite a feast with a few bottles of Reisling added for good measure and we enjoyed every second of it. The service was lovely and the food was impeccable, including a sublime marinated octopus, beautiful Iberico ham where the fat simply dissolves on the tongue and the meat is rich, nutty and flavourful, gloriously uber soft meaty pork cheeks and prawn fritters with unctuous aioli (which I might have to try make at home). 

img_6020
Mushroom croquetas
Iberico pigs cheek with red wine sauce  
Spicy prawn fritters with aioli
Jamon Iberico!!!!
Patatas Bravas
img_6022
Padron peppers, Cornish sea salt
Marinated octopus with JP Pimenton dressing
img_6031
Spicy chicken skewers, romesco sauce
Pan con tomate
img_6030

We ate mid Saturday afternoon so the place was very quiet, with us being the only customers at the time, but I can imagine that after work weekdays it’s probably doing a good trade and I can see why. Pizarro’s has two other eateries in Bermondsey, both of which I’d love to try out…..!

José Pizarro Broadgate 

36 Broadgate Circle

London

EC2M 1QS

http://www.josepizarro.com/jose-pizarro-broadgate/

 

Salt Yard, London 

Birthday celebration meals can be a little tricky to organise for large groups I reckon, trying to satisfy different tastes can be a fiddly problem to get your head around and having something that pleases the whole crowd can take some thought!

For a mates birthday, we had a few of these issues to work around and after a bit of research I went for tapas at Salt Yard, on Goodge Street in central London. With specific dietary requirements at the forefront of my mind I was keen to make this was a matter of importance when booking. The staff at Salt Yard couldn’t be faulted in this respect, producing an individual menu for a friend with a severe egg allergy and providing extra fish and veg dishes for a couple who were Halal.

Being the Christmas season the restaurant offered two set menus, at £40 and £45 per person, with plenty of choice on each we collectively decided on the less expensive of the two. On the night, three of the party were running very late and with a need to vacate our table by 9pm, I was a little worried we’d struggle for time and knowing how stressful it can be for staff I was a bit concerned. Forty-five minutes later we were all accounted for and dinner could begin – a steady stream of dishes came thick and fast, it was obvious the kitchen and waiting staff were trying their best to get food to our table, which pleased me no end because I was starving!!

Of all the dishes, my favourites were the salt cod brandade with egg which was beautiful, a perfectly poached egg with a yolk that runs effortlessly and paired with the slightly salty brandade it was a favourite amongst the table, oh also the pork belly (typical I know!). The deep fried courgette flowers were the source of amusement on the plate, but that’s just us being childish and facetious, they tasted great though even though the batter could’ve been lighter. The meat dishes were popular, in particular the pork belly which was one of the stand out dishes of the evening. The bavette of venison may’ve looked like a mess on the plate, but the meat was beautiful, I’ve had better roasted cauliflower though (Ox Club in Leeds!!!).

Not everything was a success with the whole table – the cured mackerel was a little hit and miss, it pretty much depended on which bit you took. Some pieces were chunkier than others making them harder to eat, I was canny to choose the thinner pieces so didn’t have the same problem. The ricotta doughnuts didn’t work for me – the grainy texture was off putting and after trying a couple I sadly left the rest. 

IMG_5382

Smoked almonds
Brown shrimp with rocket and pesto salad
Chargrilled flat bread with homemade butter
Smoked eel croquettes, with beetroot and horseradish, mini chorizo with potato crisp and pickle peppers, crispy squash with salsa verde
Grilled polenta crostini with gorgonzola dulce
Salt Yard chilli and marjoram salami
Manchego with quince
Patatas bravas with aioli and bravas sauce
Cured mackerel with golden beetroot, sherry and shaved Jamon Iberico 
Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese, drizzled with honey
Salt cod brandade with poached duck egg, braised cavalo nero and crispy artichokes
Arroz negro with sautéed squid and gremolata
Venison tartare with truffle, aioli, muscatel and sour dough croutons

Confit of Old Spot pork belly with rosemary scented cannelloni beans
Beetroot with goats curd, baby chard and toasted pine nuts
Grilled bavette with roast cauliflower, spiced cauliflower puree and garlic migas
Mascarpone and vanilla cheese cake, spiced apple compote and toasted almonds
Home made Cantucci, bitter chocolate and pistachio fudge
Saffron poached pear, chocolate and hazelnut mousse with crushed Turron
Ricotta dumplings with lemon curd and raspberry compote

On the whole, I reckon the group had an enjoyable evening and the birthday girl was certainly happy with the restaurant choice. We were all pretty stuffed, even though some dishes were loved more than others, I think it’s hard to please everyone with such a diverse menu.

Salt Yard

54 Goodge Street

London

W1T 4NA

http://www.saltyard.co.uk

Charterhouse Arms, Godalming

There are pros and cons to being down South, as much as I miss Leeds it does being much closer to people who we’ve not been able to see as often as we’d like, so for that it’s all good. A couple of Saturdays ago a catch-up was planned with relatives in Farncombe, for anyone who hasn’t heard of the place or know where it is, it’s basically a village in Surrey. We were crashing a 40th birthday party later that evening and were in need of a quick feed to line the stomach, readying ourselves for the inevitable. A local pub called the Charterhouse Arms in Godalming had been talked about as a stop-off for a bite to eat, once well known in the area for a being a decent boozer serving curries, but a few months ago the team behind the curries decided to move and open their own place elsewhere. It’s since taken on new management, undergone a makeover and brought in a new evening menu serving tapas. The pub’s found on the corner of a fairly busy road that runs along the edge of Godalming and knowing it was a popular spot, took up one of their outdoor tables  – perfect on what was a lovely sunny evening.

The menu offers a decent number of small tapas plates, ranging from £3.25 – £5.25, a couple of sharing platters, plenty for both carnivores and veg lovers. Orders were taken at the bar and after a reasonable length of time we were brought a steady stream of dishes.

NB: apologies for the quality of the photos – all taken on my iPhone.

Selection of cured meats, tortilla and braised pork cheeks
Gambas Pil
Crispy squid with aioli
Albondigas, patatas bravas and chorizo in red wine

Of the eight dishes my favourites were the seafood – think beautifully cooked prawns, all the better for being messy and juicy with loads of garlic and a little background heat from chilli. Also a generous portion of soft squid, lightly covered in a crisp batter with a large dollop of garlicky aioli to dunk them, the meaty, smokey chorizo was a bit of a winner and the patatas bravas were decent, but could’ve been a bit chunkier. For me, the other dishes were a little hit and miss and would’ve been helped along with more accurate seasoning – both the Spanish omelette and the pork cheek could’ve done with a pinch of salt, the omelette’s texture didn’t live up to others I’ve had and I wished the pork cheek had been left whole, so we could find out for ourselves how tender it was rather than being served already shredded up. A sauce would’ve brought it to life more too.

Overall I liked the Charterhouse Arms – the staff were lovely and we got really friendly service, the menu isn’t too pricey and the place has a relaxed setting. They’ve been open since June and even though it certainly wasn’t perfect, I’d go again and would love to see how it improves.

Charterhouse Arms

Deanery Rd

Godalming

GU7 2PQ

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Charterhouse-Arms/129686450415449