Opera Tavern is a beautiful two-storey bar and restaurant in the heart of central London’s theatreland. Located on Catherine Street opposite the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and seconds from the eponymous Opera House, it’s a stone’s throw from The Strand. Read my dinner review here.
Catherine Street has been a thoroughfare since the 1600s. Its proximity to theatres meant that pubs and taverns thrived. This building was erected in 1879 and was a traditional pub with tiled facade and etched glass. It still has the trappings of its past but with the addition of a couple of brass pig’s legs as door furniture to give a nod to the style of food within. It’s Spanish.
The ground-level bar area features an impressive Robata grill. In Japanese, robata means “by the fireside,” and refers to the ancient country-style cooking of northern Japanese fishermen and its a popular method in Europe these days. Charcoal grilling is put to good use at Opera Tavern, delivering not only added flavour to the food but theatre to its expectant audience. But we were here for paella and it’s available every Sunday.
Opera Tavern’s first-floor dining room has seating for around 40. Its windows look out onto The Theatre Royal. It’s an attractive room with a brick fireplace, impressive artworks, cosy tables for couples or groups, and a friendly and welcoming persona.
A choice of two different paellas
Paella Sundays is a new menu option here but it’s already attracting diners. There will be a choice of two different paellas and they will change from time to time, as will starters and desserts. That will doubtless encourage return visits from regulars eager to try another variant of this celebrated, comforting rice dish.
Sunday lunchers are welcomed with a glass of cava or manzanilla sherry. On this paella day we were offered char-grilled calcots with Romesco sauce. Those calcots are large spring onions (I had to ask the waiter), looking like baby leeks. One should pull off the blackened outer skin, then dip the soft, sweet onion into the flavourful sauce, and eat. But that charred skin is too good to waste, so don’t feel embarrassed to eat the lot!
Then came the main course. The paella is for two guests and we chose the seafood version, of classic prawn, chorizo, chicken, mussels and saffron. Our paella had a little meat, so not for strict vegetarians. The other version was Valencian Paella of slow cooked rabbit, Dorset snails, garlic and parsley butter. The metal cooking and serving pan was traditional: wide and shallow. The rice had a creamy texture, there was plenty of seafood and a theatrical garnish of two king prawns. There was a side salad for a hint of healthy greenery, but I would have loved a little round of crusty bread for capturing the last smear of paella sauce from the edges of the dish.
Dessert was a refreshing orange sorbet, and we needed nothing more. Yes, it’s three courses but the meal was substantial, convivial and fun. This would be wonderful for a group, with perhaps a taste of both paellas. It’s traditional Spanish dining for friends and families.
£30 per person with a glass of a glass of cava or manzanilla, starter, Paella and dessert.
23 Catherine Street
Phone: +44 (0) 207 836 3680
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018