July 2019: re-opened after a major refurbishment; now the dining room is upstairs, there's tapas and drinking space downstairs, a refreshed exterior and a new chef Lukasz Kiebasiski (from Salt Yard).
Salt Yard group is now part of the Urban Pubs and Bars group.
Harden's survey result
“Not really a pub any more, though it certainly used to be” – this well-known tapas bar near Covent Garden operates on two atmospheric, if noisy, floors, and is a “go-to for pre-theatre dining, with superb small plates at a relatively reasonable cost for the location”. “The little morsels of Spanish and Italian deliciousness haven’t faltered since the Salt Yard chain was taken over” (in late-2018). In late summer 2019 it emerged from a major revamp.
“Superior” Hispanic-inspired plates have created a major reputation over the years for this “great tapas-stop close to Covent Garden” – a “sociable” (“at times noisy”) converted, two-floor pub. It was sold by its original founders Salt Yard Group in late summer 2018 to Urban Pubs and Bars – we’ve left the rating as is for the time being.
“Exceptional tapas” tastes like “it’s been beamed over straight from Spain”, according to fans of the Salt Yard group’s two-floor Covent Garden pub-conversion – an “always welcoming” venue that’s “perfect for a light meal before or after the theatre”.
Some of “the capital’s smartest modern tapas” are served at this “very pleasant” (if sometimes cacophonous) Dehesa sibling – a two-floor Covent Garden pub-conversion, where “results can be hit and miss, but are mostly hit”. Top Menu Tip – “sinful mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers”.
Opera Tavern Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Food great, but being seated at a table next to the loo door felt like eating in a pub corridor. The next table was also so close that no one could get in or out. Staff were aloof and brought the wrong bill then argued about it forcing us to go through exactly what we'd ordered."
|Wine per bottle||£17.00|
Opera Tavern WC2
Bang opposite the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, a former pub that's now a offshoot - in what's essentially a high-quality bistro format - of the Salt Yard/Dehesa tapas empire; its attractions for Covent Garden lunchers and theatre-goers are self-evident.
Until recently, the rule was pretty simple: Covent Garden restaurants were for dumb tourists and theatre-goers. There were a few exceptions, very few, but the likes of Orso and Joe Allen's were very much 'local secrets'. The almost invariable rule was that grim mediocrity prevailed.
The wind of change that's been sweeping through Soho in recent times, however, is now beginning to make itself felt even in neighbouring Covent Garden. In the particular case of the Opera Tavern - a formerly undistinguished boozer, opposite the Theatre Royal - there's a practical link in the transformation. The landords here also own the site of Soho's popular Dehesa, and they encouraged their tenants to consider opening here in Covent Garden too.
The many fans of Dehesa - and of the original member of the group, Salt Yard, in Fitzrovia - will find few surprises in the formula at this operation which is named a 'tavern' and which describes itself as a 'restaurant and tapas bar'. The tavern description is most applicable to the bar downstairs; the upstairs room looks like a bistro. The food offer is the same throughout, however, as is the extensive and interesting wine list.
The wide-ranging menu mainly has a Hispanic sensibility (without being classically Spanish), and distinguishes between 'tapas' and 'charcuterie', but everything could really simply be described as 'small plates'. We had a reasonable variety of dishes from both sides of the menu, and everything was somewhere between good and very good - for an informal lunch or pre-theatre meal, this is pretty much the perfect venue.
Whether the small plate formula would work quite so well for dinner may be rather a matter of personal taste. On the downside, the novelty which drew attention to the two prior locations is now gone. On the other hand, there's the joy of finding such a decent place to eat in such a prominent Covent Garden location. And that, let's not forget, is still rather remarkable in itself.
23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
|Monday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm-11:30 pm|
|Friday||12 pm-11:30 pm|
|Saturday||12 pm-11:30 pm|
|Sunday||12 pm-10 pm|