Last Wednesday, my best friend Carmen and I met up for dinner. We’ve both been so busy lately we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks which is unusual for us since we live round the corner from one another.
We wanted to have a nice bite to eat after work accompanied by lots of lovely wine. My friend Sally had told me about Opera Tavern in Covent Garden. When I looked it up I realised it was right next door to Mishkin’s, one of my favourite restaurants. (http://bit.ly/KFb91i) Carmen has been wanting to go to Mishkin’s for ages. So I booked us a table at Opera Tavern for 7.30pm, just to be safe, and figured that we’d go along, see what it was like, and if we didn’t like it we’d go to Mishkin’s.
So we met up outside Covent Garden tube station and got to Catherine Street for 7pm. We were too early for Opera Tavern so we popped into Mishkin’s and sat at the bar, hoping for some nice gin cocktails. We were told we had to eat if we were going to drink alcohol so we ordered the baby spinach, roast red pepper, labneh & spiced pecan salad.
It was divine! The soft spinach with the sweet roasted pepper and onions worked so well with the smooth creaminess of the labneh. And the pecans gave it a lovely bit of texture. Finished off with a fantastic dressing, I would have been happy eating this all night. It really was one of the tastiest salads I’ve had in a restaurant.
We also ordered a portion of deliciously crisp and sweet onion rings…perfect.
These were accompanied by beautifully refreshing Diamond Fizz cocktails…Beefeater gin, Prosecco and lemon.
Mishkin’s cocktails are a little too good. I’ve had many great nights I can’t fully remember, all because of their gin cocktails.
At 7.30pm. we paid up at Mishkin’s and headed next door to Opera Tavern.
Initially they seated us upstairs but we asked if there might be a possibility of table outside since it was such a lovely hot evening. We were in luck! A table had become available and we were moved right away.
The very friendly waitress talked us through the menu. My eyes immediately went to the Courgette Flowers Stuffed with Goats’ Cheese and Drizzled with Honey…
Absolutely delicious. The crisp petals of the flower provided a delightful contrast to the smooth, creaminess of the tangy goats cheese. The honey added a beautiful rich sweetness to it.
Next came the Chargrilled Beef Underblade Fillet with Watercress Purée, Gorgonzola and Portobello Mushrooms…
This was Carmen’s dish. I like a bite of steak but I can’t eat a lot of it. Served on a piece of slate, the beef was thinly sliced and cooked medium rare, and it was so tender it melted on your tongue. The addition of the gorgonzola gave it richness and depth and the mushrooms, an earthiness. It was a lovely dish but for me, too heavy for such a hot evening.
Next up was my Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger. I was to-ing and fro-ing between ordering this and ordering the Chorizo with Piquillo and Marjoram but the waitress recommended the burger very highly so I took her advice. And boy, was I happy that I did!
It was the perfect size for me. I don’t like huge burgers. I find them a little overwhelming. This was perfect. But let me assure you, it might me mini in size but its big on taste.
With soft sweet peppers on the bottom, the burger was cooked medium rare over a grill with the foie gras mixed through the pork. The foie gras adds a rich velvety texture to the burger. Topped with aged manchego cheese and crispy onions, it was so juicy, so tender, I loved it.
I was pretty full by now but Carmen’s meat feast continued with her Moorish Marinated Ibérico Pork skewer which I think has harissa on top.
I only had a tiny bite of this since it was so small to begin with. It had a really strong chargrilled taste to it which I loved and the pork itself was incredibly moist.
And last but not least, the Chargrilled Spring Lamb Cutlet with Smoked Garlic Purée, Tomato, Courgette and Cumin.
Again, this was Carmen’s. I’m not a huge lover of lamb so I had the tiniest piece of it. I must say, these guys really know how to cook their meat. Once again, it was soft, tender and juicy and I loved the smoked garlic purée that came with it, although Carmen wasn’t a fan.
We were too full for pudding so we just ordered some more wine and enjoyed the amazing music that was pumping out from Mishkin’s next door, who seemed to be enjoying a bit of a 70s disco vibe. As I danced in my seat to Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and Chic’s Le Freak, Carmen and I caught up on all the gossip and enjoyed being able to sit outside in the warm night air. It really was a wonderful night. Made even more wonderful when John Torode, chef and presenter of Masterchef, walked out the restaurant and stood right next to us with his friends. Carmen, who was feeling super confident due to the amount of wine she’d consumed by this point, was about to walk over and introduce herself and tell him that I loved him. Not her, me! Luckily I managed to stop her just as he walked back into the restaurant and our bill came.
We jumped in a taxi as Carmen was complaining of stomach ache. Nothing to do with the quality of the food, but more to do with the fact that she’d eaten pork, lamb and beef in one sitting. I’m sure eating three different types of meat in one meal can’t be good for you.
Both restaurants were great. Mishkin’s really is fantastic and its fast becoming one of my regular haunts, for the gin cocktails if nothing else. Opera Tavern’s friendly and knowledgeable staff served terrific food and great wine. What can be better than that?
If you’re in Covent Garden, take a trip to Catherine Street. Whichever restaurant you go in to, you’re sure of a fantastic meal.
Mishkin’s: 25 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
Tel: 020 7240 2078
Opera Tavern: 23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS
Tel: 020 7836 3680