London: crudo and pasta at Veneta

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SaltYard Group, the company behind favourites like Ember Yard and Opera Tavern recently opened a restaurant in the newly redeveloped area of St James’s, just next to Swedish Aquavit actually. Called Veneta it has a distinct Italian, and Ventian, cuisine, compared to the other restaurants with a more Spanish menu.

I assume it’s because of my frequent visits to Opera Tavern (I wonder how many times I’ve eaten their mini pork and foie gras burger) that I was on the mailing list for Veneta’s soft launch.Either way, I was quick to book a table and went there one night after work with my friend Ro.

As it was a soft launch they offered 50 % off food in exchange for trying things out on us, and requesting feedback.

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Just like the other restaurants in the group, Veneta’s menu consists of small dishes perfect for sharing. I was super excited to see a whole section of the menu devoted to crudo, i.e. raw fish and seafood, which I love and we quickly ordered the raw red prawns with rosemary (top photo). They were plump and sweet and very fragrant from the rosemary. Lovely! Next time I want to try the raw red prawns with lardo.

Next we had the tortelloni, filled with red prawns and served in a seafood broth. It was nice but didn’t blow us away.

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The goat kid ragu with pappardelle however, did. It was just amazing and I predict it will become one of their signature dishes (if it isn’t already!).

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The salt baked carrots and beets with sheep ricotta, date purée and oregano was lovely and the plate was as pretty as a picture. It’s fun to see the vegetable dishes getting as much care and attention as the meat and fish dishes.

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The lamb with chard, lamb fat crisps and caprini fresco cheese was another amazing dish I’ll come back for.

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For pudding both Ro and I were set on having one of the amazing sounding sundaes but they were all sold out (sob) so we had a rethink and settled on fritelle doughnuts for Ro and tiramisu for me.

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The doughnuts were rather compact and chewy but that could have been intentional, as neither of us have had Italian doughnuts before. The taste was lovely though and chocolate sauce, whipped cream and jam works every time. The tiramisu was really nice but lacked a little in presentation I thought.

I could definitely see some teething problems here, like the tables being too close together (it felt like we had dinner with, not next to, our neighbours) and the waiting staff didn’t seem to have worked out a routine yet, but that’s also the whole point of this trial run soft launch.

Food wise I think the savoury dishes were very good and thought out, whereas the puddings could have done with a little more work, however I’m still intrigued by those sundaes and hope they haven’t sold out on my next visit.

I have already planned my meal. Definitely lots of crudo, the kid goat ragu and the lamb. And that ice cream.

Veneta, 3 Norris St, St. James’s Market, London SW1Y 4RJ

Opera Tavern still delivers

Although I like nothing better than trying new restaurants I also like to go back to places I know I can trust.

So when Liz, Felicity, Jess, Laura and I were to meet up one rainy Monday evening, I wanted us to go to a place that is comfortable to sit and chat but still be vowed with good food. I have dined at Opera Tavern quite a few times now with out ever being disappointed about the anything, and that definitely makes it worth coming back.

We started with a nice cava and some buttery light green olives while waiting for everyone to arrive. Because of the rainy weather we quite neglected the charkuteries and cheeses and only had warm tapas.

I started with crispy soft shell crab with a fresh salad of radish and celery as well as herb mayonnaise. It was good. Real good.

Three of the girls chose the same bass ceviche with basil sorbet that looked and tasted amazing. Very fresh!

Liz tried the asparagus with wild mushrooms and slowcooked egg yolk. It looked fabulous and judging by the speed it was eaten it tasted just as nice as it looked.

Jess and Laura ordered scallops with prosciutto, pea purée and wild garlic butter which they throughlly enjoyed. Laura, Felicity and I all chose the in season goat’s cheese stuffed courgette flowers with honey. So good.

Jess tried the roasted carrot salad with date puréw, cumin and pine nuts and it looked really good (but not on my shaky picture), just like the lovely mozzarella, tomato and grilled peach salad. Yum!

Opera Tavern’s most famous little dish must be their mini pork and foie gras burger that I have yet to resist. The flavours, the different textures, and the size makes it pretty perfect.

For the first time here we also had space for pudding. I suspect we talked a lot and therefore ate slowly. Anyway, I’m very happy indeed that we tied the puddings because they were just as wonderful as the savoury dishes.

Liz and Laura chose pistachio tarte with goat’s curd icecream and fig purée. Very nice but quite a big slice.

Felicity chose the rice pudding with cherries, almond icecream and thyme, which I had my eye on too. She loved it!

But I am a predictable creature and by the sight of salted caramel I chose a cold chocolate fondant with salty cookie crumbs, milk icecream and that salted caramel. Lovely but rich, but that’s what you expect. 🙂

I still can’t fault this place. It is relaxed didning in a nice interior, central location and really good food.

I do suggest you make a visit if you haven’t already.

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine Street  London WC2B 5JS

Opera Tavern, once again

On Sunday when Emma and Claes were visiting, we wanted to make the most out of their last day here. So we got up faily early on Sunday for a walk around Westminster, followed by art spotting at the National Gallery, then a walk to Covent Garden and Opera Tavern where we were going to have lunch.

I have been to this restaurant quite a few times now, and it is always really busy, apart from, apparently, around lunch time on Sunday. Fair enough, tapas is not the tradional Sunday meal, but we really enjoyed our lunch here.

We were freezing after our walk, so we jumped straight to the hot foods on the menu, which made our waitress give us a funny look. Unintentional of course, and we just found it funny.

To start, we had some grilled bread and alioli. After inhaling that we could be civilized and actually enjoy the food.

I had promoted the amazing mini pork and foie gras burgers, so Claes and I had one each and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Emma chose mackerel with fennel and apple salad and fried chorizo instead and loved every bite.

The rest of the dishes we shared and the first one was cuttlefish (with ink) and a cannellini bean stew. Sublte flavours but it was a lovely dish.

We then had tender slivers of beef with velvety celeriac puree, brussel sprouts and red cabbage. Absolutely lovely!

We also had the classic patatas bravas with two dips. Not amazing, but totally what we expected.

We also shared a fresh salad of pickled salsify with truffle and root vegetable crisos on top. It was very different but delicious.

After all of this, we were full but wanted something more anyway, so we ordered another round of bread and alioli and some cheese. We settled for a menorcan hard cheese made of cow’s milk, called Mahon. It was quite firm and reminded me of pecorino a little.

After this and a bottle of wine, we were no longer freezing and could go for another walk before it was time for Emma and Claes to head to the airport.

Salt Yard

The London food scene is ever changing and expanding, but last week I decided to visit a restaurant that has been around longer than I have lived in London. Salt Yard opened in 2005 already, and is still going strong. The restaurant has one several awards, is mentioned in the Michelin guide and Time Out and it was definitely about time I paid the tapas restaurant a visit.

Last week I had dinner here with my fellow Swede Kristin. We like to meet up and chat over some nice food and wine. I have been to the Salt Yard Group’s newest edition, Opera Tavern a few times and I really like it, so I wanted to try the original thing as well.

Compared to Opera Tavern Salt Yard offers more traditional tapas like jamon croquetas and goat’s cheese stuffed courgette flowers with honey, where as Opera Tavern is mostly known for their scrumptious pork mini burgers with foie gras. There was nothing as exciting on Salt Yard’s menu to excite us, but we still had a lovely meal.

Some dishes were better balanced than others, and we both really enjoyed the gorgeous Jerusalem artichoke purée with buttered girolle and poached egg. Divine.

Also the traditional tapas dishes, we had both the croquetas and stuffed courgette flowers, were well prepared and delicious.

Deepfried squid with chorizo and broad beans was a great combination and cod cheeks with beans, bacon and carrots was equally palatable.

We also had some cheese; a truffle pecorino, which was rather disappointing actually. But all in all it was a great meal. Together with a bottle of £35 Gavi our bill ended on £~85 which feels reasonable (including service charge).

Ambiance wise I think I prefer the more spacious Opera Tavern, but they have done what they can to open up the dining room at Salt Yard with white chairs. Also more space around the bar upstairs would be good, but the reason to go here is actually the food, although I see it as less adventurous than Opera Tavern, and that is a shame. There are enough dishes on the menu for the kitchen to change it up a little.

Please note: the photos are blurry because I used my iPhone camera that doesn’t work well in the dark.

Opera Tavern

Thanks to a great tip from Hanna aka Swedish Meatball Eats London, I ate a fabulous dinner at this establishment in the West End on Thursday, together with my Swedish friends Malin and Martin who were visiting.

The dinner was a quick affair because we had tickets to We Will Rock You an hour and a half later, but they are used to this in theatre land.

If I had not heard about this place, I would never have walked in, as both the name and exterior suggests it is a tourist trap. Inside however, it is nice in an understated way, the service is efficient and friendly and the food is amazing.

The menu offers tapas, both charkuterie, cheeses and the usual suspects like croquetas and calamari, but also a few more interesting dishes like the favourite miniburger with pork and foie gras.

Prosciutto och chroizoWe started off with some olives, bread, thinly sliced chorizo, prosciutto and a creamy goat’s cheese. All wonderful produce, and at room temperature to maximize the flavour.

After this we had scallops with pea purée and crispy parma ham; the fab burger mentioned above with a brioche type bun, caramelized red onions and a lovely mayo and the most succulent meat as well as juicy chargrilled chicken with chorizo. Nothing disappointed!

We finished off the session with more bread and aioli, chilli salami and gorgonzola. The meat was again very thinly sliced and nice and spicy. The gorgonzola was slightly cold, but came with amazing caramelized walnuts and rosemary flatbread.

We had all this and a bottle of wine between the three of us, and the bill only came to around £70 including service charge. Great value for money and a lovely hidden gem, so far at least – this a place that is up and coming. Book now because they will be full up soon…