Confit of pork belly with rosemary-scented cannellini beans at Opera Tavern

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Opera Tavern is in the same group as Salt Yard and Dehesa, so we knew we were in for a treat. Sure enough, the tapas list (which shares a few highlights with Salt Yard, including the goat’s-cheese-stuffed courgette flowers on Time Out’s top one hundred list there) features many salivation-starters. But we were here to sample the pork belly with cannellini beans.

“An indulgent, piggy, crunch-ooze-bite affair”

The dish is served in a ramekin, with the confit of pork belly sat on a centimetre-deep bed of beans, glistening with a mushy-pea-like consistency. The smell is impressive, with the rosemary justifying its claim to be ‘scenting’ rather than just ‘infused into’ the beans.

In their review, Time Out notes the impossibility of sharing this tapas (which is surely against the Official Tapas Rules), but also the fact you wouldn’t want to. The first thing you taste is the beans, with a flavour that is fresh, but also comforting – again, the flavour I’m reminded of is mint cutting through the warming, wholesome softness of mushy peas.

“Opera Tavern is in the same group as Salt Yard and Dehesa, so we knew we were in for a treat”

How do I know the beans are the first thing you’ll taste? Simple – because it’s the part of the dish you can work out how to taste. The fact is, the pork belly, with its rock-hard crackling (just the way it should be, don’t get me wrong), topping a layer of fat above a layer of meat, cannot be cut. Short of stuffing the whole thing into your mouth at once (and it really is much too big for that), you’re left trying to cleave something hard without slipping in the pool of lubricant below and catapulting a lump of pig across the room. It’s not an obvious sign of a successful pairing to wish you had a plate to pop it on, cut it up, and put it back!

The beans were delicious. Really delicious. Like a creamy, herby, luscious thick soup.

The pork was perfectly cooked – an indulgent, piggy, crunch-ooze-bite affair.

Each part was just right, but I’m not convinced putting them together really worked – from a culinary engineering, rather than Flavour Thesaurus perspective. It certainly won’t put me off going back there, but I might ask for an extra plate!

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