A child-friendly feast for the eyes and the taste buds at Iberica.
I half expected Lio De-Caprio to appear and shove a Babysham glass filled with expensive champagne into my hand as we walked through the stylish, 1920s salon style, dark oak, gold and smoked glass double doors into Iberica on East Parade in Leeds.
Once an auction house, and tucked away on a pretty dismal street off The Headrow, the drab and dreary location of Iberica’s location only makes this interior of the restaurant even more impressive.
(ALL photos are my own – copyright @LyndseyThomas)
Unlike the multi-million dollar film – Gatsby – Iberica is all frills AND plenty of knickers.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the high ceiling – first to the enormous white chandelier taking centre stage above and then on to the large skylight and the spectacular blue and white mosaic tiles that cling to the curved structure of the double-aspect room.
The restaurant itself is so seamlessly symmetrical. Always a bonus when one has OCD. I stood and gawped at the balance and proportion around me. Absorbing the beauty of the space. A feast for the eyes.
It was a matter of seconds before my three year old and her best friend distracted me – both had shot across the dining room floor, screeching, disturbing the sophisticated calm of this elegant restaurant. Luckily it wasn’t busy at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon – 20-something Fenando in his slightly dishevelled grey blazer and ever so slightly greasy sheen to his hair – only adding to his charm and the authenticity of Iberica – sauntered over and suggested that we moved into the bar area for a cocktail whilst the four us waited for the arrival of my sister.
After a quick squabble over who was having which bar stool, Ferne and Autumn were happily perched at the bar waiting for the bartender to rustle up their mocktail.
It wasn’t long before they were slurping a virgin Mohito each, discussing why there might be leaves in their drinks as the giggled delightfully together.
Meanwhile, Jo and I ordered a cocktail each from the Signature Cocktails section of the menu – our nerves ever so slightly on edge by our decision to bring along our two mini-mes to such a chic establishment – both of whom switch between adorable little angels and insubordinate, uncontrollable urchins in the time it takes for any bartender to pop a Cava cork.
We had no need to worry – Fernado is a six-foot-something dream with the little ladies. It’s not long before he is ushering them, and us over to our large table at the other end of the restaurant.
It wasn’t long before Ferne and Autumn were bouncing up and down on the oversized, velvet covered, high-backed fitted benches, which provided plenty of room for them to curl up, roll around, fidget and fuss without causing too much of a scene.
Fernando wasn’t in the least bit twitchy about our lively little ladies. He gestured to us to relax and in his thick Spanish accent told us
“we love Children in Spain – we are not like you English – we dine with our children until late into the evening – relax, have fun, enjoy”.
So we ordered a bottle of wine and left them to it.
It’s a pretty extensive wine menu made up of Spanish wines from small boutique wineries, apparently none of which are available anywhere else in the UK – unless of course you pop downstairs to the temperature-controlled wine cellar where you can purchase the stuff.
I ordered a bottle of Spanish white by the name of Mesta at £28 a bottle – mainly down to the fact that it was ‘organic’ and I’d promised myself a hangover-free January.
Fernado told us it was one of the driest of Spanish wines and came highly recommended. It was utterly delicious. ‘Intense aromas of fennel and white pepper and a mineral finish’ apparently.
Grub made from top quality ingredients ranges from classic tapas dishes, to traditional paella, full a la carte and an impressive cocktail list drinks menu.
We took a punt and decided to let Fernado surprise us with Iberica’s signature dishes and firm favourites. He sauntered off to the kitchen and told us to expect a flurry of small plates very soon.
Some of the dishes on the menu are top-secret recipes of the Grandmother of Michelin-Starred Executive Head Chef – Nacho Manzano. He’s a bit of a celebrity over in Spain where his authentic Asturian influences are evident at his Casa Marcial and La Salgar restaurants in the north of the country, just as they are here in Leeds.
The tapas selection includes the restaurant’s signature Serrano ham croquettes and it wasn’t long before we were biting into these delicious sausage-shaped delights – apparently each one is lovingly rolled by hand.
Do not be fooled by the word ‘croquette’ – they are about as far removed from something you might find in the Iceland freezer as you can get. Bite into the crunchy exterior and your taste buds are met with a warm velvety, cheesy, hammy mouthful of yumminess.
We were all a little divided on the meat dishes we were served up. Not because there was anything inherently wrong with them, but when one does throw caution to the wind and instructs the very Spanish waiter to select dishes he recommends, there is a good chance that not everyone will like everything.
We all thoroughly enjoyed Gavin’s Garlic Prawns with a spicy sauce and the Fried Baby Squid Served with alioli sauce.
The Pluma Ibérico Pork Loin tasted incredible with the tiniest bit of the accompanying sauce, but I’m not going to lie, it’s served rare and we were all a little apprehensive about tucking in.
Apparently Iberico pigs are vegan – they feed entirely on acorns, which means it’s perfectly safe to eat them. Still. We weren’t going to count our piglets until at least 24hrs after eating the dish. Of course we were all fine.
We all agreed that the steak tartar served in bone marrow topped with fried eggs was just too much to bare. Even for a carnivore like me.
The Pièce De Résistance for the three of us was the Twice Cooked Lamb with marinated cherry tomatoes and red peppers from León. Incredible.
Oh, and there was the dessert. Churros with chocolate, Caramelised Spanish Rice Pudding and Coffee Flan with ice cream. A pretty amazing trio of absolute heaven. It takes a lot to beat my mum’s homemade rice pudding – I think Iberica might have just pulled it out of the Spanish bag!
The kids enjoyed mini pork burgers and patatas bravas from the kids menu served up with a Spanish lesson on a colouring sheet.
Every little detail of this lavish joint is exquisite right through to the spectacular bathrooms – most likely the most Instragramable bogs in the North.
Thanks to Iberica Leeds for inviting us to review their fine establishment. We loved it!