I have a new favourite restaurant. An adventurous diner, I love all types of cuisine but also believe that there is a time and a place for a lot of restaurants – sometimes you want formality, sometimes candlelit intimacy and sometimes only liveliness will do. Somehow, Ibérica fits into all these categories – I’m actually struggling to think of an occasion that it wouldn’t be appropriate for.
Visiting the brand spanking new Victoria restaurant, Ibérica’s fifth in London (there’s also one in Manchester), on a Friday evening I thought it may have been a bit of a corporate environment, especially compared to the intimacy of the Farringdon restaurant. Whilst I can imagine it being hugely popular mid-week, suited workers had obviously turned off their computers and headed deeper into the city for the night. We sat amongst couples and groups of friends equally enjoying the flowing wine and seemingly endless plates of food, kicking things off with a handled jar glass of sangria complete with spoon to scoop out the generous chunks of fruit.
The food is where Ibérica excels. Not surprising considering their executive chef Nacho Manzano has three Michelin-stars. Accompanied by head chef César García the seasonal menus show-off the best traditional Spanish cooking with modern interpretations. With most things coming on wooden platters and long plates, table reshuffling was needed to make room as and when each dish was ready to be brought over. Our lovely waitress was the kind to never allow your glass to empty, generously sloshing more Tenerife white every time our glasses needed topping up.
The nature of this proper regional Spanish food is that it should be enjoyed with great company over a long period of time, so skip the post-dinner arrangements. Of our feast were a few standout dishes. The Serrano ham croquettes: cheese and chunks of ham oozed from crispy brown breadcrumbs, the grilled prawns with mushrooms: garliccy mushrooms and perfectly cooked prawns and the twice cooked lamb: marinated cherry tomatoes and red peppers from El Bierzo with flaky blushing lamb. And because it’s Ibérica, the 42 month cured Juan Pedro Domecq ham and grilled ibérico pork pluma in moruno marinade and baked aubergine were authentic and flavourful. What you can probably gauge from this is that we didn’t have a bad dish.
Ibérico do contemporary tapas generously and authentically. The staff were wonderfully welcoming, friendly and attentive and the modern design makes it a place to settle in for a long evening before returning time and time again.