First things first, if the above picture isn’t reason enough for you to visit Spanish tapas restaurant Iberica, based on Goodge St in London, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Iberica has a reputation for being a somewhat ‘special’ Tapas restaurant and it’s easy to tell why when you arrive. I was expecting a cosy and dark lit Spanish style cantina, however what I found was a bright, open, contemporary-styled, glass walled restaurant. As we hurried in to escape the rain outside the hostess greeted us with a smiley “Hola!” and asked for our names. Being a few minutes early we were invited to have a drink at the bar, which we willingly accepted. We opted for a glass of Cava and after a few minutes of pleasant chat with the barmaid, we were lead off to our table upstairs.
The hostess lead us up the stairs and around the mezzanine to a quiet corner of the restaurant. Well, I say quiet, I’m sure when there isn’t a table of 20 or so colleagues out for a boozy supper right next to you, it’s probably rather quiet. Fortunately, I was quite taken with the place already so the presence of the large, loud, party didn’t bother me too much. After all, it was a Friday night in the West End, what can you expect?
Our waiter was not only incredibly knowledegable about all of the produce on the menu (where it’s come from, how it’s grown/reared etc) but he was also very pleasant and, despite having to tend to the rowdy bunch on the table next to us, we got no sense from him that he was too busy, or too stressed to tend to us also. He was an absolute charm. I do love it when waiting staff take the time and the care to learn about what they’re serving, be it food or wines, for me it makes the experience so much more enjoyable as a diner when you feel like you’re being guided through your meal by someone who really knows best.
As both D and I are big Iberico ham fans there was no deliberation when the first thing we spotted on the menu was a ‘Trio of Iberico hams’. It was at this point also that our waiter really first impressed as he explained to us the detailed background on each ham and how they are unique to Iberica restaurant and are not sold anywhere else in the UK. That really had us. We ordered the trio, took his recommendation on a bottle of wine to accompany it and relinquished responsibility for our own pleasures, to him, for the remainder of our visit. It was obvious to anyone that our waiter has a real passion for the food he is serving, and that was a real joy to be celebrated.
The ham was out of this world. Served with a giant doorstop of fresh bread each and some quality olive oil, the hams were a carnivore’s fantastical dream. Ranging from light and delicate to rich and flavour-drenched we simply couldn’t decide upon which was our favourite as they were all as utterly delicious as each other. If you go to Iberica for no other reason, go for the ham. You will not regret it.
We then selected our tapas choices. I must admit that, after the hams, the other dishes failed to compete in terms of sheer delight in the mere sight of them, however each dish tasted great and was adequately packed with flavour. We couldn’t resist the chorizo lollypops on offer, well I say ‘we’, naturally I mean ‘me’, I couldn’t resist ordering them, because I am an over-grown child who is often all too easily impressed. Slices of chorizo sausage fried in a light tempura-style batter stuck atop a wooden skewer and dipped in a pear alioi – my inner child squealed with joy as they were put down in front of me, however upon sampling them my outer (greedy) adult protested at the ‘sliver’ as opposed to anticipated ‘chunk’ of sausage housed inside the batter. Although delicious I can’t help but think they could have been even more delicious with just a bit more meat on the stick.
All in all the meal was a great success. The food was good (excellent in places – see the hams), the wine was a perfect recommendation, the service was friendly, informative and worthy of a generous tip. However, the best bit of all was, when we returned downstairs to leave we discovered that Iberica also has a shop that sells a wide range of things including condiments, cook books…..AND……Iberico hams off the bone! Resting our full bellies atop the counter we fished out our wallets and asked for some ham ‘take out’. Despite both being full to the brim with meat, cheese and wine we simply couldn’t walk away empty handed, and the next morning we weren’t sorry as we tucked into rich, dark and delicious ham for our breakfast!