Iberica Marylebone – A Spanish Sojourn for London Ladies who Lunch:
Marylebone is perhaps one of the most unlikely parts of London to be dubbed a ‘village’. Right in the heart of the City, there’s little green space and for the most part a population of city apartment dwellers and visitors. Yet there is a community feel to the area perhaps due to the wealth of great cafes, restaurants and food shops just off Marylebone High Street. You can buy some of the best meat in London at The Ginger Pig, stock up your cheese cellar at La Fromagerie or buy some of the finest chocolates in town from Rococo. There’s a great Farmers’ Market on Sundays too.
Competition is stiff for any cafe or restaurant in this area, but Iberica, on Great Portland Street, is always busy. I’ve already visited the Farringdon and Canary Wharf branches and loved both. I was delighted to be invited to lunch there and find out a little more about plans for the group. In fact the Great Portland Street restaurant was the first, opening in 2007.
We asked for recommendations of dishes and were delighted with the array of plates which appeared. While bread with good olive oil is always delicious, we loved the Torta de Trujillo, Fina de Pascualete, an organic sheep’s milk cheese which came with bread for dipping and quince jelly. The meat and cheese selection had a little of everything, from spicy and smoked chorizo to a trio of Spanish cheeses.
The Cod Brandada was a deliciously light, delicately salted mixture which worked well with what I initially thought was an odd choice of garnish – olive tapanade, tomato salsa and white grapes. I should know better than to question the pairings of Nacho Manzano, the two michelin starred Spanish chef responsible for the Iberica menu.
Ensaladilla Russa (Russian salad) with tuna, carrot, green olives and Piparra peppers can easily bring back far too many memories of bad airline food, but here the dish was fresh, piquant and refreshing.
Patatas Bravas appears to feature universally on any restaurant with a Spanish theme. That moves the bar higher – we’ve all had soggy, part cooked potatoes with cheap mayonnaise laced with paprika and tomato ketchup masquerading as the real thing. Here the portion was comfort food sized the well cooked potatoes laced with a generous portion of spicy sauce. I’m still trying to work out what was in the sauce.
On reflection I think I preferred the hot dishes we ate (including the patatas bravas). Apologies for the food-writing cliche, but the meltingly tender twice cooked lamb was sublime – richly flavoured meat accompanied by tiny marinated tomatoes and peppers. I’d go back for this alone.
Octopus with potatoes and Pimenton de la Vera is a classic Spanish dish that I know and love. Taking me straight back to the Boqueria in Barcelona, it tasted authentic, with tender octopus and waxy potatoes in an oil and paprika sauce. Iberica’s menu is focussed on the dishes from Asturias and Galicia, to the west of Spain and although I first tasted this dish on the East coast it is a traditional Galician recipe. So perhaps it’s even more authentic than the Boqueria version.
The aubergine dish was a first for me but the last to arrive. Delicious, sweet with honey and pine-nuts, it felt like a naughty indulgence and, full to the brim we skipped dessert and went on to enjoy a coffee before staggering out.
Iberica stays firmly on my favourites list and I’m thrilled to hear that the group is opening a new restaurant in Manchester, Spinningfields on the 4th March 2015. It sounds and looks stunning and I know if I am ever there on business or to visit friends and family it will certainly a place to hang out.