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Iberica, London [Restaurant Review]

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar


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Our flatmate got jealous after hearing of our trips to El Faro and Barrafina lately, so she organised a dinner out with friends at Iberica after reading good things online. We chose to sit downstairs in the more casual area as the restaurant upstairs didn’t serve tapas. The interior was a bit reminiscent of Carluccio’s – bright airy feel with simple furniture and stacks of foodstuffs on the peripheries for sale (we were seated beside a stack of Spanish chocolates, tempting stuff).


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Pitchers of sangria and water arrived impressively quickly. The sangria was quite light with lots of fresh fruit at the bottom of the pitcher and they didn’t use any carbonated drinks in the mix; altogether quite a nice light drink for a group of eight with the collective alcohol tolerance of two anorexic hamsters.


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The bread was provided quickly but was nothing out of the ordinary. The olives however were amazing; they felt very fresh and meaty with a strong olive taste and I bought a pack back home as well.


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Iberian black trotters are a particular breed of pigs famed for their ham in Spain, the best being fed only acorns when they are of a certain maturity. On our last trip to Spain we gobbled down fair amount of the jabugo jamon iberico so we were quite keen on ordering some more here. They had ham from three different localities but had run out of one of them so we ordered a mix of their remaining two. We found that the Huelva ham were stronger in taste and more suited to our tastebuds compared to the Extremadura. Both were very nice though, sliced thinly with a generous strip of fat in the middle.


iberica07 Huelva and Extremadura


The Spanish Cheese selection was apparently very good according to my dinner-mates. According to them, the cheese platter came with slices of apples and sweet jelly which complimented the cheeses very well. I’m not a fan of cheese so I sat out of this.


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“Golden brown and delicious” would be how Alton Brown would describe the Iberica Cheese Croquettes. A soft cheesy filling encased in a skin, best eaten hot. Nice, but not as good as the ones at Barrafina I felt. The ones at Barrafina were better seasoned.


iberica09 Iberica Cheese Croquetes


iberica11 Iberica Cheese Croquetes


The Traditional Spanish Omelette was very tasty, and with a lower potato:egg ratio, nicer to eat compared to other places. It lacked the WOW factor of Barrafina’s oozing center but this was better seasoned.


iberica13 Traditional Spanish Omelette


iberica15 Traditional Spanish Omelette


Another dish sure to be ordered by a particular friend was the Pan a la Catalunya, essentially diced tomatoes on bread drizzled with olive oil. This one felt different somehow; we couldn’t exactly say why, but it was just nicer than the El Faro version.


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The Fried Whitebait had a very light batter and was served with alioli (think mayonnaise, but with garlic flavour). One of my personal favourites amongst my travels, but the light batter used here resulted in it not being very crispy. Mixed reactions from the table.


iberica12 Fried Whitebait with Alioli and Lemon


A very generous helping of ham was provided with the Broken Eggs and Panadera Potato. Essentially, slices of potatoes with a sunny side up egg and ham, all mixed up together. Cannot be compared to the dish at El Faro, which had skinny chips for the potato bit, and was mixed at the table for our enjoyment.


iberica14 Broken Eggs with Panadera Potato ad Iberico Ham


iberica16 Broken Eggs with Panadera Potato ad Iberico Ham


The grilled Beef Neck marinated with various herbs and spices was very tender but one member of the table commented that the spices made it taste like a kebab from a take-away.


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The Glazed Pork Belly was snapped up very quickly by the table, and with good reason too. Slow cooked to tender perfection with a decent but not overwhelming amount of fat, the sweet-ish sauce complimented the meat.


iberica18 Glazed Pork Belly with Bean Puree


One of the chef’s specials was Grilled Baby Lamb Chops. You would have to steel your heart before eating this and try not to think of the innocent little baby lambs being slaughtered for this, but it is well worth the guilty feeling afterwards. Done minimalistically with salt and pepper, this is a good example of letting the quality of the ingredients do the job and not overdoing the dish.


iberica19 Baby Lamb Chops Grilled Served with Panadera Potatoes


Another of the specials was Stewed Rabbit with Almond Sauce and Orange Flavoured Cous-cous. Disliked by some for its slight gamey taste, it was a big hit for me especially since the leg I had was very tender and the citrus cous-cous was a nice companion to the meat. However, someone else who ate the breast part said it was quite dry.


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Finally, Black Rice with Cuttlefish, Prawns and a very generous dollop of alioli (which we generally avoided with the rice). Much like the other types of paella, the arroz negro originated from Valencia but isn’t commonly found outside of Spain to my experience. The squid ink used gives it the characteristic black colour and also a distinctive taste.


iberica21 Black Rice with Cuttlefish, Prawns and Alioli


We were quite full after all this so could only manage to order two desserts. The Almond Sponge, Dark Chocolate Cream and “Arbequina” Olive Oil was pretty to look at, but the salt crystals sprinkled on top made it a bit bizarre for my tastebuds. The pig pig enjoyed it very much though.


iberica22 Almond Sponge, Dark Chocolate Cream and Arbequina Olive Oil


Much more appealing to me was the Stewed Apple, Cinnanom Ice Cream, Cookies and Catalan Cream Foam. The cream on top was good enough to eat on its own, but was made even better when eaten together with the sweet stewed apple and ice-cream.


iberica23 Stewed Granny Smith Apple, Cinnamon Ice-Cream, Cookies and Catalan Cream Foam


Food to fill eight people and four pitchers of sangria came up to approximately £260 or £32 per person (we doubled ordered each dish so there was enough for the whole table).


Food - 6.5
Service - 6.0
Atmosphere - 7.0
Value - 6.0



Overall the food was pretty good and cooked well, but it lacked the air of fine touch that Barrafina and El Faro had given to their dishes. However, it was a cheerful, bustling place and that made it more fun to be at than El Faro. The ability to book in advance and accommodate eight people also gives it an edge in that department over Barrafina. Not to be forgotten is the location, near Great Portland Street tube station making it more convenient for people to get to compared to El Faro, yet not located in Soho so parking is easier. In summary, I’ll say that Barrafina has the better food, but for groups of more than three people, Iberica and El Faro are equally viable choices.


Iberica
195 Great Portland St
Fitzrovia,
W1W 5,
Tel: +44(0)207636 8650
Official website




Iberica on Urbanspoon

26 oink oinks...:

burpandslurp said...

holy double WOW! and they say food in london sucks! looks mighty tasty, esp the spanish omelet! I just had lunch and I'm still drooling. oh, be at peace, my heart!

Elra said...

Sounds like a nice restaurant to try next I go to London!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Awww I miss London food so much! It's come such a long way and the Tapas there is so amazing! Great review :)

Linda said...

Oh yum! All that meaty,oily, eggy goodness looks so tasty :) I could almost taste that delicious looking ham.

I love the name of your blog! It is really cute. I love pigs (although I also love bacon and ham) and am totally into foodie stuff, so couldn't resist a food blog by this name :)

Donna-FFW said...

My goodness.. all this food loks so delicious and what a captivating review!

Beachlover's Kitchen said...

wow!! so much foods!! btw...I really enjoy your grand wedding posting! thanks for showing us your memory BIG DAY!!

Bunny said...

The only way I',m ever gonna get to see food like this is through your blog!! Absolutely wonderful!! I love the way you described the everything! And the pictures , oh the pictures!! I hope you do this again!

Sara said...

Everything looks so delicious! I love spanish food, but we don't have a lot of good spanish restaurants around here.

Girl Japan said...

How can you do this to me, I am so jealous. Oh I pine to be in London- I really, really enjoyed your wedding posts, congrats sweetheart!!!!

Tangled Noodle said...

That was an amazing array of food! I'd love to tray any of them but especially the arroz negro. Thanks for sharing!

Zesty Cook said...

WOW! Gorgeous pictures and amazing food. I loved reading this post!

noble pig said...

Well it looked yummy..but what..you don't like cheese? Omgoodness.

Sam said...

It all looks amazing! Great review!

Maya said...

I saw your wedding pics!!!!! There were beautiful :) Good to have you back!

5 Star Foodie said...

Excellent review! Everything sounds delicious! I would love to try the rabbit with almond sauce!

Pam said...

It's fun to order a bunch of tapas to get to know a restaurant. You had quite a feast. I can't believe you don't like cheese - I could have eaten the whole platter.

Maryann said...

Your 3rd photo.."on the hoof"..so cool. I've never seen this :)

duodishes.com said...

The rabbit looks amazing! What a feast.

lisaiscooking said...

I love living vicariously through restaurant reviews! The cheeses look great, and the rabbit sounds fantastic. Too bad the breast was dry. Sounds great with the couscous.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

What an interesting meal! Such variety! I was salivating for the cheese croquettes. Your radish soup also sounds intriguing! An acquired taste, perhaps? Great post!

Robin Sue said...

What a wonderful feast! The hoof/leg on the bar was pretty interesting too. Great review, now if I only lived closer!

brandi said...

wow - everything is beautiful!

Wild Boar said...

burpandslurp:
Oh I think the myth of England being the home of really bad food is definitely in the past now.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella:
Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, the quality of food in the UK has definitely risen a lot lately. Thanks :-)

Linda:
Hope you'll continue to visit in the future.

Bunny:
Thanks. As long as we (I?) have the funds to eat good food, we'll blog about it.

Sara:
That's a shame, but I'm sure San Fran has some foods that aren't available in London either x_x

Girl Japan:
And I wish I could eat sushi in Japan too!!

Tangled Noodle:
Ooo yes well chosen. The squid ink rice was good eats.

Zesty Cook / Sam:
Thanks :-)

noble pig / Pam:
Haha I guess its because I never ate much as a kid? Maybe my tastes will change so I'll like it more in the future. In the meantime though theres other things for me to focus on anyway.

5 Star Foodie / duodishes.com / lisaiscooking:
Yeah I personally liked the rabbit too.

Maryann / Robin Sue:
The whole leg of ham on the counter is quite common in tapas bars. We went to some places in Spain that has dozens of legs hanging from the ceiling! Must be haunted by hundreds of pig ghosts.

Christelle said...

(I'm catching up ;)
Love the way you conduct your reviews, very thorough and helpful :)) 5 stars!

Wild Boar said...

Christelle:
Thank you :-) It's nice to hear my work being appreciated. I think that it's nicer to read about reviews that give more information than just "The pork was good, very tasty"; a little bit of why that person found it good is useful to me.

Hank Freid said...

I am a food lover & always loves to taste different food items in different hotels. Thanks for providing really nice review

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