“This Spanish gin is one of my favourites…Here it comes served with sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple of olives. The glass is filled to the brim with ice. It’s perfectly made. This is a very good start.”
Now, I could be accused of being a bit London centric at the moment…
… since this will be my third London review in a row, but let’s face it – so many of us Sussex dwellers find ourselves there either because of Londoner friends or for work.
I adore nights out in London but there’s always that point in the evening where I start to get twitchy looking at my watch conscious of the train times to get me home. And there’s also the need to factor in actually getting to Victoria train station from the chosen venue. The combination of an unpredictable London black cab system (compared to the impressive taxi provision in Brighton) and endless and varied road works at any given point in London, make this a somewhat imprecise task. So when arranging to meet my Londoner girlfriends recently, I hit upon the highly successful and popular Iberica Restaurant who have recently opening a branch in Victoria, moments from the station. Ideal! I had recalled an ex-boyfriend raving about the first Iberica Restaurant on Portland street almost a decade ago. This, there sixth restaurant is conveniently located on the ground floor of the Zig Zag Building, near House of Fraser. This area of London feels a bit soulless so it was a relief to find a thriving and warm environment amongst the glass jungle.
Iberica Restaurant is overseen by Executive Head Chef Nacho Manzano, who has 3 Michelin stars in his native Spain. The restaurant takes pride in using only the highest quality ingredients imported from carefully selected Spanish producers. They have stood the test of time.
The look is an authentic tapas bar with a modern edge. The space is designed by a renowned Spanish architect based in Barcelona. In the bar area you can choose to either sit at the bar or at tables. I chose a table and a waiter approached within moments.
There is a comprehensive drinks menu with interesting cocktails, beers, cider, sangria and of course sherry. I was pleased to discover an extensive gin list and a virtual bible of Spanish wine including a whole page devoted to Cava. These days Cava seems to have fallen in popularity in favour of Prosecco. I don’t know why. Cava unlike Prosecco is made using the ‘traditional method’ in the same way as Champagne, which produces a more refined and complex sparkling wine. For now, I started with a Gin Mare. This Spanish gin is one of my favourites with rosemary, thyme, olives and basil used within the botanicals. Here it comes served with sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple of olives. The glass is filled to the brim with ice. It’s perfectly made. This is a very good start. My friends arrive and we order some tapas to get us going. Serrano ham croquettes and padron peppers. Both arrived quickly and were good accompaniments to our drinks. The croquettes crisp on the outside with molten melting cheese within. What’s not to like? I couldn’t detect much ham flavour but they were delicious nevertheless. Padron peppers… were as expected these being ubiquitous on any tapas menu. We moved to our table for dinner upstairs. This area is not as cosy as the downstairs bar and feels less intimate. It is more of a smart space, which while lacking in authenticity provides a sense of occasion.
We ordered the trio of Iberica hams, two specials of the day; suckling pig and quail, fried squid with Aioli, Creamy black rice with squid, prawns & aioli sauce, fried chorizo lollipops, toasted bread with tomato, Asparagus, manchego, onion confit & truffle oil toast and finally rib eye steak. They also have larger dishes such as a range of Paella but we chose to stick to the tapas.
The suckling pig came served in neat squares, the meat delicate and meltingly soft from slow cooking. The quail had been pressed into another square. Pleasingly the flavour of the quail was allowed to shine unencumbered but I would have preferred it on the bone. The toasted bread with tomato was not particularly toasted but tasted fresh and enhanced by good olive oil. We needed this dish to cut through the richness of some of the other plates. The squid was standard fair – deep fried in batter until crisp with very good Aioli. I found the chorizo lollipops too much. Chorizo is already very rich and to deep fry it in batter was overkill but my girlfriends loved them so there you go! For me the stand out dishes were the steak – cooked to perfection with liberal salt flakes bringing out the flavour of the meat, and the black rice; rich, filling and deeply savoury (but could have done with more of the seafood). The suckling pig was also a highlight but this was ruined when we realised that these tiny squares had cost us £24! We had not been told when the waiter had promoted this special dish of the day. The prices of the rest ranged from £4-9 – much more reasonable.
To drink we started with Illo Perelada Brut NV Reserva D.O. Cava – delicious, both fruity and biscuity. And inexpensive for a Cava of this quality at £28. The wine list is helpfully divided by style and next I chose a bottle of Les Pusses; a Merlot and Syrah blend D.O. Ca from Priorat – a key region in Spain for quality wine. The blend of Merlot and Syrah providing a good balance of ripe fruit, spice and toasty creaminess. You can order by the glass, carafe or bottle and this was a reasonable £22 for 500ml carafe.
The service was spot on – neither too attentive nor neglectful. After four hours of decent food, excellent wine and good conversation, my eyes were on my watch – it was time to get the train back to Brighton. We all balked at the £100 a head bill but this was because we had chosen the eye wateringly expensive specials without having realised the consequences. If you stick to the menu, you’ll be fine here. The best thing about this place is the wine list and proximity to Victoria. The food is fine. You can probably get better elsewhere in London (Barrafina, Pisarro) and also in Brighton at the fantastic AguaDulce, arguably the best Spanish restaurant in Brighton and excellent value, but Iberica restaurant Victoria is perfect for a quick drink and bite after work before getting a train home or for a long lingering dinner such as we enjoyed on this night. We agreed this could become our new regular haunt minus the pig.
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