I suppose it’s good to see yet another mini-chain breaking out of its home area and setting up in the Rainy City for its first excursion away from home. There’s been Gaucho, Hawksmoor, a posse of south Asians from Yorkshire and, apparently, Wahaca is due to arrive fairly soon. I like tapas. They make a great change from a packet of pork scratchings to nibble on while I’m having a drink. But, in truth, I’m not that keen on them as dinner. So, eating here was a decision taken by others. It was also a decision taken by others that we’d order our own food, rather than have complete sharing. The server suggests ordering a couple of tapas, followed by something in the larger raciones/main course section. It’s also explained that food will come as and when it's prepared – which resulted in one person having eaten all their food, before someone else had had anything. No, I’m not at all keen on having tapas for dinner – not least as I was the one who had had nothing and I’d been sat there for an hour.
The food, when it came, was pretty good, although not faultless. At the end of the table occupied by Mrs H and me, I watched her tackle a classic, and well flavoured, pan con tomate and a less than Iberian spring onion tempura. Crisp batter on the latter with soy and a lemon alioli to dip into. There was also a hake and clam concoction which came with mashed spuds. Hake was well cooked but half the clams had failed to open.
A couple of meaty starters for me. Chorizo lollipops with alioli – in effect, a chunk of chorizo on a stick, battered and deep fried. Could have been great – if only the chorizo hadn’t been unpleasantly chewy and claggy - it felt like I was chewing Plasticine. Butifarra was better – a white version, rather than the more usual black sausage – well seasoned and with a background note of chilli – a puddle of what I think was a butter bean puree. I liked this. I also liked my racione – sea trout, perfectly cooked to the “just flaking” stage with a rather bland almond puree but perked up by a couple of wafer thin slices of pickled cauliflower.
People who like this sort of thing, will like Iberica. I rarely mention costs when I write about food but I have to hope that Iberica is not going to set a local trend by having London pricing of 12.5% service charge on the bill. We’re more than happy with the 10% that we have in the rest of the country, thanks very much. Direct competition will come in the summer when Simon Shaw moves his excellent tapas place, El Gato Negro, from Ripponden to Manchester’s King Street.