Mishaps are often rewarded with good things to come. Boy did that ring true, today was indeed blessed. Saturday is 'get to see daughter day', my favourite day of the week and also ultimately costly as well. When I meet up with her I insist that we eat well despite her protestations; you see teenagers prefer places like Bodean’s (a resolute no for me), Nando’s (I’ve never actually been, if you must know!) and of course burger bars like Byron. However if she adheres with my decision on where to go for lunch she’ll be rewarded with some clothes shopping thereafter. Works both ways, I get fed well and she enhances her 'distressed and shredded' jeans collection.
Let’s just say Wavey (my daughter from now on) and I were fed very well today and it was also possibly the best lunch we’ve had this year.
I heard about Iberica here. They’ve been opened for the past eight months, it somehow got past me and I think it’s probably down to the PR dorks, obviously the submission of free meals to both press or bloggers didn't figure. As a result this place is still relatively unheard of.
The corner premises can only be described as of flagship aspirations or maybe even pretensions; it’s huge. The location here is like the City during the weekend, it’s pretty much deserted, in fact one only ventures into Great Portland Street for three things; The Portland Hospital for all baby matters, get stitched up at the Villandry or a guaranteed parking space here if you’re heading towards Oxford Street. Iberica is divided into three sections, a posh restaurant situated on the mezzanine known as Caleya Ibérica , a well-to-do mini food hall, La Tienda, which if marketed properly might trouble Brindisa more than a bit and the last section, La Barra, the tapas bar on the ground floor/main entrance, this is where we had our lunch.
La Barra is my kind of dining space, high ceilings, no elbow2elbow rage (including the bar!), and comfy at best.
This place is also ideal for daylight photography, no white balance issues here.
One minor quibble is that the dining tables are too high for the chairs or vice versa. The all Spanish staff speak decent English! They were friendly and efficient and frankly they also deserve every penny of the 12.5% gratuity.
The tapas menu is huge, I think there were fifty or so dishes listed. When we were here today the following two were gratis-
Olives with anchovies- to think I don’t even like olives but hell these were very tasty.
Bread with olive oil- I know it’s only baguette, but it was actually baked properly (no whitish crusts) and moreish. My advice is not to scoff too quickly on the bread as the Spaniards have a way with serving their other dishes with more carbs like potatoes.
Ostentatious by nature and ostentatious by choice. I ordered the Jamon Iberico. The platter consists of ham from three different places. This £20 plate of bellota ham is the best we’ve had, it was far-reachingly droolworthy (it came from the heart, serious!).
All three as expected were delicious but the bottom of Guijuelo D.O. (also the fattiest) was the best; sweet, intense and you don’t even have to chew it. Wavey and I agreed it’s extremely difficult for either of us to become vegetarians now after this plate of ham.
Next came White tuna, roasted pepper and caramelised onion salad. On paper this is just a cold salad dish. It was so full of flavour it was enough blow anyone away.
The sweetness from the peppers and onions was simply profound. A* dish, I can picture this dish on the menus of the likes of Le Café Anglais or Quo Vadis. I’m sure the chef would be flattered if his tuna dish is replicated elsewhere.
Grilled Baby Lamb chops served with panadera potatoes. Do you know these things weren’t even intentionally pink inside, in fact the sliced up chop were uniformly lightish brown in appearance. Dull looking, truth be told.
We’ve never had such tender tasting meat before and it was ever so superb. For those who don’t like lamb, well they will now for there’s little indication of lamb taint anywhere. Masterstroke and beyond.
Fried fresh squid with alioli- yes it’s only squid, but it’s strange how we take this fish for granted especially with a degree a chewiness being inevitable whenever it’s ordered elsewhere.
No excessive mastication needed here, like the lamb these fine battered morsels were tender and beautifully seasoned. That alioli I believe betters Barrafina in every respect. The bestest calamari to date.
"Broken" Eggs with panadera potato and Iberico Ham- the last dish to appear. Like most Spanish dishes I’ve encountered, they’re not the most photogenic. Although this dish didn’t blow us away like the other four it was still very good.
This Honest John of a dish relies on the freshness of the egg to have the last say in ‘comfort eating begins here’. This dish beats the pants off the oft ordered tortilla.
As they say, by this time we were both suitably stuffed and happily satisfied. No room for the puddings (all surprisingly under £4) but we’ll try them out next time. Chef Santiago Guerrero, you deserve a standing ovation.
Based on today’s lunch, this is currently my reference for the best tapas in London and I sincerely hope it wasn't a one-off experience. I’m coming back here to try out the rest of the menu and their ‘paella’ Sundays. Like all Spanish eating places in London, Iberica is not cheap but it’s worth it. Recommended with no reservations whatsoever.
NB Oh, like mishaps, good things also come in threes; good company, good lunch and good coffee. We walked off the lunch excesses to come here for coffee.
195 Great Portland Street
London W1W 5PS