Saturday, 25 April 2009


The start to the day was frustrating to say the least and as we all know bad things come in threes. First I had to pull out an entire post from the blog, secondly I made a grammatically challenged comment here (by enlargeI’m known for errors, some deliberately and others doubly so, but I try to avoid them when commenting on other peeps’ blogs) and thirdly I forgot to top up my Oyster card, causing me to be late with opening the shop and missing my caffeine fix at Cwtch. Arrgh, Lizzie roll us one please!

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


Kavey said...

Oooh now this looks lovely, I'm sure I'd enjoy a meal here. Thanks for the review!

bellaphon said...

Hi Kavey, you're welcome.

Unknown said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading that, great post and great photography. Thanks for sharing, Iain.

Hollow Legs said...

ooh ooh ooh! I work on Great Portland Street. I must visit.

(I shall not have a hand in breaking your smoking abstinence!)

Gastro1 said...

Totally agree with you this is numero uno for Tapas in London and if you are on the move they do great takeaway
baguette sandwiches too with their excellent jamons !

Krista of said...

Interesting...did Me Love Sushi ask you to pull the Me Love Sushi post? I thought it was interesting. And honest. Although your comment at the end about sushi being a 21st century fad...well, there are 127 million people in Japan who might disagree. And me too! It's a good way of eating! Just look at their average life spans!

bellaphon said...

Iain- Thanks for stopping by. Nice site BTW.

Lizzie- I'm drummed silly, LOL!

Gastro1- Thanks...what decadence, jamon sarnies!

Krista- Heh, what I meant in the withdrawn post was there are now a lot of companies joining in the bandwagon and producing inferior and improvised sushi for the masses. There's nowt wrong with real sushi, but the faux stuff will put people off over time and give sushi a bad reputation. Thanks for your comments anyway.

thora said...

Great post, very mouthwatering. LOL at daughter/dad relationship - always good to hear one is not alone with those stories :-)

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Wow, those baby lamb chops look stunning! And the squid. You eat so well....

bellaphon said...

HYL-...and weigh with abundance!

Katie Lounge 10 said...

It's a shame you've not had any tapas worth chatting about since 2009...perhaps our impending late night tapas menu will coax you up to Manchester and out of Spanish mezze malaise? We do enjoy reading your posts (it's not often food bloggers have interesting points to make outside of their comfort zone) and thought you might like to know that!

Katie Lounge 10