Authentic Spanish Cuisine, is hard to come by. The last Spanish ‘inspired meal’ I had was at a dodgy Spanish chain restaurant, who made me violently ill with their ‘greasy’ paella, that was practically swimming in ‘oil’. But as someone whose background is Mediterranean (my parents are from Madeira), I knew that there was more to ‘Authentic Spanish cuisine’ than the oily vegetarian paella dish I was served at the Spanish chain restaurant. I craved a dish that would salivate my senses and send me into a food related stupor, that would permeate my dreams so deliciously at night. I dreamed of Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes with aoli) dancing on beds of light and fluffy paella, while I drenched it in fragrant lemon juice. There would be a cheeseboard, plentiful and large, begging to be dipped in fruity relish, while the cocktails would scream our name as we sipped enticingly on their mouthwatering juices. And there would be the churros, sugary and sweet, coated in rich chocolate dipping sauce that would melt in our mouths, as we watched our eyes roll back in ecstasy. As if by magic, our dreams were answered, an invitation to Iberica Resturant in Canary Wharf commanded my attention, gleaming in my inbox, while it waited impatiently for my answer. Question is did I accept?
The night was tinged with frost and ice and like children we gallivanted through the evening, caught up in the magical possibilities of an unknown destination. My companion Hannah (Hanmeetsworld) was a connoisseur of ‘Spanish and Portuguese food’ and entertained me with colourful stories of her travels, where the languages rolled into one and the food was one delicious meal after the other. We stepped into Iberica with a chill in our hearts and a hollow in our stomachs, begging to be filled with warm food, but alas the kitchen was facing issues and we awaited our meals, with rumbling stomachs. We were plied with a bottle of Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon. DO Ca Priorat (2016) to start, a smooth and elegant red wine, with a perfect integration of smoky oak. Red and black fruit aromas swam invitingly in our mouths, as we toasted our glasses to an evening laced with promise. Lo and behold the kitchen had swung back into action and we scoured the menus with delirious rampancy as our stomachs growled and moaned.
Iberica was a rare delight, a menu filled with tapas that claimed its home in earth, land and sea. There was the produce gathered from the land, with plant based tapas like Kale Salad, drizzled in a tart orange vinaigrette, there was the tapas which swam underwater like the garlic prawns paired with short angel haired pasta and the creatures of the land like twice cooked lamb, marinated in cherry tomatoes. For the vegans and vegetarians like myself, there was tapas drenched with nutritional plant goodness; the Patatas Bravas coated in spicy ‘Brava sauce’ was laced with enough spice to get the juices flowing, while the fresh Kale Salad with Chickpeas and Sweet Potato, was full of vibrancy and created a stark contrast to the spice led potato tapas dish. At first I was hesitant about ordering a salad at a restaurant, thinking it would be ‘limp and without flavour’ but I was surprised to find it was actually better than the Patatas Bravas, which I would have preferred to have more spice. The orange vinaigrette was tart yet sweet at the same time, a delightful paradox of flavours that complimented the al dente sweet potatoes, while the kale was crispy and complimented by the fresh salted chickpeas.
A third vegetarian tapas that danced over to our table was The Traditional Spanish Omelette,filled with potato and cheddar cheese. The potato was tender, while the cheese oozed out of the omelette, which was folded in accordance to a calzone. The cheese was salted but not overbearingly so and when coated with the ‘Brava sauce’ stopped the omelette from being too homogeneous in taste, paired beautifully with the smooth, red wine. Iberica had ensured that there was something for everyone, and as my companion was a pescatarian, she enjoyed Garlic Prawns, with angel haired pasta, which she will profile below…
Non Vegetarian Tapas
With a variety of tapas to suit both meat eaters and pescatarians, Hannah’s eye landed on Garlic Prawns with Fideos, having mentioned that she had a special weakness for ‘Seafood dishes’. I should also probably mention at this point that while our dishes were ‘tapas’ plates, the portions were most definitely akin to ‘starters’ which was a positively tantalizing experience for a greedy pig like myself. H stated that the ‘prawns’ were well cooked and soft to the taste, while the pasta was thin in appearance but meaty in texture, which proved to be a more filling dish than she would have previously imagined.
Naturally as Hannah is so well acquainted with authentic ‘Spanish’ cuisine I asked her to taste all our tapas and give me her honest feedback on whether the dishes were akin to the tapas she had tried in Spain. Like me, Hannah believed that the Patatas Bravas was not as spicy as the traditional dish, but she did praise the salad, which while not exclusively Spanish did have that Mediterranean flair. But the most authentic Spanish dish she stated was the garlic prawns and angel haired pasta,which she stated was not ‘dry’ as many prawn dishes can be, but well coated in garlic sauce, without being drenched in liquid. Best of all none of our tapas dishes were oily which made me a very happy bunny indeed!
A steaming pan of paella intermixed with lemon, wafted dreamily under our noses, as with a relish our waitress presented our paella, like it was a box of treasure. And what a treasure trove it was, brown grain rice was juxtaposed with red and green peppers that danced with sugar snap beans and carrots, as they made their way onto the dance floor, for their chance to claim the spotlight. A drip, drip, drip of lemon squeezed onto the paella, with the synchronicity of an Olympic Swim Team, while the red wine brought out the fruity undertones of our paella dish. While the original paella dish featured ‘aubergines. mushrooms and courgettes’ which I have allergies to, the kitchen very kindly fashioned a new vegetarian paella dish, that was definitely not lacking in flavour. And what a stark contrast it was to the ‘greasy paella’ of yesteryear! The vegetables were well seasoned and moist, without being coated in oil, while the rice was not stuck to the pan and was light and fluffy. As for the size of the paella dish, those of you who watched my Instagram stories saw how entranced I was by the ‘large size’ of the paella dish, which quite honestly had enough paella for 4 people, at least. With enough paella left over for me to take home in a doggy bag, our wine was trickling to a still and with one rapid flick through the dessert menu our minds were made up.
An Iberica Classic, the churros were first up on our tasting menu, all things sugar, spice and all things nice. The pastries were powdered and preened to perfection; the churros were crispy yet melted in your mouth, while the glazing of sugar and flour created a stark contrast to the dark chocolate dipping sauce. As someone who prefers milk to dark chocolate, I actually preferred the churros without the chocolate sauce, but Hannah preferred it with the sauce so it is all down to personal interpretation. To finish our dessert selection we also chose the trio of cheeses served with quince and apple. The cheeses were tart, and the blue cheese was especially strong, but I did enjoy the Spanish Cheddar paired with the apple relish. As a cheese lover it pains me to say this, but the churros most definitely won the desserts round, although we did enjoy the cheese selection nevertheless. I think this cheese selection would have been even better with more cheeses (of course) and some crackers or rustic, home made bread like foccacia to sop up the quince and apple relish.
Value For Money
The quality of the food was very good, but the price point of each dish was phenomenal. I was especially impressed by the price of the ‘Vegetarian Paella’ dish which was only £10, and shared between two people would be £5, for a dish that could quite literally feed 4 people. This was most definitely the stand out dish for me.
Throughout our time at Iberica we found that the waitresses were eager to answer any questions we might have and went above and beyond to ensure that our dishes met our expectations, especially being careful to ensure that any dishes I tried were both vegetarian friendly and also free from the allergens that I had mentioned above which I truly appreciated. The last resturant I went to – which I will not name because I’m not that shady- not only made me wait TWO HOURS FOR MY FOOD, but also sent me a meat dish, when I clearly stated I was a vegetarian. Thankfully Iberica truly took the time out to get to know me and was prompt in their delivery of our food and drinks, once the kitchen had resumed service. I also took special care to note how they interacted with other customers and much to my delight they showed the same service to paying customers, as they did to us, which was gratifying to behold.
Overall, the staff were kind, welcoming and attentive and the presentation of the dishes were spectacular. The paella in particular was a stand out dish, while the price point in ratio to the size of the dishes was fantastic value for money, especially as I am someone who is always on a budget.
Would I Go Again? One word… Yes.
Have You Ever Tried Authentic Spanish Cuisine Before? What Are Your Thoughts?
Please note I was given a complimentary meal for two in exchange for this review but all thoughts are my own and not affected by complimentary services. If you would like me to review a restaurant, bar or cafe that is vegetarian or vegan friendly please get in touch using the contact form provided.