Tuesday evenings usually consist of rubbish television and pj’s on before 7.00pm. This Tuesday was a little different. This Tuesday consisted of cocktails with my best friend, talking weddings (hers) and plans to take over the world (mine), whilst tasting the delights of the latest restaurant opening in Leeds.
I’d spotted Spanish tapas restaurant, Iberica, on Twitter and was instantly enamoured with its stunning interior. I should also mention at this point that tapas is my absolute favourite thing in the world to eat. Not a birthday passes where I don’t suggest going to a tapas restaurant. I love the sharing element, the small bites of different flavours, discovering something new on the table which you’d never have thought to order. It’s the whole ambiance of the evening, and I’ve not only found my new favourite tapas restaurant in the shape of Iberica, I’ve found my favourite new restaurant in Leeds. Period.
You’ll see from the picture above, the decor within the restaurant really is something else. Located within the old Phillips Auction House on East Parade, you walk through a beautiful entrance, art work lining the walls in symmetrical fashion, to be greeted by a huge open dining room, complete with glass roof. Walking down the street, you’d never even know this place exists.
Once we were settled in our (very comfortable) seats, Dawn and I decided on the Berry Cavarinha cocktail to start, which is a delicious mix of Cava, raspberries, blackberries, lime, sugar and Chambord – a definitely a good recommendation.
Our waiter, Antonio from Barcelona, was incredibly helpful from start to finish, explaining about the various cheeses and meats on offer, and with so much knowledge about each dish served. The food began to arrive, starting with a trio of Iberico ham – the lighter ham being much more suited to my pallet, the darker being having a stronger taste due to being cured for much longer. This was accompanied by the most amazing tomato bread, which had just the right amount of garlic and crunch, against the freshly crushed tomatoes. I’d come back to this joint for the tomato bread alone.
Along next came a trio of cheeses, including Bufala, Manchego and Gomber. Now I very rarely eat cheese, apart from when it’s melted on top of a pizza, but I knew cheese connoisseur Dawn would be able to give me feedback – and what positive feedback she gave. The empty plate kind of spoke for itself. The empty bread basket with olive oil next to me, also spoke for itself.
Our plates were cleared and within a couple of minutes our mains began to arrive. With Dawn being a pescetarian, she stuck with the more veg and fish based dishes, whilst I pretty much ate everything in sight. The asparagus toast (green asparagus with manchego, onion confit and truffle oil on seeded bread) was gorgeous, as was the cauliflower tempura (deep fried fresh cauliflower heads in sauce). At this point I was too engrossed with my serrano ham croquettes to notice the other dishes arrive.
The perfect palette cleanser, Gazpacho in a Bite, was up there with one of my favourite dishes of the evening, with just the right combination of freshness, salt, sweet and crunch. The beef cheek carpaccio, meanwhile, melted in my mouth and came served with home-made sweet potato crisps.
We weren’t finished there. Next arrived a classic Spanish seafood dish – Fideua with Garlic and Prawns – which originates from Valencia and is very much like paella, except with pasta replacing the rice. The prawns had the right amount of spicy kick, although I’m more of a rice lover with this kind of dish than pasta if I’m honest.
There were two dishes that I didn’t take to, but that was for no other reason than personal preference. We were presented with a grilled pork loin, which was cooked medium rare. I’ve never eaten pork medium rare, but that’s because I think in Britain we don’t think of pork as been as meat you can eat undercooked. I would have preferred it cooked through, but having tasted the very outer bits which I could see were, I can honestly say that part was delicious.
Next came the Iberica Octopus a la Gallega, which comprised pan fried octopus with potatoes and a beautiful paprika sauce. Dawn kindly offered to taste this and I wasn’t too keen, and was impressed not only with its flavour, but it’s texture.
The final main course dish to be placed on our table (remember this was tasting menu for the sole purpose of this review – we didn’t actually order a banquet full of tapas for sixteen people) was Swordfish Roll, which had a beautiful fish sauce to accompany it, alongside diced roasted potatoes. This was something we both said we’d order again.
I have a slight confession about dessert. We were served the most amazingly rich Spanish rice pudding, with a glazed sugar top, and Gloria cheesecake with parmesan and dried strawberries. Except we dived straight in and devoured most of it before I realised I hadn’t taken any pictures. Major blogging fail. So I snatched the cheesecake, and tried to master an arty shot of the last crumb. These really were gorgeous, and although it may seem alien to have flakes of parmesan on a dessert, Dawn – as we now know as the Queen of Cheese – said it was actually a really nice, albeit unusual, addition. Personally? I’d order the Spanish rice pudding and forget the cheese.
And so our meal drew to a close, but not before we were shown around the listed building to view the most beautiful private dining room and deli downstairs, where you can meet for a more casual dinner of cheese, meats and wine. The deli had a completely different atmosphere, and it felt like you were in Southern Spain, taking some time out of the sun to rest and feed your soul.
Of course I did what any self-respecting blogger would do – I headed to the toilets to see what the decor was like and took snaps of the amazing iron sinks and decorative finishes.
Iberica is such a great addition to the restaurant landscape of Leeds – we have tapas, but nothing in surroundings as beautiful as these. Prices are average for what you’d expect to pay in the town centre – £5 for a tapas dish, ranging up to £21 for the lamb shank. Cocktails range from £6-£9 and I’d definitely recommend booking. We arrived at 6.30 and it was already busy – by the time we left at 8.45, it was nearly full and this was on a Tuesday evening remember.
The team at Iberica Leeds kindly invited me and a guest for a complimentary meal, but thoughts are always honest and always my own. Thank you to the team for such a great evening and I’m already looking at hosting my wedding reception (when I find the groom) in the main dining room – major goals.