Iberica, Leeds – Restaurant Review
By Kerryn Duckworth
Approaching Iberica, you’d be mistaken for feeling like you were stepping back into the 1900s. Set in the Grade II listed Hepper House with a blue plaque adorning the external wall; the building Iberica now calls home was previously an auction house built in 1863. Just on the approach, it feels grand and majestic and the building itself sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
We are welcomed in and ushered to the bar area prior to taking to our table where we are asked what drinks we would like. I’m stuck for choice so the bar staffs suggestion is welcome – and we’re in luck. Mahou; a San Miguel brand are doing a promotion within Iberica and we’re invited down into the bar under the main restaurant for a free Mahou beer. Not only that; it’s an education on how to pull the perfect beer.
The bar under Iberica is rustic, relaxed and informal and would be perfect for an after-work drink with some light snacks. I’m won over by the Mahou and, with beer in hand, we make our way back upstairs to the main dining area and directed to our table.
The building is magnificent with a skylight which runs the length of the room. This area was originally the auction display area, so natural light was essential. This is complemented by low hung chintzy lamp shades, blue and cream wallpapers and matching tables and chairs giving a sophisticated and smart appeal to the venue.
“Reminded of holidaying in Spain”
As an Iberica first timer, Matt the General Manager talks us through the menu with recommendations forthcoming. Whilst we’re attempting to choose from the vast array of mouth-watering tapas, my friend and I opt for some meats and cheese from the Deli board. We’re presented with a wooden platter topped with a variety of mouth watering Charcuterie and Artisan Cheeses including Cecina, Chorizo and Fuet on the meat side and Ibores, Mahon and Manchego cheeses. (£7 for Half and Half Meat and Cheese Selection).
This is accompanied by Toasted Bread with Tomato (£3), which is juicy and crunchy with the salt bringing the tomatoes to life. The perfect sharing starter to get the taste buds tingling for what’s coming next.
There’s only one option for the main course and that’s the tapas menu. There’s plenty of choice for all palates with vegetarian options, eggs and croquettes and selections ‘from the land’ and ‘from the sea’. Standard tapas restaurants suggest two or three tapas per person so we go with the Manager’s recommendations. Again, in typical tapas style, the plates arrive when they’re ready and we dig in as soon as they do so.
The Fried Chorizo Lollipops (£5) are first to arrive, thick pieces of Spanish sausage coated in a batter and served on top of pear alioli. Crunchy and smokey and creamy in equal measures. After one bite I’m wanting more… a lot more. My friend instantly tells me that she’s reminded of being on holiday in Spain. It’s just a shame we’re not!
More arrives. We’re presented with the Green Asparagus Toast (£5.50) and the Iberica staple; Croquettes de Jamon (£6). Asparagus on toast does not sound that appealing however when the asparagus is served on the toast alongside Manchego cheese, onion confit and truffle oil, the asparagus springs to life and brings a freshness to the plate. The croquettes are a signature dish from Iberica and, creamy inside, they fall apart under the knife and fork. They’re an absolute necessity.
Even more arrives; Garlic Prawns with Pasta (£9.50) is whole juicy prawns on a bed of fideo pasta which springs to life with lemon juice and garlic and Twice Cooked Lamb (£8.50). The lamb falls apart and is succulent, however the cherry on this cake is the accompanying roasted tomatoes marinated in a tart vinegar flavour. This brings the whole dish to life and is one of the best things on the plate.
The final plate is off tapas and from the grill section of the menu but comes recommended; the Secreto (£11) is a cut from the Iberian pig of Spain; a ‘secret’ cut, no less. Grilled to perfection with a slight crunch to the top, this is juicy and succulent. A portion of Skinny Chips (£3) joins the meat. However, compared to the vibrant flavours of everything else, the chips pale in comparison, mainly because they are just chips.
All this is washed down with a glass of the Zurbal (£6 per 150ml glass). It’s a white rioja with flowery and citrusy notes which accompanies the prawns and asparagus perfectly.
“Leave with a smile”
Despite the amazing food and drinks we’ve consumed there is always room for dessert. It’s not a trip to Iberica without Churros with Chocolate (£4.50); crispy pastry coated in sugar and a smooth rich chocolatey dipping sauce. We have to! I also opt for an alternative, the Crema Catalana Foam (£5). A very rich and luxurious dessert filled with cream, baked apple and salted caramel ice cream.
Service is attentive and friendly in the restaurant and the venue oozes style and sophistication. The Gothic inspired venue lends itself perfectly to Iberica. A function room upstairs is also a smooth and stylish private dining and drinks area. Iberica can be a destination for special occasions, a romantic meal, a catch up with friends or a drink after work in the bar downstairs.
I’m leaving Iberica with a smile on my face, with good company and a full belly. What else do you need!
Iberica, Hepper House, 17A East Parade, Leeds, LS1 2BH
Monday – Saturday 11.30am – 11pm
Sunday 12pm – 4pm
0113 4037 007