By Simon Donohue
The things you learn. That Spanish beer, Mahou? It’s actually pronounced “Mow” as in cow, rather than “Ma-Hoo” as in Yahoo.
Hence those bemused looks on the faces of Benidorm barkeeps.
So much for Spanish with a Manchester accent then.
Which brings us to Iberica, where this snippet of information is imparted by a helpful waitress who is doing just that: delivering Spanish food with a Manchester accent.
It’s much fancier than that description would suggest though. So, here’s what I thought of my visit…
Iberica: The decor
Iberica is one of the many ‘theatrical’ restaurants which have slowly replaced the retail spaces in Spinningfields that didn’t quite work.
It sits inside what you might recall as All Saints, just opposite Oast House, which blew everybody’s minds when it first opened, with most people assuming it was was a temporary tribute to Hansel and Gretel’s house.
Spinningfields dining today is as much about the decor as it’s the food and drink, and that’s particularly true of Iberica.
I sometimes struggle with the film set authenticity of Disney-esque, cleverly concocted theme restaurants built within modern concrete office blocks, but Iberica certainly works as a blockbuster style statement.
It has jaw-dropping drama and elegance: the longest velvet red drapes (a matador cape?) fall from a two-storey high ceiling. It’s a scene stealing place, an entire wall is stacked with wine – someone with a big budget has spent hours in a Spanish prop shop. (Matador jackets? Check, Bull’s head? Check)
Someone with a sense of humour too. The loos (sorry, couldn’t resist) have the rustic vibe of a Costa Del Sol cafe circa 1978, complete with wonky pipe work, doors that don’t quite close and bull heads made from wicker. Is it meant to be amusing, insulting, accurate? I can’t be sure. I wonder what Manuel thinks.
Iberica: The service
But back to the dining room, where service is that fascinating mix of “attentive meets Manana”. Drinks orders are taken promptly enough, but take much longer than they should to arrive. That’s a negative in a upmarket Spanish bar. But the people are lovely, so we don’t mind so much.
Iberica: The booze
Along side the “Mow” there’s a long list of Spanish favourites, and a cool collection of cocktails (also available as mocktails). Eight and a half quid for a glass of Rioja (only one on the menu) gives you the idea. I has a lovely light glass of “melt on the tongue “sherry for “afters”. Maybe it’s my age, but it was absolutely amazing.
Iberica: The food
Ok, Iberica is an upstairs downstairs place and I didn’t venture up to see what was on offer in the even fancier bit. So we’re speaking strictly bar-side tapas here, although that description does sell the glamour of the place short.
Iberican tapas is an upmarket, augmented affair, so no artisan offerings here. This is tapas with a twist, some of it stunning (aubergine and pine nuts), some of it a little too fussy. The garlic prawns on a bed of Spanish pasta (below left) were delicious.
And the chorizo lollipops? (below right) A nice idea, but a little sickly, battered and sitting on a thick and creamy sauce. Chorizo is wonderful without much effort IMHO, so why try too hard. I love patatas braves, but the sauce was a little creamy for me, and a little lacking in fire. Sometimes less is more is all I’m saying, although the surroundings do suggest otherwise. Whereas the aspires with pine nuts were scrummy.
Iberica: The Verdict
For tapas for tea, with drama in impressive surroundings, Iberica has a lot of appeal. Service is great, decor stunning, and food and booze choice excellent. It’s really lovely but I personally enjoy tapas in a more modest state. Save it for a special occasion.
Iberica: See the menu.
Find out more about Iberica here.