Iberica Leeds – the Spring Menu Launch
This was a blogger event in the private dining room upstairs (which would be an astounding venue for a private party, come to mention it…especially in the Winter! The walls are lined with beautiful wallpaper and then quirky portraits of the Iberica Leeds chefs holding red mullets or heads of celery…it’s great).
So first off, we cracked some of this Vilarnau cava, which went down very nicely indeed! Really fresh and appley.
Instead of talking you through each of the amazing courses on this Spring/Summer menu overhaul (and hence making you sick with jealousy that you weren’t there), I’m just going to dot a few pictures below and highlight a few stars, so you get a feel for the size of the plates at Iberica, and a sense of the quality.
You don’t need me to tell you again that this is a top-notch Leeds eatery – I already went on about that enough in my last blog on Iberica!
This is the main dining area, which has a really different feel in the daytime! As the night draws in the lighting is dim and more gentleman’s club-feeling, whereas here it feels (and looks) like an English stately dining room! Either way I like it.
Downstairs, Iberica have a sort of bar/shop/cafe – delicatessen is probably the word. You can get astounding-looking panini as well as picking up some of the produce you’ll experience in your meal upstairs! It’s a completely different feel – more relaxed – the perfect place to grab some lunch, and pick up some Spanish specialities for dinner too!
After our tour of the premises, we had a chat with Cesar Garcia. Cesar is the Head Chef of the Iberica group, so we were very lucky to have him to ask all of our gastronomic questions, and to hear the menu and its concept properly explained. Plus…he was just a really nice guy.
Working alongside Nacho Manzano, the director of the Iberica team and the proud winner of three Michelin Stars, Cesar has a passion for the best Spanish produce, and you really see that shine through the menu at Iberica. Nevertheless, the dish concepts stay fresh, experimental and exciting – there is no simple reliance on the calibre of fresh produce; every ingredient is expertly attended to by these really impressive chefs so as to showcase its value and its quality.
First off we tried the Iberica tomato on toast, which is just such a Spanish classic (for breakfast though, normally..though a glass of wine suits it down to the ground!) alongside a meats board. The absolute star of the show for me is their Lomito de Bellota, a pressed, cured, acorn-fed pork loin.
Next up, we had the current menu’s star – cherry gazpacho. Inspired by world-class chef Quique da Costa in the recent Nacho and Friends Iberica meet up, this needs to be tasted to be believed – and it’s only available through June, so get going! Fresh, vibrant flavours of raspberry and tomato and fresh herbs like sorrel sang next to two different caviars and of course, the gazpacho itself.
Third, I encountered an unassuming star.
Asparagus on toast. Of course, it’s the perfect time to be eating asparagus…but I had no concept of how awesome this would be. On a slice of seeded toast sits a thin layer of onion confit, before a layer of beautiful, bubbling hot Manchego cheese and thinly sliced asparagus, finished off to perfection with a fragrant drizzle of truffle oil and scrunch of salt. This is the King of cheese on toast – and I will be trying to replicate this one at home!
There was no let-up. Next – Iberica’s famous croquettes, filled with their Serrano ham and so squishy you may want to have a bath in them (what? It’s what Cleopatra would do…)
And then Fideua, which to all intents and purposes interested me not at all. Sold as a sort of pasta version of paella, I thought…nah. It doesn’t even look that great. But..then you taste it! It’s amazing. The flavours are so intense, due to the process of basically making a rich, condensed and intense seafood stock out of the prawn heads and some garlic as the basis for the sauce. It was so, so flavoursome.
It went on. We had one of my Iberica favourites – their octopus a la gallega, on a pleasingly paprika-rich sauce, and we had cauliflower tempura, and then trout on ajo blanco, hake with hollandaise and a rice lettuce sauce of vibrant green, and then their Gloria Cachopo, a ridiculous take on a burger – a tasty combination of beef and pork patties sandwich together a secret mushroom and cheese mix which oozes out. Like I said. Ridiculous.
Dessert – churros and chocolate dip are always a must, but for once, I would suggest you forego them for the other exciting desserts (unless you have room for both, in which case…as you were!)
The Spanish rice pudding sounds uninspired to an English palette familiar with school rice pudding…but leave all claggy, tinned milk-nostalgia at the door and dive into this spiced, quasi-creme brulee rice pudding. These Spaniards, they know what they’re doing.
Final pud – a weird outsider, which ended up being another shining star. Prepare yourself…Gloria cheesecake, served with dried strawberries and…parmesan. Sounds disgusting. Works AMAZINGLY well.
Well, wholly fed and watered, I managed to stagger back home, with another massive grin plastered over my face. Iberica succeeds in making you feel special, looked after and pampered. It might not be the kind of experience you want every night (who are you, Jackie O?!), but once a month, when you fancy getting your gladrags on and really feeling pampered, this is the place. It’s the sort of experience we’ve been sorely missing in Leeds, (besides the wonderful Man Behind the Curtain) – treat yourself. It’s worth it.
Have you been? Let me know if you enjoyed it too x