Having previously been to a couple of taster menu events featuring executive head chef Nacho Manzano, I already knew you could get some seriously good food over at Iberica in Spinningfields. However, despite the fact the place has been open nearly two years I was yet to eat there a la carte. This summer has seen the menu get a bit of a refresh with a number of new dishes added, so now seemed like the perfect time to pop in for a meal.
First things first on a lovely summer’s evening, we got our whistles wet at the bar. The manzano martini brought together vodka with apple liqueur and juice, I had a beautifully bittersweet negroni ruiz, a twist on the classic enhanced by the addition of Pacharán, a traditional sloe-flavoured liqueur.
Spain seriously loves its pork, and for good reason, black label Iberico ham is like the wagyu beef of the swine world. Free range, acorn fed pigs that provide the most succulent, nutty, slightly sweet meat, it’s a real treat and we enjoyed a selection from around the country. Following that our first tapas was something a little lighter, and the perfect dish for warm weather. Salmorejo purée is a blend of tomato and bread, and it’s served cool like a gazpacho and topped with apple granite.
I always have to pick the octopus when it’s on offer in Spanish restaurants. When it’s prepared like this, perfectly tender with just a little bite and those lovely charred flavours, it really is a fantastic dish. If you’ve never tried octopus this is where to start. Next something altogether more familiar to the English palate, the ham, egg and chips is an Iberian version of a pub classic.
If that was your gammon, then chicken al chilindron isn’t too far off a little Sunday dinner – dark meat with crisp salty skin topped with a rich saucy gravy all sat on a roast potato. There’s a stewed tomato and pepper sauce there that freshens things up nicely too though. Another new addition to the menu is a grill section and we chose a couple of meats. The Angus black label “Picanha” beef has a layer of fat that was cooked until it developed a delicious crunch, tangy red onion and a sauce of el bierzo peppers finish the plate.
Our other pick was the Iberian pork secreto, a tender cut from the shoulder which was served on an intoxicating smear of smoked paprika rub. On my last visit to Iberica I was well impressed with Quique Dacosta’s ‘ashes rice,’ the black rice with squid and prawns didn’t quite hit those heights, but with its rich, deep flavours is proper good comfort food.
When it comes to dessert at Iberica it appears that grandma knows best. The Gloria cheesecake is a recripe from Nacho Manzano’s own nan, a nicely light affair, artfully adorned with parmesan and dried strawberries. La Tarta de la abuela translates as grandmother’s tart, to you and me it’s an indulgent pot of chocolate & vanilla custard with a biscuit crumb.
It’s been well documented that this city is spoilt for choice when it comes to Spanish food right now, and surely the competition can only be a good thing for the standards at each establishment. The new menu at Iberica has definitely upped their game and should keep the restaurant firmly on the wish list for those tapas hungry people of Manchester. And, if you’ve already been, then maybe now might just be the moment to book that return visit.