Maybe the sun puts us in the mood for sharing, or perhaps smaller plates suit warmer times, either way this time of year tapas comes in to its own. Don’t get me wrong we’ve enjoyed Iberica’s classic Asturian stews over the winter but I’m ready for crisp whites and light bites now, and as luck would have it their new spring and summer menu is out.
I’m not always too likely to fill up on cheese and ham when tucking in to tapas, even if I am usually tempted, but there’s seriously no better place to sample some proper top notch pig in Manchester so we were in the right restaurant to indulge. Our trío de jamones took in three types of Iberico ham of increasing quality, culminating with the magnificent Juan Pedro Domecq which has been produced in Andalusia by the same family for over 150 years. One leg of this wonderful stuff takes up to five years to produce, and it tastes every bit worth hanging around for. The cheese board needs investigating too incidentally, it offers a nice variety of strengths, textures and flavours from smooth and smoky to mature and crumbly.
After that little privilege we took on some dishes new to the menu, beginning with the baby carrot tempura. There’s something quite playful about these deep fried vegetables, maybe because they’re fun to dip in the accompanying tartare sauce, or perhaps just because I’ve never seen a whole carrot cooked like that. Either way they retain just the right amount of al dente crunch, I reckon they’re going to prove popular.
Continuing with vegetarian tapa, the crispy cauliflower and pak choi is a nice opportunity to get your greens in, lets be honest Spanish food isn’t always the healthiest, that’s why we love it. The ensaladilla rusa resembles a bit of a classic picnic dish of tuna and potato salad, summery if not particularly exciting.
I’ve had the octopus in Iberica before, this dish is enough to get anyone hooked on tentacles for life. Those of a squeamish nature might not be too turned on by all those suckers but for the rest of us there’s some beautiful char and perfectly succulent white flesh to dig in to. I may just have a new favourite on this menu though, the chicken wings cooked in a Canarian style with mojo picón sauce and served with plantain fritters, which are also common on the islands. It’s salty, sweet, spicy, juicy and messy all at once, that’s my kind of bowl.
Back by popular demand the twice cooked lamb also made a welcome appearance at our table with its deep, rich and delicate fragrance. If you’re a lamb fan grab this while you can, it’s reminiscent of shawarma when it’s been grilled and grilled again, lovely stuff. For afters it’s hard to see past the Spanish rice pudding which comes with a delicious crispy creme brulee style top. This dish is the signature dessert from Casa Marcial, the Michelin starred restaurant in Spain of Iberica’s Executive Chef Nacho Manzano, and I’m told he says it taste better in Manchester too. Must be something to do with the weather.
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