GALLERY: First look as historic Leeds auction house transformed into impressive new tapas restaurant

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THE Leeds dining scene is a saturated market, with restaurants offering street food dishes to Michelin-starred creations and everything in between.

The city boasts some top class restaurants and premium sites are in short supply.

Iberica at Hepper House in Leeds. Pics: Tony Johnson.

Iberica at Hepper House in Leeds. Pics: Tony Johnson.

So anyone wanting to muscle in on a piece of the action needs to be prepared to roll the dice and do something bold.

Taking on a dilapidated, 140-year-old auction house in the city centre, for example, might seem foolish to some.

But tapas restaurant Iberica is about to prove that their risk has paid off.

The company has taken over the huge, Grade II-listed Hepper House building on East Parade, giving it big-money makeover.

Set across three floors, it includes a 123-seat dining space, adjoining wine bar, wine cellar, deli, private dining room, shop and cocktail bar.

City Buzz has seen every new restaurant that has opened in the city centre in the past year or so – but we have to say this one certainly has the ‘wow’ factor.

Each room has been created by Spanish designer Lazaro Rosa Violan, who uses many of the building’s original features to shine a light on its impressive history.

The safe, which was once used to store priceless art and other auction items, is now proudly on display as a liquor cabinet in the cocktail bar, with the basement walk-in safe used as a storage area.

The old elevator has been transformed into a small shop, with a glass-fronted wine cellar and wine bar in the basement area, opening onto the street behind.

Iberica already has four restaurants in London – including one at Canary Wharf – and their Manchester site opened last year.

Diners in Leeds can expect traditional Spanish dishes as well as a more modern take on casual tapas.

Iberica head chef César García told City Buzz: “We have classic tapas like Spanish omelette and patatas bravas, and we like to take a different approach by working with different flavours, colours and textures to make something tasty.”

Other dishes on the menu include fried beef and Iberico pork patty with asturian cheese, pan-fried cod with pil pil and ranero sauce, asparagus, manchego, onion confit and truffle oil toast, fried chorizo lollipops with pear aioli plus César’s favourite – serrano ham croquettes.

Once the restaurant is up and running, wine masterclasses for £10 per person and wine pairing dinners will be on offer.

With recent additions to the area such as Stockdale’s, The Alchemist, and the regeneration of the Greek Street area, this little corner of the city centre is set to go from strength to strength.

This new addition to the city’s dining scene fills a gap in the market for casual tapas dining within luxurious and historic surroundings, and is in a great spot just a stone’s throw from landmarks such as Leeds Town Hall and Leeds Art Gallery.

Due to fully open to the public on Friday, April 15, we’re sure food fans will be bidding for a seat at the top table in no time.