Restaurant review: Iberica, East Parade, Leeds

squid with alioli.
Iberica, Leeds.  19 May 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
squid with alioli. Iberica, Leeds. 19 May 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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You have to be pretty special to stand out in Leeds’ crowded tapas scene.

You have to be pretty special to stand out in Leeds’ crowded tapas scene.

Oliver..Iberica, Hepper House, East Parade, Leeds...Iberica Octopus.27th April 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Oliver..Iberica, Hepper House, East Parade, Leeds...Iberica Octopus.27th April 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

The choice for those wanting little plates has exploded in recent years with seemingly every restauranteur wanting a corner of the popular market.

Iberica, on East Parade, opened in spring 2016 after the owners took on a dilapidated, 140-year-old auction house. It may look modest from the outside, but no money has been spared in renovating the huge, grade II-listed Hepper House building.

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

I’ve been a few times since it opened but I’ve wanted to take my mum for a while. We finally managed to sort a date (apparently diaries get incredibly busy when you’re retired) and we went for her belated birthday meal. We arrived earlier than expected but it was a quiet weekday and our table was free so we could sit down immediately.

Oliver..Iberica, Hepper House, East Parade, Leeds....27th April 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Oliver..Iberica, Hepper House, East Parade, Leeds....27th April 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Each room in Iberica 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 restaurant sits beneath an incredible lightwell on the ground floor. Lampshades above each table add a cosy feel to the spacious room.

We ordered drinks first. My mum opted for a glass of the Cosmic Xare lo and Sauvignon Blanc Do Penedes (2016). After being told my first choice of white was unavailable, I joined my mum by ordering a glass of the same. We both enjoyed it and agreed with the menu description of it being refreshing with hints of green apple and pear.

Iberica’s menu ranges from classic tapas dishes to traditional paella, full a la carte and an extensive drinks menu. We were advised by our waiter to order two to three dishes per person. We were hungry and indecisive so we went for six dishes between us, which was just enough.

My starting point whenever I have tapas is patatas bravas – cubes of potato in a spicy tomato sauce – so we chose this first (£5.50). We also went for Gavin’s garlic prawns (£8.50), kale salad with chickpeas and sweet potato (£4.50), corn torto fritter with pisto (£4), padron peppers (£6), and venison loin (£16.50), which was on the specials menu. The patatas bravas were tasty, although I’d have liked a bit more sauce.

Michelin Star Chefs come to Iberica, Leeds.. Quique Dacosta (right) pictured in the kitchen.16th May 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Michelin Star Chefs come to Iberica, Leeds.. Quique Dacosta (right) pictured in the kitchen.16th May 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

The garlic prawns and their sauce were delicious. We’d made the assumption that the dish came with bread as the menu stated: “with a sauce to dip bread in non-stop”. However, when we asked the member of staff who brought the prawns she told us bread was not a part of the dish and that was that as far as she was concerned. Confused, we mentioned it again to our waiter and he apologised and said everyone who ordered that dish made the same assumption and promptly brought us some free bread.

The kale salad with chickpeas and sweet potato, dressed with an orange vinaigrette, was a wonderful balance of flavours and textures and one of my favourite dishes.

The corn torto fritter with pesto was a pillow of air topped with Spanish vegetable ratatouille and quail egg. Unfortunately it lacked the same flavour as some of the other dishes we chose but the egg was cooked to perfection with a runny yolk. The padron peppers, flavoured with lashings of sea salt, were deliciously addictive and fortunately there were plenty of them.

I’m pescatarian but my mum enjoyed the venison loin – tender and perfectly cooked – although we both agreed it was an expensive dish for just five small pieces of meat.

asparagus toast
grilled cos lettuce salad
chorizo lollipops
Fideua with garlic and prawns
Iberica, Leeds.  19 May 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

asparagus toast grilled cos lettuce salad chorizo lollipops Fideua with garlic and prawns Iberica, Leeds. 19 May 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson

We were pleasantly full by the end of our meal but the dessert menu was just too tempting and we decided to share the churros with chocolate (£4.50) – light and fluffy pastries with melted chocolate, which were divine.

We also opted for a zesty citrus fruity finish (£4.50) – lemon ice cream with grapefruit, orange and coconut foam. It was a deliciously light way to end the meal – the sharp citrus flavours contrasting with the creamy coconut.

We rounded off the meal with a fresh mint tea and a flat white coffee (both £2.10).

The opulent tiled toilets in the basement are some of the nicest toilets I have ever been in and its not hard to see why they have earned themselves the title of the most tweeted toilets in Leeds.

There are plenty of tapas restaurants in Leeds but Iberica differentiates itself by aiming for the higher end of the market. The bill came to £82.91 for the two of us, including a 10 per cent service charge, which was added automatically. Overall, it’s good value for a nice meal, although some of the dishes were a little overpriced.

The food is good but it’s the décor and the high standard of renovation of this old building that really make it stand out as somewhere special.

FACTFILE

Iberica, east parade, leeds

Address: 17A E Parade, Leeds LS1 2BH

Opening times: Monday-Saturday 11.30am-11pm, Sunday noon-4pm

Telephone: 01134 037 007

Website: www.ibericarestaurants.com/restaurants/iberica-leeds

Ratings:

Food *****

Value: ****

Atmosphere: ****

Service: ****

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