On a lovely summer mid-week day in the heart of Leeds city centre, there was an early evening buzz as the post-work crowds descended on the various bars and restaurants.
We were looking for an express dinner as my companion was heading to work for a late shift, and we picked Las Iguanas near the Corn Exchange as we were both craving a meal with some kick.
The large, open restaurant was already buzzing with families, groups of friends and couples.
We were seated quickly near the window, with a nice view of the world outside.
Las Iguanas is part of a large, nationwide chain and serves Mexican, Brazilian and South American food as well as all-day 2-for-1 cocktails which is an inevitable draw.
It clearly has no pretensions above offering up crowd-pleasing favourites in a friendly atmosphere and I had no problems with that.
It’s had a bit of a refit since big Oliver last visited in 2015, with bolder signage outside.
The menu is varied, with all the popular Latin staples like burritos and enchiladas, a variety of tapas, burgers and a few eclectic extras with more of a global influence also chucked in.
We’d arrived just a few minutes too late to take advantage of the early bird offer, which includes three tapas for £15.95 and five for £25.95.
I wanted a pick and mix, so went for the three-tapas option anyway, which meant we could share a plate of Nachos (£7.50) as one of those options.
They were tasty though not spectacular. But then, how spectacular can a plate of nachos be? The guacamole and soured cream was a refreshing antidote to the heat of both the dish and the weather outside.
My Gambas (£7.25) were lovely. The huge butterflied shell-on prawns were cooked in a delicious garlic, lemon and chilli sauce, served with ciabatta. I loved mopping up the chunkier than expected sauce with my crispy bread. It was the star of the show and my partner loved dipping into it too.
My other tapas was a smaller (though still pretty generous) version of the Quesadilla (£5.50) . This was a tortilla wrap, filled, folded, pan-toasted and served with roasted tomato salsa. I chose the spicy chicken filling but a garlicky mushroom option is also available.
I felt this was the weakest of the dishes, with not much flavour to the chicken. The accompanying salsa helped but not hugely.
I had also asked for an extra portion of cassava fries but they never turned up. I eventually just cancelled the order.
My companion, a committed carnivore, went straight for the sirloin steak (£18.95).
The 10oz slab of beef was served with a spicy, chunky salsa and came with fries and a chipotle chilli butter (or fresh herb chimichurri salad).
The meat was well done, just as requested, and my partner loved it alongside the deep and delicious chipotle butter and spicy tomato and onion salsa. However he had been offered and had asked for curly fries as his main accoutrement, but they had no curl in them!
Service was quite slow, and even though we’d popped in for an express dinner, we were there for almost two hours. The mains took about 40 minutes to come and we had to wait around to ask for our bill too. When we pointed out the double mix-up with our side dishes, we were offered profuse apologies, with the explanation that a very large birthday party group had thrown things. The staff were friendly and welcoming, but the delays and mix-ups did take the shine off our evening.
Las Iguanas is great for those seeking crowd-pleasing, unpretentious flavours and a relaxed atmosphere. It just needs a little tightening up of the service. It’s the difference between a decent to good experience and a great one.
Our bill came to £46, which I felt was not great value for our money overall on this particular visit.