When I walked through the entrance of Ibérica’s Manchester restaurant on Easter Sunday afternoon, I was feeling pretty special. And so I should have done, being my 30th birthday and all. After winning a little Instagram competition over on Ibérica’s page, I decided to use my £50 voucher prize towards a tasty tapas birthday lunch – and it turned out to be the perfect choice.
Ibérica are a small Spanish tapas restaurant chain with branches in four London locations, as well as Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds. At all its restaurants, you’ll find authentic Spanish cuisine with a contemporary twist, in a laid-back tapas bar setting. I’m a big fan of anything that comes in the form of tapas and had heard some good things about Ibérica, so got pretty excited about checking out for myself.
Like all of Ibérica’s venues, this Manchester tapas restaurant has been designed by Lázaro Rosa Violán – a Spanish architect. And it’s absolutely gorgeous. On one side, the giant floor-to-ceiling windowed wall lets light pour into the dining area; and on the other, vibrant red paint gives the space warmth. Stretching up to the high ceiling are shelves of display wines, with simple wooden tables and stools to sit on.
Oh, and the staff had found out it was my birthday and organised a pretty lil’ bottle of pink fizz to start off the lunch, which was super lovely!
Ever since visiting Barcelona’s Jamon Museum, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Spanish cured ham. So, we ordered Ibérica’s tasting plate to share. Starting with the mildest, a Jamón Serrano, through the COVAP Alta Expresión, and finally, the four-time award winning Juan Pedro Domecq. Each was delicious, and it’s easy to see why the latter is an award winner – salty and strong, this 42-months-cured meat offers a real gourmet mouthful of Spain.
To go with it, we ordered the tangy Manchego cheese, and the toasted bread with tomato. They were a great extra starter, although we enjoyed the jamón seperately – because it’s perfect enough on their own.
Tapas time, baby!
One of my all-time favourite Spanish tapas dishes is Chorizo Lollipops, and Ibérica’s definitely hold their own amongst the best that I’ve eaten. Crispy and fresh tempura batter wrapped around smoky chorizo, the pear alioli was the perfect slightly-sweet dip to go with it.
The exterior batter of the Calamares was super crunchy, with a real bite to it. Inside, the squid was well cooked and a great consistency. Rather than the rubbery squid rings that many restaurants offer, Ibérica use the full squid – and the crispy clusters of tentacles were a delicious highlight of the dish. Great creamy alioli too.
The Patatas Bravas were, unfortunately, a let down in comparison to the other tapas dishes. They seemed slightly undercooked, and a little too squishy for my taste – I prefer a crispier bite. The sauce wasn’t my favourite either, and needed perhaps a little extra spice and flavour.
Another dish I particularly enjoyed were the Albóndigas – beef meatballs served with fried cubed potatoes and Vizcaína sauce (a Spanish sauce made from sweet red peppers). The meatballs themselves were hearty, flavoursome and filling, and I actually liked these potatoes more than the Patatas Bravas…
The Twice-Cooked Lamb dish was clearly tasty, because we scoffed it down pretty quickly, although in truth I can’t wholly remember too much about it. According to the menu (and by looking at the picture, it was served with marinated cherry tomatoes and red peppers from León). Definitely a very nice dish, but perhaps not the most memorable.
Quite honestly, I wasn’t overly excited about the Torrija dessert as it wasn’t something I’d choose myself on the menu. But it came as part of the prize package, so I gave it a try. And honestly, this might just be one of my favourite desserts EVER. A soft brioche bread pudding, soaked through with milk and finished with a thin caramelised sugar topping. On the side, a beautifully tangy apricot coulis added a fruity tang to the light and creamy taste of the torrija, and vanilla ice cream melted slightly into the pudding’s heat. It was, quite frankly, bloody amazing, and the perfect finish to a lovely meal.
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If you’re looking for a Spanish tapas restaurant experience in a gorgeous setting at an affordable price, Ibérica is most definitely worth a visit. Other than the peppers and Patatas Bravas, the food was really excellent quality, and had a great Spanish flair. A brilliant spot to enjoy a slow and chatty lunch with friends, or a slightly special weekday evening meal.
And a great place to celebrate your birthday, obviously.
4-15 The Avenue Spinningfields, Hardman St, M3 3HF