Sometimes I’m surprised that the food of Spain is not quite as ubiquitous in the UK as Italian and French food, given how many Brits holiday there year after year. One element of Spanish cuisine that has gained popularity here is tapa, which we usually refer to by its plural, tapas. These small dishes are traditionally served with a drink, but have now evolved into a type of meal in their own right, one made up of snacks or small plates.
Iberica, a small chain of restaurants specialising in tapas, invited us to check out their spring tapas menu at their London Victoria branch. They also more London branches in Marylebone, Canary Wharf, Farringdon and Cabot Square, as well as further afield in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow.
On a hot day in late spring, we chose a table outside (in part to avoid the music pumping out at high volume inside). Protected by an overhang, and set back from the main road, it’s a pleasant outdoor space, if not quite an oasis of quiet. Note it’s a bit of a wind tunnel too, though for us the breeziness was welcome in the intense heat.
Toasted bread with tomato (£3.50) was a delicious start, with a generous slop of fully-flavoured tomato on crunchy toast it was more substantial than the usual Spanish pan con tomate.
The Jamón Ibérico, on the other hand, was a big let down. We chose the smaller size offered of the Juan Pedro Domecq (£11), based on the menus description of its 42 month curing and gold star awards but found the portion small and the slices dry and not very flavoursome.
For me, Croquetas with Serrano ham (£6.50) are always a key dish by which to judge a tapas restaurant and these didn’t disappoint. Whilst not quite as meltingly soft as those at Pizarro, they were hot, soft and tasty.
Chorizo lollipops (£6) were exactly as described – chunks of chorizo fried in tempura batter and served with pear alioli. We couldn’t detect any pear, but the garlic came through well and these were crisp, punchy in flavour and easy to eat.
From the description, the Beef tomato & salmorejo (£6) with garlic breadcrumbs and a beetroot granita sounded wonderful. The reality was a horrendously unripe beef tomato served ice cold (robbing it of what little flavour it may have had), completely lost against the strong flavours of the garnishes. A dish such as this lives and dies on the quality of its main ingredient, and this one had no life at all.
Crispy chicken (£7.50) with romesco sauce and hazelnuts also came with artichoke, an unexpected treat. This was a fantastic dish, the chicken thighs both juicy and crisp-skinned, lifted even further by the rich red romesco.
Albóndigas (£7.5) (beef meatballs) were served with fried potatoes and Vizcaína sauce. They were decent enough meatballs but the sauce reminded me of old-fashioned boil-in-the-bag meals; there was something plasticy about the flavour.
A touch pricy at £9.50 the Poached hake with hollandaise sauce & baby gem was nonetheless a great dish, perfectly cooked fish with a delicate flavour and excellently matched by the lettuce sauce and hollandaise.
From the tiny Grill section of the menu, Lamb chops (£14.50) were a favourite, served with a punchy, almost Indian-tasting mojo verde (green sauce) and papas arrugás (wrinkly potatoes). For just two large-ish lambchops (each served in two pieces), the price seemed a bit high, but the meat had an excellent flavour and the chops were cooked just as I like them, with golden browned fat.
We finished with a Coffee flan with vanilla ice cream (£4.50), described as a twist on the traditional Spanish sweet custard flan, though it put me in mind more of a panna cotta though I guess they are essentially the same thing…
There are enough tasty dishes here to make an excellent meal, but a few duds that are best avoided. Service is friendly, knowledgable and attentive. The restaurant is pretty large, and would be great for after-work drinks and a light meal for those working in the area or looking for a meal near Victoria station.
Kavey Eats dined as guests of Iberica Victoria.