Saturday, 24 December 2011

Restaurant Review: Iberica Canary Wharf

I've made do bones about the fact that Iberica on Great Portland Street is one of my favourite restaurants in London, so I was excited to visit their new Canary Wharf branch. Here's my review for Scout London.

Almost three years since Michelin starred Asturian chef Nacho Manzano made his mark on London’s landscape, he’s doing it all over again.

Iberica Food & Culture opened up on Great Portland Street without the loudest of bangs, but quickly gained a symphony of praise for their undeniably high-end but refreshingly laid-back modern tapas concept.

Nacho oversaw the menu and operation, making regular visits from Spain to ensure the quality was right, and its receipt of a Bib Gourmand from Michelin, recognising its value for money offering, shows just how spot-on he was.

This month saw the concept move east, with Iberica becoming the latest foodie addition to Canary Wharf. Though Nacho’s guidance is paramount, he’s placed the restaurant firmly in the hands of his protégée, Cesar Garcia. At 27, he’s one of London’s youngest head chefs and a sure-to-be star of the future.

Catching up with Cesar ahead of the opening, Scout London got a sneak preview of some of the new dishes he’s helped create for the restaurant. A beetroot gazpacho is so earthy and full-flavoured that it makes the classic tomato version seem somewhat placid in comparison. It’s served studded with delicious buried treasure in the form of sunken anchovy pieces, and topped off with a goat’s cheese sorbet.

Another sees deep fried ‘tempura’ spring onions paired with dips of alioli and soy sauce, the two working together to create a rich, umami flavour that complements the silkiness of the onions.

And it’s comfort food ahoy with a reworked version of a classic shepherd’s dish that involves a potato foam poured over bread, ham and chorizo then crowned with a runny yolked egg. We reckon that one’s a breakfast waiting to happen.

These dishes not only show off the thought that’s gone into flavour matching, but are also typical of what Iberica offers, merging classic Spanish dishes with international influences and modern techniques. As Cesar explained to us, “Many people think of Spanish cooking as having to be traditional, the way it was done in the past. But, of course, Spanish cooking has moved on and there is no reason to stand still.”

We quite agree. And having negotiated the labyrinthine corridors of Canary Wharf’s weird shopping centre underbelly in order to get to the restaurant as it opens, we are glad to say the real deal doesn’t disappoint.

Slivers of the finest Jabugo jamon slip down our throat with ease, and paired with a glass of salty manzanilla sherry, we feel so godly that the bull’s head looking forlornly down on us from the wall becomes a piece of religious iconography.

Our particular brand of worship involves unctuously oozy croquettes, grilled prawns with chilli and garlic, scallops with cauliflower puree and grilled slices of marinated iberico pork loin washed down with specially imported wines that you won’t find anywhere else outside of Spain.

Contented? Just a bit. I think we’re going to start going to church…

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