★★★☆☆ / Spanish / Tapas

Iberica Marylebone review – chorizo lollipops and dopey service

Great Portland Street tapas

Restaurant decor in London seems to have fallen into a Shoreditch-inspired rut. Bare light bulbs, reclaimed furniture, exposed concrete and brick walls – I’m bored of it all. The interior of Iberica’s Marylebone branch is therefore a breath of fresh air – both the ground floor and the mezzanine are decorated with handsome Spanish tiles and lanterns. The Randy Northerner was sure that the place popped up in an episode of W1A, but The Flame Haired Squelchie, Boris Bike and I were more concerned with ordering as much as the menu as we could in one sitting.

The Randy Northerner is lactose intolerant, but his attempts to get the staff to point out which dishes were suitable for him to eat (beyond the obvious, of course) were either ignored or met with incomprehensible mumblings. He was left to his own devices and therefore deprived himself out of over cautiousness. Given the clientele of suits and moneyed tourists, such inept service was surprising. Professional hospitality at its finest.

We started off with a small platter of jamon. The waxy flakes of beher etiqueta oro was mildly sweet, while the Juan Pedro Domecq started off with a fruity taste and ended with a nutty finish. My favourite had to be the Covap Alta Expresión though – a layer of creamy fat and a salty taste mildly reminiscent of soy sauce.

jamon iberico at iberica marylebone

Why I could never become a vegetarian.

The Randy Northerner obviously couldn’t enjoy the Torta de Trujillo, a soft sheep’s cheese. Although I was largely indifferent to it, the Flame Haired Squelchie enjoyed its mild saltiness.

torta de trujillo soft sheep's cheese at iberica marylebone

Feeling sheepish.

Although we were eating just outside of the English asparagus season, we were still disappointed by the limp, tasteless asparagus on offer. It was at least served on a bed of nutty manchego cheese, a moreish combination of truffle oil and sweet onion confit and soft, fluffy toast.

asparagus and manchego cheese on toast at iberica marylebone

Unexpected uses for a George Foreman grill. I kid. I’m sure it’s a Hulk Hogan grill instead.

The tortilla was reasonably firm and stuffed with with sweet onions and starchy potatoes. More unusual, yet far more enjoyable, was the light, creamy and lightly sweet chickpea purée. It was studded with tender cubes of pancetta and salty bits of chorizo, making it all the more delectable.

tortilla at iberica marylebone

Pac Man.

chickpea puree at iberica marylebone

This ain’t no hummus.

The cubed potatoes that made up the patatas bravas were nothing to write home about and the alleged spicy sauce drooled on top had as much heat as an Arctic gust of wind. More interesting, but no more successful, was the salad of avocado, apples, beetroot and strawberries, but the latter far outnumbered the other fruits and vegetables here. The muted sweetness of the strawberries and the sparse scattering of slightly sweeter than usual beetroot and mildly creamy avocado were tolerably amusing on their own, but the subdued flavours didn’t really gel together to form a coherent whole.

patatas bravas with spicy sauce at iberica marylebone

Meh.

salad of avocado, apples, beetroot and strawberries at iberica great portland street

Fruit and veg.

The Squelchie avoided the octopus (they’re too cute, apparently), but she wasn’t missing much. The soft slices of octopus and potato were deeply unremarkable, with the only flavour coming from the dusting of smoked paprika but even this was rather muted.

ocotopus and potatoes with smoked paprika at iberica marylebone

Day of the tentacles.

The black rice with cuttlefish had a risotto-like quality to it. The sticky, small-grained rice was stained with cuttlefish ink and was reasonably moreish. There were occasional hits of soft, salty cuttlefish but these were few and far between. Even then, the cuttlefish was overwhelmed by the garlicky, sickly, overly creamy aioli. Although far from perfect, I was still willing to scoff it – the Squelchie and Boris Bike, on the other hand, disliked it so much that they actively avoided it.

black rice with cuttlefish at iberica marylebone

Eating this will give you goth lips.

The trout somehow managed to be both earthy and light, but the bed of almond puree and crumbs of pickled cauliflower scattered on top of the fish were bland.

trout with almond puree and pickled cauliflower at iberica marylebone

Not trout lips, goth lips.

Segovian suckling pig is renowned for its quality, but something had clearly been lost in translation here. The lean pork was drearily bland, but at least the crackling was reasonably crispy.

segovian suckling pig at iberica marylebone

Oh dear.

Far more successful were the earthy, unctuous lamb sweetbreads served in a thin, light, sweet and gently creamy egg sauce. I thought it was a great combination, although the Squelchie begged to differ. She enjoyed the sweetbreads, but not the sauce.

lamb sweetbreads in egg sauce at iberica marylebone

Organ donors.

The earthy fillet of lamb had a crisp crust and was dressed with sweet tomatoes and peppers that complimented its meatiness well.

lamb with tomatoes and peppers at iberica marylebone

Flesh tones.

Chorizo lollipops aren’t as crazy as they sound – balls of chorizo deep fried in batter and served on a stick. It’s a fun dish, but this is due to the contrast between the crispy, oil-free batter and the tenderness of the meat as well as the garlicky aioli – not the been here-done that, uninteresting chorizo itself.

chorizo lollipops at iberica marylebone

Meaty chupa chups.

Boris Bike’s apple tart looked unusual, but he struggled to remember much about it mere moments after it passed through his lips. It wasn’t too heavy and the cool creaminess of the underlying dairy whip was pleasing enough, but that was it.

apple tart at iberica marylebone

It’s no apple strudel.

My light and smooth rice pudding had an unusual crisp layer of caramelised sugar on top. Both the smooth texture and the crackling made this pleasing rice pudding vaguely resemble a creme brûlée.

rice pudding at iberica marylebone

Puddin’.

The Squelchie enjoyed the zesty iciness of her lemon sorbet, but found the raspberry variant unremarkable.

lemon and raspberry sorbets at iberica marylebone

Blowing raspberries.

The Verdict

The quality of the food at Iberica varied wildly. For every successful, tasty dish was another that was unbalanced or another that was just shoddy and bland. Even more egregious, considering the price, was the inability of the staff to take my dining companion’s dietary requirements into consideration. Iberica Marylebone just scrapes in a Three Star rating, but I’d only eat here again if I couldn’t get a table at the nearby Salt Yard or the slightly farther afield Ember Yard.

What to orderLamb sweetbreads, chickpea puree

What to skipSuckling pig, octopus and potato

Name: Iberica

Branch tried:  195 Great Portland Street, Marylebone, London W1W 5PS

Phone: 020 7636 8650

Webhttp://www.ibericalondon.co.uk/restaurants/iberica-marylebone/

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 11.30-23.00 and Sunday noon-16.00.

Reservations: highly recommended

Average cost for one person including soft drinks when shared between four: £60 approx. 

Rating★★★☆☆

Iberica Marylebone on Urbanspoon

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2 thoughts on “Iberica Marylebone review – chorizo lollipops and dopey service

  1. The black rice with cuttlefish looked so unique, shame it didn’t live up. I was at Ember Yard last week so it’s interesting you rate Iberica higher – i HAD wanted to go there more, i’m sure I still will. Salt Yard is an absolute winner for me also. LW

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