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The Warmth of Spain is on Your Doorstep

Richard Esling - Friday, February 22, 2019
The Warmth of Spain is on Your Doorstep

The Warmth of Spain is on Your Doorstep

Signs of Spring at last! March is the time to start seriously planning some holidays in the sun – the Cote d’Azur in France, the Italian lakes or perhaps Andalucía in Spain, with its warmth not only of climate, but of its people, food and wines.
For a taste – in more ways than one – of the delights of the Iberian peninsula, hop on a train from Sussex and god and the RMT willing, you will arrive in Victoria. A 500-yard walk along Victoria Street and opposite Westminster Cathedral is a little bit of Spain, tucked away under the Zig-Zag building, in the form of Iberica Restaurant.

Iberica Victoria is a true Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant, with the added advantage of an interestingly different list of Spanish wines, many of which are imported direct from the producers in Spain. Many of these are served by the glass, allowing a different wine to be paired with each different tapa – and there is a wide selection from which to choose. Apart from the lack of a dancer in a flowing red dress, accompanied by Flamenco guitar and castanets, the restaurant achieves a truly authentic Spanish atmosphere, serving the best tapas I have eaten outside Andalucía itself.

In the words of the Group Head Bartender, Nacho Ordiz, “A true Spanish meal is nothing without drinks,” and the selection of over 50 different wines is designed to showcase the great diversity and vibrancy that modern Spanish wines are all about.
That iconic and massively under-rated wine called sherry, is offered in six different styles, all by the glass, starting at the extraordinarily good value of £5 for a bone dry Fino or Manzanilla. Sip as an aperitif or match with Calamares – fried baby squid with garlic mayonnaise. Or if you fancy a glass of something bubbly, try the crisp, dry Raventos Blanc de Blanc Cava, with its delicious aromas of pears and green apple on the palate. A plate of Iberico ham is ‘de rigueur’.
Recently, Albarino from the north-west of Spain, has come to the fore on many wine lists and it has become a favourite dry white wine of mine, with its distinctive, crisp, refreshing character. Iberica has no less than five different Albarinos, including a very unusual and utterly delicious aged version from the 2011 vintage. Fabulous served with salt cod brandade and root vegetable crisps, or poached hake, one of the Iberica signature dishes.

A good choice of other white wines is also available, together of course, with an eclectic list of reds which pair perfectly with the meat-based tapas. Seasonal specialities are featured on a changing list, irresistible when available. Hare croquetas or partridge pie. Sheer heaven for us omnivores. And with 15 reds by the glass, including some from the deliciously fruity yet little-known Mencia grape variety, the combinations with these or other tapas are endless. Twice cooked lamb with marinated cherry tomatoes and red peppers from León, paired with a glass of Petit Pitacum 2016 Mencía, from the Northern Bierzo region is not to be missed.
The executive chef for the Iberica restaurants (5 in London and one each in Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow) is Nacho Manzano, a 2 starred Michelin chef – patron at Casa Marcial restaurant in Northern Spain. His signature dishes are well-worth looking for on the menu. One of these is Caramelised Spanish rice pudding. Forget your memories of a glutenous, highly suspicious curdled mass from your schooldays, this is a sublimely delicious dessert. Match it with a glass of the sweet red, port-like Gratavinum Dolç D’En Piqué 2015 from Priorat.

Iberican heaven.