Monday, 13 July 2015

Iberica, Manchester

Iberica, Manchester
Iberica is one of my favourite new places in Manchester. Back in March we visited the Marylebone restaurant whilst we were in London for my birthday, and were quick to sample the new Spinningfields site on our return. When the folks at SquareMeal asked if I'd like to come to try the new menu and have a catch up with some other local bloggers, I couldn't wait! I took my blogging partner in crime Lee, who has been with me on both of the other occasions, so is pretty much an Iberica professional these days.

The best part of tapas style food is the ability to share it with friends, and this little close knit group was no exception. Lee and I were joined by fellow bloggers Peter (The Hungry Manc), and Bob and Ciara (Where to Feed), as well as the delightful Ele and Neil from SquareMeal who hosted an evening full of food, wine and much laughter! 
It was a beautiful evening in Manchester, so Lee and I had already frequented Neighbourhood for a few fancy cocktails. We were greeted upon arrival at Iberica by Ele and Neil, and a large fruity sangria. Group Head Chef César García accompanied every course, with a delightful explanation in excited detail. Lee was utterly convinced he was in fact a Spanish 'Mr Selfridge'. I can neither confirm nor deny whether he does this on the side.

Toasted bread with tomato: I'm not sure how they got the tomato flavour to be quite so intense. This brought back happy memories of visiting 'Uncle Tom's' greenhouse as a child (Uncle Tom being my grandparents' neighbour). 
Toasted bread with tomato
Trio of Ibericos: There were three types of Iberico ham here, all with a unique flavour.
Trio of Ibericos
Cheese selection: Jeepers. These cheeses ranged from mild and creamy, to the type that stings the roof of your mouth in that wonderful way that only a good gloppy cheese can. Lee described the selection as 'heaven'. She likes her cheese that one; I've witnessed her cane a full block of creamy Lancashire with ease.
  • Mahón D.O.P. - Raw cow's milk cheese with an acid and salty flavour.
  • Tous del Tils - Raw cow's milk cheese with a creamy flavour and a lactic touch.
  • Urgell D.O.P - Cow's milk cheese with a tender texture and smooth taste.
  • Ibores D.O.P. Pimentón - Goat's milk cheese rubbed with paprika.
  • Manchego D.O.P. 12-14 meses - Raw sheep' milk cheese, intense flavour and long savoury finish.
  • Gamoneo "Sobrecueva” - Cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheese with a strong flavour and slightly smoked.
  • San Simon - Cow's milk cheese, mild and fluttery flavour with a smoky undertone.
  • Torta de Trujillo, Finca Pascualete - Organic sheep’s milk cheese, smooth and creamy texture.
  • Rey Silo Pimentón - Cow's milk cheese with an intense flavour and notes of cream, spice and butter.
Cheese selection
Anchovies: Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that fish is not my strong suit. I was brave. Although I only sampled one piece, this was deliciously salty without being too fishy.
Wine: To be honest I have no idea what the wines were, I just know that they were perfectly matched to the food we were sampling.
Warm bread with olive oil: I'm a sucker for warm bread. A firm crust of soft crumb; this was perfect when dipped in the Salmorejo (below).
Warm bread with olive oil
Salmorejo (thick gazpacho) with green apple and basil granite and sun blushed tomato: Sweet tomatoes served with tart apple and basil granite. I can only liken this to a walk through a Spanish garden in summer. Delicious.
Salmorejo with green apple and basil granite and sun blushed tomato
Asparagus, manchego, onion confit and truffle oil toast: The last time we visited, this was my friend Clare's stand out dish. I left this one to Lee as I can't eat truffle oil, but it was given a glowing report yet again.
Asparagus, manchego, onion confit and truffle oil toast
Iberica's Serrano ham croquettes: Little balls of melted cheese and ham magic. In Lee's words, 'I could quite literally eat only these for the rest of my life!'
Iberica's Serrano ham croquettes
Fresh mackerel with orange and saffron escabeche: Once again, I ate fish an saw that it was actually lovely! This came as quite a shock to a life long fish-hater.
Fresh mackerel with orange and saffron escabeche
Fresh hake with hollandaise sauce and lettuce water: Oh that beautiful hake in hollandaise. Fresh and creamy and everything that confirmed my hatred for fish dishes has gone out of the window. Fish fact for you - hake makes me laugh as it's 'colin' in French. All hake are therefore called Colin when I see them on a menu. Childish, I know.
Fresh hake with hollandaise sauce and lettuce water
Fried chorizo lollipops: That's right; a chunk of chorizo battered, with a stick in it. Pop it on a pile of aioli and you're laughing. One of my favourite dishes on the menu.
Fried chorizo lollipops
Octopus a la gallega with potatoes and pimenton de la Vera: Lee's little face when a tentacle was placed a foot away from her nose... She was terrified of trying it, yet declared it 'so beautifully cooked' that she really enjoyed it. It was meaty in texture without a hint of toughness. That pimenton de la Vera is something very special indeed.
Octopus a la gallega with potatoes and pimenton de la Vera
Chicken with chilindron sauce and rosemary potatoes: Imagine if you could condense the smell of roast chicken into something ten times as potent - here we have it. It smelled delicious, and tasted just as good.
Chicken with chilindron sauce and rosemary potatoes
Mixed grill of 100% Iberico pork prime cuts from Pais de Quercus: We were at that point... the point in any tasting menu where you're feeling a bit beat, only for someone to declare that the main meat course is about to arrive. Four different types of pork, full of flavour, moist and beautifully tender. It left us destroyed.
Mixed grill of 100% Iberico pork prime cuts from Pais de Quercus
Creamed potatoes with tomato: These weren't even mentioned on the menu, but accompanied the pork. I'm convinced there must have been more butter than potato in this little bowl.
Creamed potatoes with tomato
Chocolate mousse with herbs cress and red fruit salad, yoghurt, vanilla oil and cider gel: Lee had declared herself almost out at this point, but perked up when she saw this beauty! I didn't try this one as I was saving myself for the churros.
Chocolate mousse with herbs cress and red fruit salad, yoghurt, vanilla oil and cider gel
Churros con chocolate: One of my favourite things in the world; hot churros dredged with caster sugar. Pour some sugar on me. I was in heaven.
Churros con chocolate
Tocinillo de cielo - egg yolk custard flan with cinnamon and lemon zest milk foam and salted caramel ice cream: This is a traditional Spanish dish which is a bit like flan and a brown sugar tart. Surprisingly light and not ridiculously sweet.
Tocinillo de cielo
SherryOur evening was wrapped up with lots of laughter (mainly aimed at some of the ridiculous entries in my diary when stolen by my husband and friends...) and chatter about our favourite restaurants. It was a lovely little group, and I think we would all agree that it was an absolute delight to be in the company of like minded people, whilst enjoying some wonderful food and wine, where so much thought had been put into the menu.

A massive thank you to all who organised the evening at SquareMeal, to our company for such glittering conversation, and of course to Lee for being my date. This was food to talk over. Let's not wait so long until we do it again!

Square Meal

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