Ibérica in Marylebone: “Everything comes together for a glowing experience”
With a decade of experience and nothing less than Michelin-starred Nacho Manzano as their executive chef, Ibérica restaurants have woven an ode to contemporary Spanish cuisine across the streets of London. Their menu specialises in tasty tapas paired with a selection of distinctive wines from the region. Marylebone’s venue, the group’s flagship, features a charming design curated by architect Lázaro Rosa Violán. The warm tones of the interior, from the welcoming wooden bull’s head to the spherical glass lanterns hanging from the ceiling, combine with the blue decorated tiles for an atmosphere that breathes Mediterranean vibes. The specials for this summer comprise a tailored gourmet trip to Castilla y León – without the current hassle of physical movement – a north-western area famously known for some of the country’s best wines. At the time of our visit, it’s pouring – another typically wet summer’s day in the capital. However, despite the overcast sky outside, the cosy setting makes the idea of entering the restaurant even more appealing.
We begin with a round of sharing appetisers (we encourage practising Covid-safe manoeuvres), and it is basically impossible to miss a serving of Cecina de León and Jamon Ibérico Cebo, the first being particularly smooth. From the dairy section, the ivory Manchego joins the spread, semi-hard and tangy. Most pleasing on the tastebuds is the Tostada de Higos: La Antigua torta cheese meets moreish fig wedges on a soft bread base. The special wines suggested for the Castilla y León menu pairing have been specifically picked from small wineries that best embody the area’s variety and quality. La Osa’s Trasto, whose labels recall the fun story behind the name, offers an aromatic and bright red Pietro Pecudo, as well as an elegant white Albarín.
The Morcilla de Burgos are a must at Ibérica. The sausage burgos hide underneath a sprinkling of rice grains which add crunch to the bite, enveloped by the fleshy caramelised Bierzo peppers and topped with firm baby squid. The Milk-Fed Lamb Sweetbreads are a nice contrast, with a very pulpy consistency. The two wines accompanying these courses, which strike us immediately thanks to their cute label design, feature hints of grippy tannins: Alfredo Maestro’s albillo Lovamor 2020, delightful for its minerality and freshness, and a structured mencía Pardo 2016 from La Osa, with a berry finish.
As a palate cleanser, the Baby Gem Lettuce and Green Salmorejo take the tongue through an interesting mix of textures, with the crunchy leaves and the avocado purée. The mouth is now ready to greet the Lechal de Cordero. This is a speciality of the region, as the juicy meat attests, served up with generous sides of roasted potatoes, Bierzo peppers and green salad. The dish marries well with Las Jaras, a blend of mencía, pietro picudo and alicante bouschet. It’s a bold and acidic wine, surprisingly light for a glass of tinto. The same company, Fuentes del Silencio, produce a mildly creamy Fuentes del Mataperezosa, a blend of Palomino and Doña Blanca.
It would be disgraceful to end a lunch like this without churros, so the fried rings have to grace our table together with a bowl of chocolate dip. But an even more appropriately sweet happy ending comes courtesy of the Vanilla Crème Caramel. Every spoonful of the airy orange flan lusciously binds with the palo cortado chantilly cream. Our sherry pick for this dessert is the Noe 30-Year-Old from Pedro Ximenez.
It could be the golden light in which the wooden furniture is swathed. It could be the jamón carver in action at the back of the room that reminds us of scenes from stalls and traditional shops in southern Europe. It could be the intense drinks combo. Whatever the special ingredient is, at Ibérica everything comes satisfyingly together for a glowing experience. Though the food performs fantastically as the main character, this is an ensemble piece.
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Ibérica, 195 Great Portland Street London W1W 5PS, call 020 3026 5118 or visit their website here.