And lo, another tapas restaurant! Or so spake the ungrateful date as he approached lovely Ibérica from its less lovely vantage on Great Portland St. Fear not, said she, for Ibérica bears no aesthetic resemblance to the chorizo and endlessly-fried calamari peddlers that now line the streets of Shoreditch, reeking of patatas bravas. Nor does it recall tapas’ humble origins as a taverner’s technique for repelling the flies (according to Wikipedia, fount of philological research, tapas were the slices of bread or meat with which sherry-guzzlers in Andalusia covered their glasses between sips).
Ibérica is polished and pristine, atmospheric in the manner of a five star hotel lobby – a hubbub and bustle of international visitors. If you or your beloved are lovers of Catalan culture seeking to recreate halcyon years abroad in Valencia, consider that Ibérica has been such a hit with the well-heeled that it seduced Made in Chelsea ‘performers’ away from SW3. Such success has also called for expansion, with a new branch in Canary Wharf offering its expensive almuerzo to financiers. If, on the other hand, you’re both hard-nosed cosmopolites with a buck to spend and sharp elbows for tables, Ibérica is for you.
An extensive selection of jamón, cured for a varying length of time, is showcased in the ‘trio of Ibéricos’ (£22) and perfectly smokey and supine next to tomato bread (£2). Then onto perfectly salty, Padrón peppers (£6), ham croquetas, like deep-fried clouds melting on the fork (£6/10), slices of tender octopus and potatoes (£9) and lamb, twice-cooked, and dressed with cherry tomatoes and red peppers (£9). One or two more tapas, over yet more cocktails (£8-10), sherry (£5-10) or a jug of sangria (£20+), and you’ll be undoing your top button as a prelude to the after-party, and quite possibly be broke.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be going clubbing in central London, Ibérica provides a suitable and seductive warm-up. It’s also not too far from theatre-land, where you’d need to scamper fast after the show to get a table by 11pm. The website boasts a ‘statement bar’ that offers a refuge to the more casual courtship, contrary to its moniker making less of a statement than a £120 dinner.
Ibérica takes a less nocturnal, more licence-conscious approach than its Andalusían forebears, closing at 11pm.
4. Tired of tapas, tired of life.