Las Iguanas

April 25, 2013

When I’ve asked people about the food at Las Iguanas I’d say the most common response is “lovely  – about as good as you get from a big chain”, followed by a fair number who say “yeah its ok”, and then you get the odd “pretty poor really”.

I’d say those verdicts were reproduced in fairly close proportion on my recent visit to taste their revised summer menu.

First of all I’ll say I’ve always admired the way the place is run. Its schtick is all latin fiesta, and they genuinely do create a relaxed party atmosphere.  If you really need a quick-start to the weekend go down at 6 on a Friday and have a couple of cocktails  and some small plates and it will definitely lift the mood.  Similarly whenever I’ve been there for one of those big shambling office parties, the staff have coped admirably. I like the space too – it’s a pleasant place to be.

So how did the food stack up this time?  I started with lechuga rellenos, more prosaically stuffed lettuce leaves. This was excellent – fiery hot chipotle chicken pieces in curls of Little Gem dressed with sour cream, feta. pickled onion slices and tomatoes, with additional flavour from a herby chimchurri drizzle and a very, very good beetroot salsa. This was a great combination of lively flavours and I reckon you’d have been happy to get it in a little backstreet restaurant in [central American country of choice]. Not sure that Kevin’s fish taco quote warranted  its soubriquet  “Spectacular” but it had many of the virtues of my dish – being well cooked fish fillets, a good mix of flavours and generally having the aura of happy food.

For me the mood was dispelled rather by my main course of Henrique Rapadura.  This was lamb henry, a shoulder cut  for slow cooking, in a “sweet and sticky” cane sugar, soy, mint, guajillo chilli and star anise sauce. Sadly the sauce failed to fire – none of those flavours were really discernible and it resembled one of those bottled sauces you buy in case of barbecue weather and then wish you’d made your own. Worse,  the lamb was pretty tough and of only average flavour. The sauted potatoes and beetroot salad were fine.  Kevin’s feijoada was more successful. It didn’t quite have the brooding quality of my Brazilian friend Elie’s, but it was an honorable version – a slow cooked stew of beef, smoked pork shoulder and chorizo with red pepper and beans, it’s not for the faint-hearted but was nicely smoky and flavoursome and well presented.

Deserts included a dulce de leche and macademia cheesecake, which was all fine and dandy, and an affogato which was almost, but not quite. Possibly the prinicpal appeal of this ice-cream-in-coffee is the interplay of hot and cold, so its got to be served quickly.  Maybe it’s just because we were sitting a fair way from the kitchen in what is a big restaurant, but they missed the window of opportunity wit this one. The dulce de leche ice cream was great and if the spiced rum espresso had still been hot it would have a real treat.  The cinnamon-dusted churros for dipping were great.

Staff – lovely, friendly and helpful. Atmosphere  – even on a Monday, nicely upbeat. Drinks   – fantastic. Food – in the main, very acceptable but you may need to be order carefully.

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