Last Friday the Tortuga decided that we needed some time on our own, due to the rigours of Christmas preparations and the usual year-end challenges on the work front. So we refused an invitation to a friend’s party and took ourselves off to Ibérica in Marylebone by way of the Soviet Art and Architecture exhibition at the Royal Academy. By the way, the exhibition is excellent, especially if you have spent any time in Russia. Don’t be put off by the 1920s Constructivist art form which is the backdrop to it, because the photographs are an extraordinary insight into Soviet building design and communal society living. The bad state of the buildings as a result of poor construction techniques and years of neglect are an appropriate allegory for all the bad that has occurred over many decades in Russia.
If you like sherry then this is the place to be and they have an excellent selection all by the glass. They also offer a strangely large selection of mineral waters, if that’s what you want. I counted six of them in all. We started with a couple of glasses of Fino sherry and the selection of cured meats. Ibérica specialises in Iberico ham from black pigs that roam wild and eat acorns. Sounds very close to nature, but all I can say is the meat is to die for. With the dry sherry it’s a great way to start a meal and drive out the cold and wet from the long walk up Great Portland Street. After this languorous start, we stuck with the tapas and a beautifully rounded rosé Rioja, Beronia Rosado, which at just over £20 for the bottle was extremely good value. Whether from the land or the sea, as they describe it on the menu, the tapas was beautifully cooked and presented. Squid, scallops, chorizo and so on, you just couldn’t fault it. For me the dishes were the ideal size as I prefer to graze slowly through a meal with lots of variety, although I suspect for heartier appetites they might seem a bit on the small side. The highlight has to be the Morcilla de Burgos, otherwise known as black pudding.
We ended up with the Spanish cheese selection from the beginning of the menu and rice pudding to finish. The cheeses were an interesting journey although I do personally favour stronger flavours, Spanish cheeses seem a bit mild and buttery to me. Of the selection presented the Valdeon was my favourite, of course the familiar Manchego was there too. As I wasn’t paying attention at this point I missed the wine that was suggested for the rice pudding, which would probably have been a good choice, so ended up back to the sherry with a fine Oloroso instead.
All in all a very enjoyable evening out. And the best part of all? The bill only came to a bit over £130 for the two of us. I think that’s excellent value all round and I will be making the long walk again before too long (www.ibericalondon.co.uk).