Walking into Ibérica Farringdon on a hot London day, one could be forgiven for imagining that the underground had travelled further south than Farringdon station which is situated only steps away. This is testament to a good design team who have imported the furniture, even the panelling on the bar, thus lending an authentic Spanish feel to the interior. A posse of smiling Spanish waiters only adds to the Latin charm.
The menu has a large selection of tapas divided into vegetarian, croquettes, meat and seafood from which we chose our lunch while picking on a bowl of manzanilla olives. Our waiter patiently noted our respective allergies and advised us on a suitable range of dishes.
We sat back to await our meal overlooked by a huge Velasquez reproduction, Phillip III on Horseback if my art history memory serves me well. The room, elegant and relaxed with dark wooden tables was fitted out with floor to ceiling glass cabinets filled with wines and tins of Spanish foods.
First up was a board of Cecina from León. This salted, air – cured beef is a Spanish delicacy dating back to around 4BC. It was deeply red and simultaneously light and meaty, the sort of cured meat that could become addictive if one lived nearby a Spanish delicatessen.
Fortunately I do not or my cholesterol levels would be threatened. Less successful was the Pan con Tomate which was surprisingly insipid in colour and taste. Perhaps the tomatoes had not been imported from Spain.
A dish of five Serrano ham croquettes arrived, the cheesy ham interior oozing out from a light and crispy case. Who can resist a croquette especially ones as well executed as these?
The next dish provided its own fanfare as the smell of truffle oil wafted over our table. A thick slice of toasted artisanal bread was smothered with a layer of onion confit and melted manchego and topped with fine asparagus spears and truffle oil.
Rich and unctuous, I made a mental note to try this at home. A top quality toastie.
Crispy confit of Segovian suckling pig, apple pureé and friseé salad was crispy and flavoursome while the octopus with potato and pimenton was on the pulpy side for my taste.
The highlight of the meal was a bowl of gazpacho. This simple soup was elevated to new heights with the addition of red berries, beetroot and anchovies. Looking resplendently pink – like a borscht – in a pea green ceramic bowl, it was garnished with a swirl of fresh cheese.
This is one of those dishes of loveliness whose recipe I covet. I did not have to wait long for my desire to be fulfilled as the restaurant’s website provides recipes including this one,
We could at this stage have ordered from the main course menu of paella, platters of cured meats and cheese, salads and stews. Sadly our appetites extended only to trying a couple of dishes off the short dessert menu.
A bowl of churros with chocolate sauce reminded me of Spain on Sunday mornings, queuing outside the Churreria while huge wheels of freshly fried churros were cut into long lengths and wrapped in large sheets of white paper. Walking off with one’s breakfast held aloft like a bouquet of flowers was a wonderful way to start the day.
Our second dessert was a caramelised Spanish rice pudding which is typically found in the Northern Spanish region, Asturias. A thin layer of hardened caramel cracked to reveal the rice pudding below, a lovely contrast between the toothy rice and the creaminess of the sauce. I licked the bowl clean.
Before we left, the mixologist entertained us with a cocktail demonstration which involved smoking the glass with a melange of woodchip.
Alongside the impressive bar sits a row of jamóns Ibérico, each locked into its ham stand awaiting the expert knife of the jamón slicers, trained for many a year until they master their craft. It is not a sight for the fainthearted or vegetarians.
This area of the restaurant is certainly where the theatre of food and drink is on display. I bet Phillip III would love to hop off his horse to join in.
Ibérica Farringdon 89 Turnmill Street EC1M 5QU
I was invited to lunch to review Ibérica Farringdon. All views expressed are my own.