Spinningfields isn’t my usual stomping ground – it has about as much soul as Piers Morgan – but occasionally, I trudge over to Manchester’s financial district to eat at places I’ve heard so much about (see: Manchester House) that I can no longer refuse my greedy nature the pleasure.
Ibérica opened in March, 2015. It’s a small chain with 8 restaurants across the UK and, yes, it really has taken me this long to visit. I blame Evuna in the NQ, with it’s robust fixed-price menu with the addition of seasonal specials and impossible-not-to-order-something-delicious wines that are served in glasses the size of my head. The arrival of El Gato Negro to King Street hasn’t helped, either. Then there’s La Bandera near Deansgate and in the Arndale market, Lunya in Barton Arcade, and Tapeo and Wine on Deansgate, too. We’re a bit spoilt for choice when it comes to indulging in Spanish cuisine here in Manchester.
But, I keep hearing about Galican style octopus at Ibérica (mostly from Sarah over at North West Nosh), and so I have no choice but to go.
There’s a charcuterie area in the entrance which is a bit of a tease; I think if it’s going to be positioned there, they could at least provide me with a little sample in exchange for my coat. Alas, it’s not to be and we have to wait until we order. The ground floor bar area is opulent: vast walls of glass and mirrors, oversized ceiling lamp shades, and a bull’s head mounted on a very red wall housing a well-stocked bar with over 100 Spanish wines and more gins than your average self-proclaimed ‘Ginderella’.
To eat, we head upstairs where there’s decidedly more energy and my seat opposite the kitchen affords me the decent view of hundreds of well-formed small plates surging out of the kitchen like ants to the nest, scurrying by with delicious morsels thrust above their heads. The air is heady with garlic and I select dishes by trying to match what’s whisked past my nose with what’s on the menu. We order slightly more than our well-versed waiter recommends (2-3 plates per person) but somehow manage to eat it all and even order dessert.
We start with a platter of half and half charcuteria and artisan cheeses with savoury-sweet bites of quince jelly. This is a must. In fact, I want to go back the next day to sit in the bar, drink and have someone feed me slithers of glistening fat-laden jamon.
Wild hare croquettes are on the specials board and come highly recommended, so we order these, too. They’re crisp round bites topped with blobs of tangy, creamy tartar sauce that I like very much with the slow-cooked rich melting middle. I could have dined on these alone but there is so much more to come.
With our food, we share a bottle of wine that’s decanted into a Porron, that I’m sure is meant for spout-to-mouth drinking and not for pouring into glasses which is clear as we decorate the table with a rather delicious Beronia Reserva, Rioja. Fortunately, I’m eating at such a rate that I need neither the entrainment nor distraction and overlook the wasted wine as I see what’s heading our way.
As we neck the last of the croquettes, the Galician style octopus arrives on a bed of crushed potato and aioli. Of all the dishes, the octopus is not to be missed. It offers up slightly charred, smoky, sweet tender tentacle perfection. One bite and I’m truly glad we finally decided to eat here.
In a haze, we’re still basking in the glory of the octopus and pouring wine everywhere but in the glass, a plate of marinated and breaded pork served with lentil purée and shredded cabbage arrives as does a plate of venison meatballs with apple puree, and two tiny pork sliders with pickled Piparra peppers and giant parsnip fries. Everything else is good but the sliders are a whole mouthful of joy: juicy pork (they really do know their way around a pig here) with the gentle, sweet cajoling of the jalapeño and soft bun.
The last of the tapas to arrive is the twice-cooked lamb. It’s served with a cold accompaniment of marinated cherry tomatoes and red pepper. Sadly, it’s an anti-climax; the lamb is tasty but I can’t get away with the fridge-cold accompaniments. If only we’d ordered just another bite of that paprika-fuelled octopus.
To finish, we order coffee and share churros with dipping chocolate; I’d have ordered an Affogato too but I’m close to bursting by this point. Still, I manage to salivate over the glistening jamon while our coats are being collected from the cloakroom. A sure sign, we’ll be back.
14-15 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3HF