Last Friday we were invited to try out Las Iguanas to kick off our bank holiday weekend. Family friendly restaurants make my heart sink most of the time, yes my kids will most likely eat but there won’t be much I’d want to pay for on the menu and in the end I’m picking up a bill for food I’d rather not have had to eat let alone pay for, but that’s family dining out for you, or is it?
Well it would appear all restaurants that welcome children are not created equal and it was great to discover a family friendly restaurant which doesn’t comprise on the menu. At Las Iguanas the grown ups are spoilt for choice with the menu. We enjoyed Happy Hour with 2 for 1 cocktails whilst we made our choices and Lil H and Diva G settled down to the serious business of their activity packs – colouring, dot to dot, spot the difference etc.
We kicked off our South America taste adventure with tapas, you can share three dishes for £13.80 or five dishes for £23.00 before 7pm. You can’t beat tapas for encouraging the small people to try new tastes – translation – the calamari was demolished in no time at all!
Mr L and I tried a couple of the traditional Brazilian dishes on the menu. I tried the Bahia Moqueca with squash, palm hearts and spinach which was recommended by our waitress, Alisha. What a great recommendation it was too. The Bahia Moqueca was absolutely delicious and as much as I’d like to try other things on the menu I’d be hard pressed to walk away from the opportunity to try that again. Mr L had Feijoada de Puerco, the National dish of Brazil which was a rich, smoky stew with chorizo, pork and beef which he also loved. With eyes bigger than his belly he also ordered a side of patatas bravas which we all tried.
A ninos meal (the kids menu) of a main course, dessert and one drink is £5.90 offerred mini burgers, mexi-pizza, quesadilla, fish strips, tacos or meatballs. Great value, especially the bottomless organic squash which means as many free refills as you would like. Love this, a lot! My two had mini burgers and fish & chips which they shared half and half between them.
We all just about managed desserts which all looked and tasted fantastic. My Berry Mexican Mess might have the edge on the British Eton Mess and I speak with extensive knowledge and international research on this particular dessert!
We loved our meal out at Las Iguanas, the restaurant and team at Cheshire Oaks over in Ellesmere Port were great. Special mention to Alisha who couldn’t have been more attentive, genuinely helpful and kind to Lil H and Diva G – they wear their “Iguanas” T-shirts often and with pride! Thank you for having us, we will be back soon!
We were looking for something interesting to eat on London's Southbank and came across Las Iguanas. We soon discovered this is the best place to go for South American fusion food. Early evening and it was full, they have a bar area where you could eat nibbles and have drinks and hidden in the back down a few steps is a large dining area. London marathoners, proudly brandishing their medals and telling tales of exhaustion and exhilaration after completing the gruelling 26 miles, joined and had adopted Las Iguanas as their temporary home.
The menu covers a lot of the planet. You can choose from Mexico, Chile, Peru, Cuba and Brazil and that's just the cocktail list. This is a fantastic destination to take the family or meet up with friends. You can just graze or really go for it. Not formal, but relaxed in every way it is hard to beat the fun aspect here. There is also an organic children's menu with blended foods for seven months plus, a real steal at £1.90. The older children's menu is only £5.90 with a good selection of food from around the globe.
After a few delicious appetising drinks we moved on to select our food. International was the way forward. Bread and olives came and went then a large taco tray for sharing. There are various fillings; shredded beef, spiced shredded lamb (my favourite), chillies, oven dried tomatoes with feta to fill up the warm corn and wheat tortillas. At £13.90 for four of us this is better value than ordering separately and it's great fun to dip in and share the same food. The kids loved this bit of the meal.
For the mains we went our separate ways. I ended up in Brazil with Feijoada de Puerco, a stew made with beef, pork shoulder, chorizo and garlic served with rice and slices of orange on the side. It had an authentic, rustic feel to it. Every nation has its own special stew this one is no less than most others and pepped up by the citric addition. M travelled less and enjoyed chicken fajitas. They came sizzling with coriander and lime and the usual components. Hearty large finger food that, we as a family really enjoy, tasting and sharing. Other dishes were around (it's easy to over order here as there is so much choice), a children's pizza came with sliced peppers and carrots on the side.
An Aztec chocolate fudge cake was nice and spicy and danced on the plate with vanilla ice cream. A triumph in chocolate. The berry Mexican mess was as the menu describes 'A pretty pile up' was a kind of Eton mess but with hibiscus syrup, mascarpone, yoghurt and a sprinkling of crushed meringue with obligatory strawberries. This was fab and had us all drooling. The youngest one chose from the kids menu a chocolate brownie with ice cream and he decided to have a mini milk ice lolly 'chaser'. I think all that talk of exotic cocktails had gone to his head.
So as we left the exhausted runners sipping their revivers, I felt that as a family we may not have run 26 miles but it felt as if we had just eaten 26 courses. A great fun lively place to eat that doesn't take itself too seriously but does get a lot of things right.
Mexican food is enjoying plenty of attention of late. There is so much more to Mexican food than many people realize - it's full of fresh flavours and interesting ingredients. Las Iguanas is chain of Latino-themed restaurants that seems to be moving with the times and has introduced a new menu offering freshly made authentic Latin American dishes originating from Mexico and Brazil. It's a lively restaurant to eat at, with loud music and cocktails flowing, and this was certainly the case on a recent visit to the Oxford branch on a Saturday night to see things for ourselves.
The menu offers loads of choice, from sharing dishes, to more predictable mains, such as fajitas, and a range of interesting Brazilian main dishes, including feijoada. We started with a very good mojito each and a selection of tasty nibbles, including some grilled king prawns and the Las Iguanas deconstructed guacamole which was very good indeed.
It's great to see so much of the menu is gluten free, and dishes are marked accordingly making ordering easy. For our main course, we tried the fajitas which were cooked in a delicious spicy, smoky blend of spices, and the galinhada, a Brazilian paella type dish with rice, prawns and chicken which was very tasty and interesting to try something a little different.
For desert, we really enjoyed the Mexican mess - a twist on Eton mess made using a sweet hibiscus syrup drizzled over cream, meringue and berries.
Las Iguanas really surprised us by just how good the food was. It is fairly priced and there is plenty of choice on offer, too. We found it to be a great place for an informal, relaxed meal with plenty of allergy-friendly choices on offer.
Yorkshire Evening Post
Chain restaurants can often become quite tiresome. But luckily, latin luxury Las Iguanas has found its niche.
Sadly there don't seem to be too many dining venues in Leeds that celebrate all things Mexican. But, thankfully, this is where Las Iguanas steps in. Over the years it has cemented its place in the hearts of the city's culinary tastebuds. And judging by Little Oliver's last visit to the lively chain restaurant, it certainly hasn't let its standards slide.
My dining partner and I arrived in the early evening and there were only a few diners in the restaurant. But during the course of the meal hungry diners slowly started to trickle through the doors. Little Oliver is almost certain it would be a more bustling affair later in the evening and during the weekends.
The dark wooden furniture was complemented by bright paintings and there were also a few token iguana murals dotted around the walls. Known for its spicy fajitas, enchiladas and burritos, the chain also offers an early evening menu which included a selection of tapas dishes for adventurous diners. But Little Oliver decided to let his stomach rule his head and ditch the early menu and opt for the classic chicken fajitas. And the dish, which was priced towards the top end of the menu at £13.90, certainly didn't disappoint.
The tender strips of chicken breast were served on a sizzling plate complete with a heap of onions and red and yellow peppers.The chicken was cooked in a mix of coriander, lime, paprika and cumin which helped to add a special kick to the dish.
Our friendly waitress, who even told us she was called Jennie just to add a further personal touch to the meal, adorned the table with dishes of chunky guacamole, soured cream, jalapeños, and homemade salsa. Little Oliver loved nothing better than creating his own custom-made designs with the pile of four wheat tortillas and even felt a sense of mourning after greedily snaffling the final fajita.
My dining partner opted for another Mexican staple - a shredded beef and caramalised onion burrito. The titanic tortilla parcel came topped with huge dollops of homemade salsa, sour cream and guacamole. The dish was packed full of flavour and the burrito practically bulged at the sides with rice, coleslaw and cheese as my companion cut into his meal.
For a brief moment Little Oliver drifted away and felt like he was almost on holiday until he looked outside and was reminded that his table overlooked the majestic Corn Exchange.
Altogether for our meals along with a delicious virgin pina colada and a pint of beer tipped the scales at just over £30. It was certainly good value for money but my dining companion and I were left wondering how we would hot-foot it back to the office on such full stomachs.
More than Mushrooms recently visited Las Iguanas – a chain of Latin American restaurants with branches across the UK.
We had initially been encouraged to try it out because, although it’s not a wholly-vegetarian restaurant, it appears to have one of the largest veggie menus of the chain-restaurants we’ve seen. It’s unusual to find a mainstream restaurant that really puts the effort in when catering for veggies, so to hear that Las Iguanas not only has a separate veggie & vegan menu, but that they also take care to use veggie griddles and separate fryers, use vegetable stock and vegetarian cheese, and that they avoid using gelatine in their desserts, was such a nice surprise.
We visited the Liverpool branch on a very busy Thursday evening, and even though the restaurant was full we received a very friendly welcome and our greeter took the time to explain the menu to us, tell us about any offers that were available, and to ask if we would like a copy of the veggie & vegan menu. It was a real treat to be offered a separate veggie menu, as it takes the guesswork out of ordering, but all of the vegan and veggie options are also included on the main menu and clearly labelled as such. The menus also clearly label which items are gluten-free, which contain nuts, and which contain alcohol.
Our waiter was friendly and helpful, offering suggestions when we deliberated between dishes, and while we never felt like we had been forgotten, nor did we feel that the service was in any way intrusive. It can be a difficult balance to strike in a very busy restaurant like this, but we certainly felt like we were attended to efficiently, without ever feeling rushed.
What we ate
We shared three tapas dishes to start:
Empanadas: Two brie & mango-filled crispy pasties with corn and sweet chilli salsa
Quesadilla: Tortilla, folded, char-grilled, with guajillo chilli mushroom, truffle & brie, with a home-made tomato salsa
Lechuga Rellenos: Little gem lettuce leaves filled with oven-roasted tomatoes, feta and coriander, with fresh herb chimichurri and sweet chilli & beetroot salsa
Chimichanga: Tortilla parcel packed with roast butternut squash, cream cheese, spinach, fine beans and chickpeas, with tomato salsa, guacamole, soured cream, spring onion, garlic & coriander rice, and refried beans
Aztec Chocolate Fudge Cake: Warm spiced chocolate-orange sponge cake, with vanilla ice cream
The menu includes a selection of veggie starters, including more familiar Mexican dishes such as bread & olives, nachos or tacos, or, like us, you can opt for some of the tapas dishes as a starter. There are also plenty of main courses to choose from, whether you go for one of the ‘Mexican Classics’ or something a bit more unusual ‘From Brazil and Beyond’, and an equally interesting selection of side dishes includes, patatas bravas, plantain, corn on the cob, cassava fries and black bean fritters.
I love Latin American food, but if I have a criticism of this kind of restaurant it can be that often the veggie options all consist of tortillas with a similar filling, rolled or stuffed in a slightly different way! However, that criticism doesn't apply here, as Las Iguanas genuinely has a proper selection of different veggie dishes that are interesting and appealing.
The three tapas dishes we shared were all delicious, fresh-tasting, and combined interesting flavour-combinations. Veggies often get served pretty boring options, but all of these dishes were imaginative and unusual enough to make it worth eating out. (After all, there’s nothing worse than going out to dinner only to be served a really uninspiring dish which you could replicate, and even improve upon, at home!) The Latin influence also meant that the food generally had a bit of a kick, which lifted the flavour of the dishes, but managed not to be overpowering, for this chilli-shy diner! The only minor drawback to having all of this choice, is that the tables for two are a little bit snug for laying out several tapas dishes at once!
The main-course chimichanga was also a very tasty version, not stodgy but filling, and with the nice addition of roasted butternut squash. The accompanying rice was fluffed-up to perfection and the refried beans were delicate and not at all like wallpaper-paste (a criticism my dining-companion usually levels at all refried beans, so this is high praise indeed!) All of the dishes were also beautifully presented and it is clear that Las Iguanas makes an effort not to scrimp on the extras that make dining-out so much fun – for example, our dishes came variously with tomato salsa, guacamole, beetroot salsa, aioli, soured cream, herb chimichurri, and corn & sweet chilli salsa – all of which we really enjoyed.
It was a real pleasure to see that the desserts were all vegetarian, and so, even though we were both full, we shared some chocolate fudge cake. This was no ordinary chocolate cake though, being orange-y and warmly-spiced, but still chocolate-y enough to satisfy a chocoholic. There was also a great selection of coffees, cocktails and other alcoholic drinks to choose from, but by this time we needed to be rolled out of the place, so we’ll have to try them next time!
Friendly, efficient service
Fresh, tasty food, made with quality ingredients
A genuinely interesting and diverse selection of veggie and vegan options
I would visit Las Iguanas again without hesitation and, on the basis of this visit, would recommend it to other veggies. Even with veggie choices improving all the time, it is still refreshing to find a chain of restaurants that takes the time and effort to cater for vegetarians and vegans as well as Las Iguanas does, and I am already looking forward to my next visit.
Dish of the day
Joan Stephens finds out why restaurant manager Alejandra Friess swapped Venezuela for life in Leicester
Alejandra Friess’s eyes sparkle when she talks about food in Venezuela, her home country. She has a particular fondness for Argentine beef steaks: “They can be very good here in England, but at home they are melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous – unbelievable!’’ she says. She came to Leicester eight months ago to take up the post of general manager of Las Iguanas restaurant and bar in Belvoir Street.
She has been part of Las Iguanas since 2007 and opened its restaurant in Milton Keynes. Before that, she had been working in the hospitality industry since her arrival in Britain in 2005.
“I came initially because I wanted to study English and thought I would be happier here than in America. “I didn’t speak a word of your language when I came – my degree was in IT. Some of the student friends I met at the London college where I began studying moved to Milton Keynes, so I decided to go with them.
“I took a job as a waitress in a Spanish restaurant, which fitted in with my studies. I enjoyed talking to customers, and my English improved. I was offered promotion after a month and a year later I heard Las Iguanas was opening in the town and, as it fitted with my South American background, I applied for the job of deputy manager. And I got it.
“I loved it there and we won the Milton Keynes Best Restaurant of the Year in 2007 and 2008, which was great.’’
After six years in that post, Alejandra’s line manager told her it was time she applied for a general manager’s job. She went home for a holiday, as she tries to do in June every year, and on her return was offered the job in Leicester.
“I had done some training here when I first joined the company, so it felt good to come back. Being in charge is
very different from my other roles and it’s a big responsibility, but I love it.’’ It’s a demanding role – the restaurant
is open seven days a week, from noon until at least 10.30pm most days and 11.30pm on Friday and Saturday, the busiest days.
Alejandra believes it is the variety of menus on offer which attract many customers. “Our Halal menu is very popular and I think we are the only restaurant offering a complete gluten-free menu and a vegan and vegetarian one.
’’ The main menu has Mexican classics, such as fajitas and tacos, chimichangas, enchiladas and big burritos, while from Brazil there’s XinXim Galinhada – a traditional Brazilian paella chicken and rice dish and Brazil’s national dish Feijoada de Puerco, a rich dark stew of beef, pork and chorizo with red pepper, black beans and red wine. All accompanying salads and salsas are freshly made each day. Alejandra was brought up with this type of food. “My mother and grandma get up at 5am to start cooking for lunch at noon. They always use fresh foods from the market with lots of spices – South American food is full of flavours and can be quite spicy. “We have lots of salads and salsas – one of my favourites is Ensalada de Pollo, with potatoes, carrots and shredded chicken.
“Among vegetables, our avocado pears are gorgeously creamy and we use them a lot. There’s also cassava, which can either be boiled, or fried so that it’s crispy – it is something our customers here can try, too. “Our Venezuelan national dish is Pabellon, which is shredded beef with rice, black beans, fried plantain, with avocado and a fried egg. For special occasions we might include chocolate in a beef dish – we served this here in
the restaurant last Christmas and people thought it was amazing. We should definitely do it again.’’ Fish is a great favourite back home: “Tilapia is very popular,” says Alejandra. “It is fishy, but in a nice way. In Venezuelan and Colombian coastal resorts there are restaurants where you can either watch the waiters catching the fish in a net, for you to choose from, or customers can have a small rod and line and catch their own fish – so it’s as fresh as you can get!’’
While tapas is hugely popular with Las Iguanas customers, so are their drinks, which hail from all over South America. The restaurant chain has its own sugar cane plantation near Rio de Janeiro. The cane is used to produce cachaca, a fermented juice which is an
ingredient in Brazilian Caipirinha. Among the 25 or so cocktails on offer, there are Margaritas from Mexico, Daiquiris and Mojitos from Cuba, Piscos from Chile and Peru – and, of course, there’s Pina Colada “which everyone loves,’’ not forgetting Sangria, “which everyone also loves,’’ Alejandra laughs.
Desserts are delicious (“good, but not as lovely as my grandma’s, which is rice with cinnamon and dulce de leche and is simply the best in the world’’ is Alejandra’s verdict). They include fudge cake, ice creams and sorbets and a
cheesecake with dulce de leche, the ingredient best described as a creamy, toffee luxury – heaven on a plate for those of us with a sweet tooth.
Kingston Time & Leisure
We have always loved eating out! We've tested many a restaurant and there's nothing better than an evening of good food, company and a cheeky cocktail. Back in the day, making a reservation was easy as pie (excuse the food pun). Day or night, when it was just the two of us, we could be as flexible and spontaneous as we wanted.
Things have certainly changed now, as we have a son and one on the way. To say our criteria for what's important in dining out has dramatically altered would be an understatement and we think this applies to lots of other families out there. Is the restaurant child friendly? Does it have enough high chairs? Is there a decent well thought out children's menu?
Now we think it's important that our sun learns to enjoy the social experience of eating out and spending time in different environments, so we've been on a mission to road test some child friendly eating establishments in Kingston.
'Las Iguanas' were so welcoming on the phone. 'Yes Sir, we have an organic children's menu, lots of high chairs, would you like to make a reservation?' yes please! the food was great and they had activity bits to keep the little one happy. He was in his element and the staff kept him entertained too
When something has been therefor a while it’s easy to stop noticing it. It just sort of fades into the background, becomes part of the furniture, no longer really registers on the radar. And for me, that’s what had happened to Las Iguanas. My partner and I had eaten our way around the menu several times and as more and more new eating venues opened in Bath, what had once been a favourite haunt found itself slipping down the list, eclipsed by new options. So when I visited this week I was pleasantly surprised to see that the menu had had a revamp since my last visit (which must have been more than a year ago) with a whole host of interesting and unusual dishes inspired by the flavours of Mexico and South America, added to the list of old favourites. It was good to see some dishes I had never heard of, let alone even tried, and the staff were knowledgeable and keen to offer advice.
There’s a good cocktail menu, with early evening visitors able to take advantage of the two for one happy hour promotion, and an interesting and reasonably priced wine list with most hailing from Chile or Argentina.
We decided to start with a taco sharing tray (£13.90). With eight different fillings to choose from we struggled to pick just three, but in the end we narrowed it down to Tinga (Mexican smoked chipotle chicken), shredded beef, slow-braised in smoked chilli and
coconut roasted butternut squash. This turned out to be a very sizeable starter which could comfortably be shared between four, although it was so tasty the two of us had no trouble polishing it off. We both agreed that our favourite was the beef which had a lovely heat from the chilli. No sooner had our starter been cleared than our mains arrived. As it was so large we could have maybe done with a few more minutes before embarking on the next course but it seems churlish to criticise quick service.
I had opted for the Chilean lamb shank which was glazed with honey, mustard & chilli and came with coriander yoghurt, garlic and coriander rice and seasonal greens (£14.50). The lamb was tender and just fell off the bone and the accompanying sauce was rich, with the mustard and chilli nicely cutting through the sweetness of the honey. My partner chose the Bahia Moqueca with sustainable white fish and prawns (a vegetarian version is also available) – a spicy thick tomato and coconut curry with peppers and garlic which came served with coriander rice, sweet chunky plantain, spicy salsa and toasted coconut farofa to sprinkle (£12.30). There was no scrimping on the fish and prawns, with large chucks of fish and plenty of whole prawns. We had ordered a couple of sides of black bean fritters (£2.50) and sweet plantain (£2.20) which, given the size of our main courses, were unnecessary but nonetheless delicious. I finished the meal with a Creamy Caramel Cake (£4.90) which was not as heavy as it sounds. Layers of light, moist sponge sandwiched a caramelized cream, accompanied by raspberries and a drizzle of dulce de leche. It was the perfect sweet note to finish the meal. My partner’s Pecan Caramel Sundae (£4.50) came highly recommended by our waitress and he thoroughly enjoyed the toasty pecan butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream with nut-encrusted tortilla wedges. A new range of Cortade coffees has recently been added to the menu. According to the accompanying blurb Cortada means ‘cut’, and the honey processed Brazilian espresso is layered (or cut) with thick condensed milk and a silky foam. I went for a Chocolate Cortada (£3.90) which had been laced with a chocolate liqueur and my partner chose the Magnificent Mexican Cortada with premium Patron Tequila and Patron XD Café (£4.90).Both packed a punch, both in terms of the caffeine kick and the tipples which had been added, and revived us from the lethargy induced by over indulging.
The atmosphere is fun, with Latin music playing and a picture of Rio de Janeiro across one wall, perfect for a night out with friends or even a family meal. I couldn’t fault the meal for value for money and the service was excellent – very friendly but not intrusive. The evening made me remember exactly why I used to enjoy visiting Las Iguanas so much. It’s now firmly back on my radar.
Las Iguanas is at 12 Seven Dials, Sawclose. Telephone 01225 336666
Aberdeen Evening Express
THE unstoppable onslaught of Christmas is upon us, driven along by the soundtrack of cheesy festive hits of yesteryear. Sometimes, though, you just want a different beat, one that is miles away from the chintz of merry winter wonderlands that in real life is just grinding weeks of cold, ice, snow and dreichness. Ah, for the rhythms of Latin America and the promise of sun-kissed exotic lands. So it was a bit of a surprise to discover a wee slice of South America has been transported to the heart of grey granite Aberdeen.
On first glance, though, you think Las Iguanas is just another chain place offering Mexican fare. But keep going down the menu at the door of the Union Square eatery and you find dishes you’ve never heard of before – and some you can’t even pronounce. Mexico is on there, right enough – but so is Brazil, Chile and even Cuba, which was enough to get the three of us in our dining party through the door and sat down in this chic and cheerful place. And it was heaving, too. We weren’t the only folk looking to escape the winter.
When faced with an unfamiliar menu in an unfamiliar place, Mrs B and I usually decide on a sharing platter of something to help get a grip on what it’s all about. Cue one taco sharing tray with a selection of three fillings for creating your own goodies. I was expecting those hard shell things and a bit of beef and chicken. What we got was far removed from that old chestnut ... and simply wonderful.
The “tacos” were mini flour tortillas so you could roll your own mini-wraps using the fixings – a delightful cheese and salsa melt, pickled onions and sour cream – and fillings that came in not-so-wee bowlfuls. The tinga was a chicken stew with a delightful, chipotle tang to it. The shredded beef was slow-braised and melt-in-the-mouth wonderful, with a smokey hot paprika blast that was so more-ish. All this was aided and abetted by chilli mushrooms that were intense and meaty. This was the sort of starter you end up going back to a place to have over and over again.
Meanwhile, our littlest diner was merrily munching on her kid’s meal of fresh, flaky perfect fish and curly fries from the excellent children’s menu and raving about it. Bonus. Mum gave the quality and choice a big thumbs up.
And I was doing the same with my main ... the unpronounceable Brazilian national dish of feijoada de vaca. I may not be able to say it, but by jings could I eat it. It was a rich hearty stew of the tenderest morsels of beef with flavour-packed black beans and piquant chorizo in red wine. It was one of those dishes where you are trying to place the subtle herby-spice taste then just give up and enjoy it as a fine piece of cooking with so many different and interesting flavours going on in the one bowl. Even the sprinkle of coconut crumbs (not something I’d normally thank you for) brought an extra dimension.
Meanwhile, Mrs B had stepped out with pollo con chorizo, a dish made with that most under-rated meat, chicken thigh. Tender and rich, it went perfectly with the smoked pork and garlic chorizo, all bound up in a rich tomato sauce, spiced up with paprika.
Another winner of a dish for what is a winning and classy new restaurant.
Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina
So…last week we went to a chain restaurant for dinner. Not just any old chain, though, but one that began in Bristol back in 1991, and has become known for its food and its cocktails since then. Las Iguanas on Whiteladies Road has rebranded recently, and is known as Clifton Cocina as of October 2012. With a new “development dish” scheme, Clifton Cocina now gives diners the chance to have their say and help to decide which dishes from the chef’s specials menu make it onto the main menu for the next season.
We were invited down to see the changes for ourselves – and after the meal we had, I think we’ll definitely be back. The last time I visited the Whiteladies Road branch was well over a year ago with a good friend and my little sister…who decided to order fajitas for her main, followed by sweet fajitas (pancakes with all manner of fillings) for dessert. This time around, we skipped dessert (far too full after a starter and a main), but made the most of the cocktails.
Cocktail fans will be happy to know that their happy hour is from 5-7pm Tuesday to Saturday, and all day on Sunday and Monday. It was this menu that we chose from: the boy went for a classic “Dark ‘N’ Stormy” (Goslings rum and lime with fiery ginger beer, £7), while I chose a Dappled Apple (£6) – a sweet and refreshing combination of vodka, cloudy apple juice and creme de cassis over ice. A great start to the night – and accompanied by a small plate of spicy tortilla chips and salsa, on the house.
The cocktails and tortilla chips gave us a little time to look at the menus – both the standard fare, plus the new Clifton specials menu. Manager Jimmy claims that some dishes on this menu will rotate every two weeks, with a complete change every month. I chose my starter from the specials menu, intrigued by the Empanadas queso fresca (£4.90) – fried pastries stuffed with feta, black bean, sweetcorn, sweet and pickled chillies. I’ve had some horrific empanadas in the past, but the pastry here tasted fresh and not at all greasy, and the filling was generous. I didn’t get as much of a chilli kick as I was expecting, but this may be a good thing…the pastries were served with an amazing fresh herb sauce and I think any more chilli would have killed off the flavours of both elements.
From the main menu, the other half ordered the Albondigas (£5.50) – another generous portion! Lamb meatballs (still slightly pink in the middle, it was good to see) paired with fresh mint, apple and nutmeg…delicious! We couldn’t really taste the mint in the tomato sauce, but the mild chilli kick added a great edge to the dish. The size of my starter surprised me – but not as much as that of my main course! I was intrigued by the Xinxim (£11.40) from the standard menu – an amazingly rich-sounding combination of lime chicken, crayfish and a peanut sauce. I was presented with a huge earthenware pot sat on top of another pot containing a candle, plus a huge plate of rice, green beans, sweet plantain and toasted farofa (coconut) to sprinkle over the dish. I’d definitely order this again, but may need someone to share it with next time! The chicken and crayfish were both perfectly cooked, the sauce thick and creamy, the hint of peanut and the lime combining perfectly. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to be sprinkling the coconut on (just the chicken? The rice and vegetables as well?) but it was delicious. I’d have quite happily gone for a smaller portion of rice and veg, but ate as much as I could!
It was the tried and tested Chimichanga (£9.90) that whetted the boyfriend’s appetite: a huge, crisp tortilla stuffed with tinga chicken, onion and cheese. The filling itself was beautifully smokey and very generous, and the whole thing came with mounds of rice, refried beans, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. The plate of food was even too much for his appetite, and we decided to pass up the offer of dessert.
Yes, it may be a chain, but the atmosphere is fantastic: a blend of drinkers, couples and celebratory groups leads to a relaxed and buzzing atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. The food’s pretty damn good too, and the cocktails are well worth a happy hour visit. I’m looking forward to heading back to try out more of their ever-changing specials in the future…
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina
From humble beginnings, Las Iguanas is now a national chain with dozens of restaurants across the country. As a nod to its Bristol beginnings, the original Las Iguanas on Whiteladies Road has now been rebranded as Clifton Cocina, where the red and green colours have been replaced by more subtle hues.
With its headquarters just a few hundred yards away on the other side of the road, it makes sense for this restaurant to be their development kitchen, and while sticking with their Latin theme, it is here that new dishes will be trialled before being rolled out to the 27 other members of the chain across the county.
The name of this restaurant (which means kitchen in Spanish) is embossed on the wine menu. Pick certain wines and you will see a member of staff climb up the ladder behind the bar to find it on the uppermost shelves.
As my 21-month-old daughter enjoyed playing with the pots and pans and pretend food provided by the friendly and attentive waiting staff, her mother and I enjoyed the real food on offer, which for me was chorizo in a firey jalapeno sauce followed by a delicious roast lamb that was virtually dripping off the bone.
Washed down by bottles of Cusqueña from Peru, I finished my own meal with a banana and ice cream concoction encased in pastry, a tasty twist on a typical banoffee pie.
The food selection changes regularly, with the mains changing fortnightly and the specials weekly. Sometimes it’s fun to be a guinea pig and the Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina is the perfect place for that; who knows what will appear on the menu next.
Bristol Evening Post
It's all change at the flagship Clifton branch of Bristol- based chain Las Iguanas. Not only has it acquired a new name in Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina, but the entire restaurant has been redesigned along with the menus.
What was previously a dark, claustrophobic room with red walls and abundant pot plants has been transformed by designer Neil Masters, whose previous work includes fashionable London restaurants such as Hix Soho and Casa Brindisa. He has created a much lighter, fresher feel to the place with colourful tiled floors, exposed brickwork and new lighting.
Although it's now a huge national chain, Las Iguanas started in Bristol 21 years ago and this Clifton restaurant remains the place where all the new dishes are created and tried for the first time. The new menu is much shorter than before but still features a mix of Las Iguanas classics and old favourites alongside new seasonal dishes and daily specials.
The food is still staunchly Latin American with Portuguese, Spanish and African influences, but there is now a burger on offer as well as new dishes like Brazilian rare beef salad and Amazon fish (tilapia fillet topped with herby tomato and pepper sauce, crayfish and banana with coconut and raisin rice). We ordered individual dishes, kicking off with excellent albondigas (£5.50) – three large, soft and minty lamb meatballs in a rich tomato and chilli sauce – and the sugar cane chicken (£5.50), which arrived as skewers of tender, chicken fillet and hot cubes of pineapple marinated in lime, garlic, dark rum and habanero chillies and drizzled with honey.
To follow, Henrique Rapadura (£14) from the specials menu was a revelation. A large piece of lamb shoulder on the bone had been cooked slowly to tender, moist perfection under a glossy, dark and sticky sauce of cane sugar, chilli and star anise. It was served with cubes of hot spiced beetroot and a spinach salad. A dish of chicken a la diabla (£12.90) was not unlike a rich Asian curry because of its blend of green chillies, cumin, coriander and tomato. The chicken breast strips were tender and it was accompanied by tortillas and a dome of fluffy, loose rice
Verdict: The fresh new look at Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina reflects the shorter, more approachable menu and vibrant new dishes while retaining the restaurant's Latin attitude of old.
Las Iguanas is a chain of Latin American restaurants dotted around the UK. I had the pleasure of visiting the one in Reading recently and I'm glad that I have finally been introduced to them. Never having been to one of the restaurants before I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised and am now totally hooked.
The interior was beautifully decorated, colourful and had a 'warm' and 'friendly' feel to it which contributed nicely to the atmosphere and overall ambiance of the restaurant
The bar has a whole selection of different drinks. The Cocktails and mocktails are a fun alternative to the usual Diet Coke. For drinks, we decided on the Raspberry Coolers (Raspberry and Elderflower) which were in the 'Happy Hour' menu at just £3 each and were in a 2-4-1 deal so ended up only being £1.50! Not a bad price at all. Later on in the evening, I also decided to order the Citrus Cooler (Crushed Lime, Lemon, Ice and Lemonade) - this turned out to be my favourite out of the non-alcoholic 'mocktails', as it was so refreshing. I also used the rest of the lemon and lime in my tap water after dinner to give it some more flavour.
My choice of main was The Enchilada which was stunning. The enchilada, for anyone who hasn't been to Las Iguanas yet, is a hand-rolled tortilla smothered in smoked chilli & tomato sauce and melted cheese accompanied with garlic & coriander rice and frijoles refritos.
It is filled with either roast butternut squash, spinach, cheese and chickpeas (£7.90) or spicy chicken, peppers, onion and cheese (£9.90).
I chose the vegetarian version and expected the chilli sauce to be a tad too spicy, but instead I found that it added just enough flavour to the the meal without overpowering it or making it impossible to eat.
The price is very fair when considering the big portion you receive and the fact that the food tastes so so good. The restaurant also has a 'Lunch' and 'Early Bird' special menu where certain main meals are reduced in price if ordered before 6.30pm. It just so happened that my enchilada was in the menu for a mere £5!
For dessert I decided on the Creamy Caramel Cake which was also very good. The cake consists of layers of soaked sponge and caramelised cream, drizzled with dulce de leche. This was then topped with even more caramelised cream and a scattering of blueberries (£4.90).
I would have liked the cake to be a bit bigger but I don't feel it was a stingy portion, I just know I could have eaten more as it was delicious.
For me it was a little on the pricier side, considering my main meal was only £5, but all of the desserts were around the same price so I decided to just splurge and I'm really glad I did. It is very good and definitely a dessert I'll be ordering on my next visit.
The meal was delicious and the staff extremely friendly. It was fairly busy at the time we decided to have dinner so I expected to have to wait longer for service or share our waiter between lots of other tables. Luckily this did not happen and we were able to enjoy a relaxed evening and felt thoroughly looked after. Our waiter recommended main courses and drinks as well as desserts, which added a more personal and friendly touch to our visit.
Thoroughly Modern Milly Blog
I have always loved Las Iguanas, so it was no chore visiting for review purposes. The fun, noisy Mexican chain serves up some of the best Caiprinhas and Nachos I have ever tasted. And I have tasted a lot.
With branches across London, this cheerful and reasonably priced eatery is perfect for a quick drink or snack but can also serve as a lovely venue to spend an evening. It has a great vibe that puts me in a celebratory mood. Las Iguanas have kept the Olympic flame alive well after the closing ceremony. Honoring their Brazilian routes and in anticipation of Rio 2016, they are hosting a pop up ‘Rio Botequim’ across all their restaurants. With Rio set to be the next city after London to host the Olympics and Paralympics, Las Iguanas is the ideal place to mark the occasion.
Akin to a Brazilian pub, a botequim is a place to eat, drink and be merry so Las Iguanas have created a special menu highlighting typical botequim dishes and drinks as well as staging a number of culinary, cultural and sporting activities.
The service is exemplary, our waitress popped by regularly to check if we needed anything despite the overflowing restaurant of guests. Another good sign… it is ALWAYS busy in Las Iguanas. We visited the Southbank branch before seeing the Crazy Horse cabaret show. Our waitress highlighted the specials and new additions to the menu, I think she was surprised that I instantly knew what I wanted! Caiprinhas came first, ice cold, sugary with a kick from the lime… I love this cocktail so much, it seems to medicinally soothe the throat. The sizzling food was all ultra fresh and delicious. Crispy nachos with gooey cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream was addictive especially with the extra grilled chorizo on top. Definitely a bad idea to write this review at lunchtime, as I am drooling at the memory of our Las Iguanas feast.
Later we tried two of the new red fruits cocktails, they tasted stronger than I had expected. Reggae Rumba has a tropical taste with Havana Club Especial rum, lemon juice, strawberry & hibiscus syrup, strawberry liquor and fresh lime. Mulled Daiquiri was the real hit though, a combination of rum, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, vanilla liqueur, cassis, orange and red wine… basically a better version of mulled wine, the perfect drink to welcome in winter.
Fajitas at Las Iguanas are faultless. Every element comes separately so you can make your own wraps to your personal specifications. It is the spicy sizzling chicken that makes the fajita so good, with a mix of coriander, lime, paprika, cumin, onions and peppers, it is good enough to eat alone. There was no room or time for pudding but a selection of exotic influenced treats are on offer.
You can tell I love this chain, equally excellent cocktails and food: Las Iguanas is a restaurant for any occasion and every situation.
This Latin American chain keeps on growing. You can now sample its chimichangas, enchiladas and caipirinhas at 28 locations from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Portsmouth, and from Cardiff to Leicester. And it’s easy to see why; the food is fresh and spicy, the setting stylish and the service sweet. And it doesn’t break the bank.
Kingston’s High Street is awash with busy, chain restaurants, with Las Iguanas having Jamie’s next door and La Tasca just across the road. And at Las Iguanas there are huge windows to the street which can be removed when weather permits, and inside the feel is boutique hotel-meets-industrial chic, with curvy wooden chairs, vertical, distressed planks on the walls, huge chandeliers evoking sci-fi spaceships, and exposed pipework and ducts overhead. The large space is cleverly carved up to add intimacy, with the lighting warm and flattering.
Despite being large (100 covers plus 40 in the adjoining bar), busy, and devoid of sound-absorbing curtains and carpets, noise levels are puzzingly low, so you don’t end up having to shout across the table, even when salsa muzak plays (live music on Tuesday nights is promised soon). On a weeknight less than two months after opening, the casually attired, near-capacity, nicely behaved clientele includes three generations of a family celebrating a birthday, groups of friends, and couples of all ages. Service is well-paced and unusually sweet and interested.
All the Latin staples – burritos, fajitas, enchiladas and nachos – are present and correct. For the faint-hearted, there’s an incongruous pear and brie salad (although they do add molasses, cumin and chilli dressing) or a straightforward burger in a bun.
A starter of calamares (£5.40) is a hot, fresh and non-rubbery hit. Its crust is crisp and satisfyingly wholemealy, and it sits on a generous bed of rocket. There's real zing and chilli heat from a little bowl of aioli, too. Tostadas with white crabmeat and finely diced peppers, jalapeno, coriander and red onion (£5) are also impressive. The crab flavour comes through, the mixture is light, crunchy and fresh (especially with a squeeze of lime), and the mini corn tortillas beneath remain crisp.
As for mains, pescado fritas (£7.90) is a Latin take on fish and chips, and not wholly successful. The ‘sustainable white fish’ (variety not specified) is a disappointingly flat fillet in crunchy crumb reminiscent of what you keep in the freezer for short-notice suppers. There’s little of the promised coconut flavour in the spicy coating, though it is disconcertingly sweet, a problem compounded by the accompanying sweet potato fries – regular fries would work better. At least that lovely, fiery aioli makes a reappearance.
More successful is a tender, well-flavoured, accurately cooked sirloin steak (£16.50). This time, the ‘fries’ are made from the South American root veg staple cassava, and are more small potato croquettes than chips. They’re crunchy but without much flavour, and there aren’t enough of them. Roast cherry toms and rocket work well, as does a bowl of chipotle sauce, even if its ‘fiery’ description on the menu should read 'quite warm and rounded'.
From a sextet of desserts, a selection of sorbets (£4.90) is outstanding. Lemon, raspberry and mango all have big, clear flavour and velvety texture. Creamy caramel cake (£4.90), though, is a little tame. The sponge has been soaked (although it’s hard to say in what) so at least it’s super-moist, but the caramelised cream and drizzle of dulce de leche need much more caramel oomph.
There’s a long list cocktails, divided into Latin American country. They’re fairly priced, and nothing short of a steal between Sundays and Wednesdays when it’s buy-one-get-one-free. A sublime caipirinha (£6.40) would hold up in the poshest of bars, with its cachaca and lime notes and perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The wine list is South American with a sprinkling of Spain. Bubbles aside, prices range from £12.90 to £30.80. Most commendably, a large majority is available by the 125, 175 or 250 ml glass. Sauvignon Blanc Tierra from Chile (£4.10/£5.20/£6.40/£17.90) is unremarkable and could arrive a tad colder. Conversely, an inky Monte Verde Merlot, also Chilean (£3.60/£4.60/£5.80/£12.90), needs to be warmer but still provides a fair hit of juicy red fruits.
The Last Word
Las Iguanas is expanding at a rate of knots. With three courses of generally good food and half a bottle of modest wine for about £35 winningly served in cool surroundings, it’s a fair bet a branch will be coming to a high street near you before too long.
Bristol Evening Post
With 27 branches dotted around the UK, Bristol- based Latin restaurant chain Las Iguanas is certainly one of the city's big success stories when it comes to hospitality. It's not difficult to see the reasons for its appeal and rapid expansion. Put simply, it gives people looking for vibrant Latin food in a lively, fun atmosphere exactly what they want.
And with a happy "hour" that actually runs for seven- and-a-half hours every day (noon-7.30pm), it comes as no real surprise that many of the caipirinha-sipping customers drinking outside when we arrived at 6pm had the broadest of grins.
On a balmy summer evening, there was definitely a sunny holiday vibe going on at the Harbourside branch of Las Iguanas. From our table, the sight of kids splashing about in the water fountains outside added to the holiday hotel feel, as did the long queue at the bar. A fair proportion of the customers appeared to be local office workers, but there were plenty of families with small children.
Younger customers get their own extensive menu that includes small portions of nachos, wraps and veggie chilli as well as burgers, grilled chicken breast strips and fish fingers. A child's meal costs a pocket-friendly £5.50 for a main course, dessert and drink. The main menu takes in dishes from Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Cuba, with plenty of options for meat and fish eaters or vegetarians. Several dishes can also be ordered gluten-free.
Among the temptations were "the extraordinary xinxim" (lime chicken in a crayfish and peanut sauce with rice) and prawn bobo (spicy prawns and cassava cooked in tomatoes and coconut milk). My spicy barbecue jerk sauce "blazing bird" (£9.40) was essentially half a grilled chicken (a leg and a breast) in a sweet, fiery sauce served with a mountain of coleslaw and curly, salty fries. The chicken was perfectly tender and moist and the marinade provided quite a kick to the dish.
A sizzling dish of marinated strip steak fajitas (£14.90) was well received – OK, the steak was a little chewy but the coriander, lime, paprika and cumin flavours really came through and the guacamole, salsa, soured cream and jalapenos were excellent. To finish, Berry Mexican Mess (£5) was a pleasing twist on the more traditional Eton Mess, the summer fruits being mixed with hibiscus syrup, mascarpone and yoghurt, which gave it a lightness. A trio of sorbets (£4.90) – lemon, raspberry and Alfonso mango – was an even more refreshing finale.
Latin Love! - Best of Liverpool
Richard Lackey spices up an otherwise ordinary afternoon with a visit to Las Iguanas...
NESTLED within Liverpool ONE’s parade of shiny new restaurants lies Las Iguanas – an airy oasis bursting with that lively Latin vibe.
The atmosphere of the restaurant instantly makes an impact as soon as you enter through its huge glass doors, and is as loud as a set of maracas! It’s bright and cool, modern with sleek dark wood furnishings, and the aromas from the kitchen instantly transport you to South America. Forget Liverpool, you could be in Rio. When it comes to eating out, I’ve always favoured Indian cuisine over Chinese, the latter being a bit too sickly for my liking. Instead, I prefer the earthiness and heat of a no-nonsense Indian curry. However, in recent years Mexican and Latin American cuisine has threatened to become my number one. Never having visited the region personally, my relationship with Latin American grub had never developed further than a bowl of chilli and rice or a chicken fajita at a friend’s house. That was until a few years ago when a certain fast food outlet introduced me to the Mexican burrito. After that I was hooked.
I love the heat of Latin food, the fusion of flavours and textures, and the gener¬ous mix of meat and vegetables (you can never have too many greens if you ask me!). I also welcome the huge portions. And that nicely leads me onto the first thing that struck me during my visit to Las Iguanas – you get massive meals which wouldn’t look out of place on that Man v. Food reality TV show.
My starter of nachos with melted cheese, aji, jalapeños, salsa, soured cream, guacamole and cha-cha chorizo (£7.60) served in a huge paella dish was certainly more than ample for at least two people, nevermind one. Being the gannet that I am, though, I wasn’t going to complain and happily consumed the lot!
The cha-cha chorizo (smoky pork and garlic chorizo sausage with onions in a red wine, tomato and smoked jalapeño sauce) was so deliciously meaty and flavoursome that I wasn’t surprised to find it on the menu as a dish in its own right, this time served with chunky bread to dunk (£5). My friend opted for this delicious course and we were both in agreement at just how tasty it was. For main course, I plumped for the classic and appropriately named Big Burrito (£9.90) – a whopping tortilla parcel packed with spicy chicken, pepper and onion, rice, cheese and slaw, topped with homemade salsa, soured cream and guacamole. My mate selected chimichanga (£9.90), which is a deep-fried burrito bursting with garlic and coriander rice, refried beans, and a main filling of Tinga (Mexican smoked chipotle chicken, onion and cheese). Both mains were delicious – the side of chunky cassava fries with salsa (£2.90) was an over-ambitious move, it has to be said – and sealed the fate on us ever attempting to select a dessert. Oh well, maybe next time.
We washed our food down with a selection of Las Iguanas’ famed cocktails – Citrus Cooler (crushed lemons, limes, ice and lemonade; £2.80), and Raspberry Cooler (raspberry and elderflower; £3) – the ideal tonic to ease the flow of so much food, and at buy one get one free (between 12 and 7.30pm and all day Sunday), a steal.
Suitably priced for what we received, we left Las Iguanas feeling more than satisfied and with our trouser belts that little bit tighter.
The Pig Guide to Bath
Bathonians aren’t exactly spoiled for choice when craving a Chimichanga, bursting for a Burrito or desperate to feast on Fajita. Fortunately, Las Iguanas offers a big-hearted Mexican wave that more than satisfies the quest for Quesadillas, even to the pickiest foodie in the city. This big, bright diner – complete with two alfresco patios (one on a gorgeous walled courtyard and a second on Sawclose itself) serves big, bright food that offers a very warm welcome to modern day Latin America: you won’t find yourself sitting next to a straw donkey and being blasted with faux-carnival music here, but you will get an authentic South of the Border feast in all its gutsy, robust glory.
As you’d expect, tacos, fajitas, chimichangas, enchiladas and burritos all go large here (teenagers especially will love this part of the menu), but an exciting array of lesser-spotted dishes such as the Extraordinary Xinxim (chicken bathed in a creamy, lime-infused crayfish and peanut sauce, served with plaintains and ground peanuts) and Prawn Bobo (spicy seafood casserole) add foodie flair. Tapas, meanwhile, is highly recommended and the drinks list is as extensive as the food menu, with Spanish, Chilean and Argentinean wine leading the way, bottled beers kicking up a conga rhythm not far behind and exotic punches and cocktails keeping the carnival going. And yes, there is pretty much always a carnival going on at Las Iguanas; the restaurant gets very busy at peak times, and Iggy is very popular with parties, so if you crave peace and quiet, it may be best to head north of the Sawclose border. But when your tastebuds need tingling, this is definitely one of Bath’s brightest hotspots.
Not in the mood for food? Las Iguanas ancillary bar Pulp (downstairs from the restaurant, at street level on one side of the building) offers Happy Hour cocktails Tuesday-Saturday 12noon-7pm, all day Sunday-Wednesday. ¡Aclamaciones!
Hot Dinners- Yorkshire Evening Post (Leeds)
With restaurants like Cuban Heels and Cactus Lounge long gone, Las Iguanas is one of the few remaining venues flying the flag for Mexico in the City Centre. Special mention has to go to the staff who were so friendly and polite despite being faced with a growing crowd of diners as our meal progressed. All-in-all, it was five star service.
So you expect little, just a functional lunch, you roll up, and you chat and the food entertains you, even puts a smile on your face.
Las Iguanas did that last week.
I thought, oh dear, another bobbins Deansgate chain with food probably made in a warehouse off the M25 and shipped up in a lorry driven by one of those drivers Jeremy Clarkson upset.
Still, I thought, Manchester Confidential can't be just about reviewing top end places for two reasons. One, that wouldn't be very reflective of the dining scene in the city, and two, we'd run out of places to go.
So it was a lunch time meeting in a restaurant that starts small scale and then goes vast behind the Deansgate entrance. They all seem to do that on that stretch of Deansgate as though there's some Tardis jiggery-pokery going on.
Inside Las Iguanas the chain marketeers have gone a bit mad with colour and decor to show how crazzzeee Mexican and Latino the place is. The extremes are represented by Virgin Marys with Sacred Hearts and pictures of carnival ladies with sumptuous chests - although it's possible some of the latter ladies aren't ladies.
The menu tries to be crazzzeee as well with descriptions packed with exclamation marks and names such as 'Voom'. The staff on our visit weren't as loony, indeed were very attentive. The prices shown in this review are part of the lunchtime offer so cheaper than evening prices - the Blazing Bird was £1.90 more expensive in the evening.
We tried a quesadilla of spicy chicken, peppers, onion and cheese for £1.60 which was a moist, hot little number and quite excellent.
Then my guest had the Blazing Bird, a half chicken, with fries, coleslaw, salad and the Voom sauce, described as 'seriously hot'. It was hot but seriously so and suffered from a mite too much sweetness. Still the impressive collation was wolfed down with lip-smacking vigour and declared 'very good'.
I was tucking into an ugly dish which tasted really good, the frijoles refritos (£1.90) a big slop of a thing made from black beans, soured cream and cheese. It put me in mind of the bonfire night black peas my mum used to prepare in a cauldron for hours before the event, study, filling, somehow healthy because of the uncultured ruggedness of the food.
I also went Brazilian and had the extraordinary xinxam (£10.90). According to the menu 'Pele loves it'. I think they're talking about the dish and not something else.
This was a weird dish of lime chicken, green beans and a sauce which turned out to be crayfish and peanut. It was immensely enjoyable, a spicy delight with strong flavours and pungent, powerful sauce. The coriander in it was a real lift.
There was another oddity with it, a rice and green bean collation with coconut and plantain which I took a blurred photo of, so you'll have to take my word for it. Didn't get much from it either in terms of enjoyment although having plantain for the first time in a while was entertaining.
A shared pudding of creamy caramel cake (£4.90) was the most beige thing I've ever eaten. And so sickly that overweight Rennaissance Cardinals sat on silken cushions might have demurred. It was, despite that, sort of addictive.
Las Iguanas is sensible with the wine and the prices and knows its middle market well. Very few wines stray over the £20. An adequate Torrontes at £17.90, light and breezy worked for us and for the xinxam and the Blazing Bird.
So sated and full and mouths tingly from the spices, my guest and I salsa-ed out to Deansgate.
This was a decent and entertaining meal, food costing less than £15 per person. Chains can be depressing in their rigidity of food, service and ambience, Las Iguanas at lunch was enjoyably loose and joyful - it reminded me of Grinch bar on Chapel Walks a decade or so ago. Ok I'm not going to run back every day but there's nothing too much wrong with this city centre lizard.
You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield
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Las Iguanas, 84 Deansgate, City. 0161 819 2606
BLOG- FASTING FOODIE
I'm kicking off with a review of my favourite chain restaurant, Las Iguanas. I don't usually review chains if I can help it since they tend to do alright without reviewers like me but I've been a fan of Iguanas for over ten years and wanted to just see if I can tempt a few of you to try it out.
I visited the relatively new Mermaid Quay branch which is well decorated and was incredibly busy, even for a cold Thursday evening in January. Being regular diners, I was fairly certain of what I would go for but I perused the menu nevertheless. Las Iguanas offers a comprehensive range of burgers, fajitas, and other Latin American dishes such as my partner's favourite Xim Xim, a chicken crayfish and lime dish, Pasteles (a Chilean shepherd's pie that I'm keen to try) and a range of steaks and grills.
On this visit, I opted for the nachos with chilli beef (£5.70). These emerged in a huge metal dish and were easily enough to share. The tortillas were home-made (rather than the result of someone tearing open a bag of Doritos in the kitchen) and the salsa was spicy and hot. It made the so-called nachos often served up in pubs seem rather sad. The Mr. went for the Cha-Cha Chorizo (£4.90) which consisted of pork & garlic chorizo, braised slow & lazy with onions in red wine, tomato & smoked jalapeño sauce. Served with large hunks of bread, this was a hugely tasty dish, full of depth of flavour and with just the right amount of spice.
Truth be told, after this we could have given up and gone home full but there were main courses to enjoy. Regular blog readers or Twitter followers will know that I have a weakness for fajitas and I plumped for these at Las Iguanas, going for the classic chicken option (£13.60). Steak, prawn or mushroom options are also available. These came served with the usual accompaniments of guacamole, soured cream,and jalapeños with homemade salsa & soft wheat tortillas. As a fan, I've eaten fajitas in a range of other places in Cardiff including Chiquitos, Old Orleans and the West Coast Bar and Grill at the Red Dragon. In my view, the ones served at Las Iguanas are by far the best; I don't know whether its the spice mix which I find pleasantly tangy without being too hot, and with a subtle hint of lime, or whether the quality of ingredients and cooking is just better. Either way, this meal was no exception and proved incredibly tasty.
I wish I could tell you some detail about the other half's shredded beef & caramelised onion burrito (£9.90). It looked well presented on a nice salad and looked full of filling including rice and cheese. However, I was not allowed to sample this since it was, apparently, too nice to share. Next time, I shall steal a forkful when he's not looking.
Las Iguanas Newcastle- Sunderland Echo
A QUICK internet search for a phone number to book a table revealed one of Newcastle’s latest eateries is a staple in pretty much every city.
Usually, I prefer to steer clear of identikit chains, but every time I pass Las Iguanas the ceiling-to-floor windows reveal a restaurant alive with the clatter of dishes and the chatter of diners.
Its popularity was proven when I rang to book and was told they only had 6pm or 9pm that night – on a Tuesday. I bagged the 6pm spot and was asked if I was celebrating anything special. I wasn’t, but presumably this means they pull out all the stops – or a cringe-worthy rendition of happy birthday – if you do choose to celebrate there.
Offering something new to Newcastle’s eating scene, this Latin-American restaurant serves up something unique by combining the usual Mexican food with an eclectic mix of dishes from Peru, Brazil, Cuba and Chile.
Inside, Las Iguanas is cool and contemporary with lofty ceilings giving it an airy atmosphere. The quirky lighting, lime-coloured seating, wooden floors and attention to detail down to the funky jam jar-like jugs the cocktails are served in, make it easy to forget this is a chain.
The lengthy, mouth-watering menu makes choosing what to eat tricky. A cocktail of Dark ‘N’ Stormy later, rum and lime topped with ginger beer that costs £7, unless you get there before 6.30pm when it’s two-for-one, we turned to tapas (three for £13.50 before 7pm).
Within 10 minutes, the endless stream of ceramic plates loaded with generous portions of pato taquito (roast duck and caramelised onion with chilli jam in a tortilla), nachos topped with all the usual suspects plus melt-in-the-mouth strips of beef and calamari, coated in crisp crumb cassava started coming. When the Taco tray (£13.50) carrying tortillas, melted cheese and salsa, pink onions, sour cream, slow-braised shredded beef in smoked chilli, lemon, garlic and chilli prawns and spiced shredded lamb landed, our fear of not having ordered enough evaporated as we joined our waitress in attempting to create enough room on our rather small table for two. Each dish was full of flavour and brought with it a new explosion of spices on the tongue.
The restaurant has put its own stamp on traditional dishes, giving them a nice personal twist. Stuffed, we settled the £35 bill and rolled out of the door and up the road to the theatre, vowing to come back and sample more of the menu.