As you read this, you’ll notice a couple of changes have taken place across my blog. This is mostly in celebration of the fact that this post will my hundredth review since starting this blog! In just over two years, I’ve managed to visit and write about a huge variety of restaurants and eateries and I can’t quite believe I hit 100 so quickly! Unfortunately, number 100 was not quite as celebratory as I might have liked – read on to find out why.
Before a trip to the theatre this week, we decided to head for a bite to eat. After trawling through lists of restaurants looking for somewhere relatively nearby, we finally settled on Ibérica. The Spanish restaurant is relatively new to Glasgow, but with branches in London, Manchester and Leeds I assumed that they knew what they were doing. This coupled with good reviews online meant we were quite happy to give Ibérica a go, and so we headed there early on Monday evening.
Unsurprisingly, we were the first ones in the restaurant – this does make me a little uncomfortable but I can’t say I expected it to be heaving at half past five on a Monday evening. What I didn’t expect was that it would remain this way for the entirety of our visit – aside from a couple of punters at the bar we had the entire restaurant to ourselves. This resulted in some, erm, attentive service throughout our meal which I’ll talk more about later.
After talking us through the menu (the explanation wasn’t particularly necessary although I do like to know how many dishes are recommended per person) the waitress mentioned there were a few dishes that were unavailable. She told us this was due to them running out over the weekend, and I couldn’t help but wonder why their deliveries weren’t better organised if this was something that was likely to happen. However, there were still plenty of dishes to choose from so we continued to peruse the menu. The waitress then arrived to take our drinks order. As the designated driver I was sticking to the water we’d already been given, but mum and dad each ordered a glass of the house wine. A few moments later, she arrived to tell us that they had also run out of the house wine over the weekend. She then recommended the next cheapest wine, which they accepted instead, but it was beginning to look like a bad idea to visit on a Monday. Nevertheless, we returned to the menu and started to decide what we wanted to order.
The starters section of the menu features the usual breads and olives, alongside a selection of cheeses, cured meats and hams. We opted for the Half and Half – a selection of cheeses and cured meats – as well as a portion Bread with Olive Oil. The bread was nice and soft with a good crunchy crust (which always gets a big thumbs up from dad) although I would rather have had olive oil and balsamic in which to dip it. The platter that arrived featured three different meats, three different cheeses, and three miniscule little cubes of quince jelly. I won’t pretend to you that I was able to catch the names of each item as the waitress rattled them off, however I can tell you that there were two chorizos and a cured beef alongside a sample each of cow, goat and sheep cheese.
The meats were all fairly mild – a little unexciting if I’m perfectly honest. The cheeses weren’t particularly inspiring either – and I’ll eat almost any cheese that’s going. We were still eating our “starter” when the first of our dishes arrived – not much of an issue given that this was tapas, but a little odd given that the waitress had definitely billed the first section of the menu as starters. One of the first dishes to arrive was the beautifully presented Beef Cheek Carpaccio. The thin slices of beef were dotted with truffle potato puree and tartar sauce, and topped with sweet potato crisps. The beef itself was pretty mild – there was no real depth of flavour as one might have expected – while I definitely didn’t taste any truffle from the potato. Even the sweet potato crisps didn’t have any great oomph (that’s the technical term, I’m sure).
Moving on to one of our more contemporary sounding choices, the Sweet Aubergine. Billed as “confit-style with honey and pine nuts” the aubergine was soft throughout, wielding easily at the touch of a knife. The flavour was rather sweet, while the pine nuts provided contrasting crunch to the super soft aubergine. I quite liked the flavour, however this dish didn’t inspire any great outbursts of love from any of us.
Three of our more traditional choices were the Ham Croquetas, Fried Squid and Patatas Bravas. On their website, Ibérica claim to make the best Ham Croquetas in the world. This is a big thing to claim, and so I expected these to be some of the best croquettes I’d ever tasted. Instead, they were some of the most peculiar. Within the crispy coating, the filling was almost liquid and incredibly smooth – if there was ham in there I never found it. The texture in itself wasn’t necessarily a terrible thing (a bit weird maybe), but again these lacked the strong flavours which should have been provided by the ham. The Fried Squid arrived in very thinly cut strips, making it look like there was a huge pile of squid on the plate when we actually weren’t getting very much squid in each mouthful. The squid was well cooked and tender, but the coating was far from crispy. As many of you know, I have eaten squid in many a restaurant and this was certainly not the best I’ve had. The Patatas Bravas were accompanied with a slightly different sauce to that which we have had before (again not a bad thing) but this too was lacklustre.
Our next dishes were the Spring Onion Tempura and the Fried Chorizo Lollipops. Both had good, crispy batters (so what was the excuse for the squid?) but the onions within the tempura were – yep, you guessed it – unexciting. The chorizo was nice enough – a little bit more flavoursome than that from our starter, and coated in a good batter so I can’t say anything against them particularly. However, the pear alioli served alongside them was a mystery – where the pear came into it I don’t know. It certainly didn’t taste any different to the lemon alioli which was served with the onions.
Our final dish took quite a while to arrive – so much so that I was beginning to think we’d have finished everything else before it appeared. The only thing that made me think they hadn’t forgotten the dish entirely was the constant presence of our waitress. She floated back and forward behind us, needlessly topping up our waters and replacing the carafe. Ah, the perils of being the only diners in an establishment. When the Escalope of Pork arrived, I thought it was another nicely presented dish, although dad hit the nail on the head when he said that it was too thickly cut for an escalope. The meat wasn’t wonderfully cooked, and the spiced pinto bean puree on which it sat were merely glorified refried beans.
In the end, we did leave some food on the plates. This is not something I like to do if I can help it, especially when the food isn’t particularly cheap but we simply didn’t want any more. Looking around the fancy restaurant and swish toilets (pukka handtowels anyone?) I came to the conclusion that Ibérica is, for the most part, style over substance. I’m not sure who is writing all the positive reviews online, but we had a very average meal meaning we won’t be returning to Ibérica.