Ask any Leeds resident where to go for tapas and nine times out of ten, the answer will be Ibérica. Located inside a stunning Grade Two-listed building, the Spanish restaurant has been a firm favourite since it opened its doors in 2016. With a beautiful interior that’s home to authentic small plates, this is one city-centre spot that we couldn’t resist.
I’ve been here a few times, but the décor still never fails to impress me; it manages to be both extravagant and sophisticated at the same time. The lighting is soft enough to give each table an intimate feeling, despite the room being spacious, and each table is adorned with candles which create a romantic vibe.
While the tapas menu is fairly small, the drinks list is extensive. Each wine is available by the glass, as a bottle, or in a porrón (a Spanish pitcher which holds half a bottle). We opt for a porrón of Joven de Silos (£21.50), which is eccentric to say the least. It comes with a long, thin spout and watching the waitress pour it is mesmerising. Tapas is separated here, not by category of meat and veg, but by ‘classic’ and ‘Ibérica’. Classic dishes are - you guessed it - quintessential tapas plates, while Ibérica is their spiced-up versions of Spanish favourites.
Choosing the first dish is easy; patatas bravas (£6) is a staple at any tapas restaurant. The brava sauce is a slightly toxic shade of orange but, initial grimace aside, it is one of the best bravas I’ve had. Grilled squid (£11), comes with ink sauce, rice and lemon oil for a delicate flavour. The next dish is a January special, but one I pray they make permanent. Crispy fried aubergine, with a sticky Thai-style sauce, is the perfect combination of softness and crunch with sweet and sour.
Ibérica advise five to six dishes for two, so we select three from the tapas section. The octopus and papada (£12) with chipotle mayo, is gently spiced with a rich flavour and mix of textures, while pluma (£13.50) - an Ibérico pork steak (we ask for it rare) that comes with rosemary potatoes - beats any beef steak you will ever eat. We go for the beetroot, pickled fennel and orange salad (£8) for our final dish, as salt has been high and nutrients low. The salad comes with goats cheese and candied walnuts and it is everything a salad should be; fresh, flavoursome and light.
Ending on salad means we have more room for dessert, so between us we share the Gloria cheesecake (£7.50) and textures of chocolate (£8). The cheesecake arrives with raspberry sorbet for a contrast of sweet and savoury, while the textures of chocolate is a chocolatey trio of cake, ice cream and ganache. I love ganache and this is a good one - not too rich or sickly - the perfect combination.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Out of all the tapas restaurants in Leeds, there is no denying Ibérica is probably the most expensive. The answer we all want to know... is it worth it? From my experience, it’s a firm yes - albeit with the caveat that it’s best reserved for special occasions or when trying to impress, rather than a quick bite to eat after work. Everything from the décor to the service and the food is carefully put together to create an amazing overall experience that satisfies all senses.