Is this the coolest bar and restaurant in Leeds?
The grade-II listed purpose built auction house, Hepper House, in Leed’s city centre, has been transformed into a place of romance and opulence. Every room in this 1863 building in East Parade is steeped in character. On entering the reception area the senses are immediately tantalised with ripe fruit, muted colours, Brazilian hardwood, soft furnishings and the portraits across the wall give it the aged feel of a couple of centuries.
It is simply beautiful…
THE former resident, Bonham Auction House, left sometime in 2008 and now the refurbished building has the hallmark of being overseen by Ibérica’s Spanish owner Marcos Fernadez Pardo. He is less restaurateur, more curator; his attention to detail is phenomenal.
Starting with the cocktail bar area, guests are immediately made to feel at ease with wood, leather, carpets and a dog-shaped light adding to the sense of charm.
Next is the main dining area, filled with natural light and delicate landscapes on the vaulted ceiling. Guests dine beneath a large lamp in the middle of the room which acts as a protagonist, while the hanging screens, textiles and paintings are reflected across the walls.
The kitchen area can be seen from the tables and this is where the magic happens. Offering 150 covers over three floors, Ibérica also has a sumptuous private dining area on the first floor, offering a choice of dining options to visitors.
On the opposite side of the building is La Bodega. Yes folks, the restaurant has its own La Bodega! And it’s the place to browse the in-house delicatessen and wine bar offering an extensive wine list (many exclusive to Iberica) along with a large selection of Spanish cheeses and cured meats.
And a pop to the bathroom…well…it’s a must. It’s probably the most Spanish element of the building and well deserving of its fame as one of the most tweeted loos in Leeds or the North of the UK for that matter.
But it’s not just the aesthetics that have got people talking. The food lives up to what one would expect from a menu overseen by executive chef Nacho Manzano, who boasts three Michelin stars to his name for his Spanish restaurants Casa Marcial and La Salgar.
We chose to go with Ibérica Leed’s head chef Enric Garriga’s autumn menu suggestion – offering a snapshot of what this high-end tapas chain can truly offer.
Served with: Viña Riquelas Gual D.O. Tacoronte Acentejo, Bodegas Candido, Tenerife. Tasting Note: Aromas of ripe tropical fruits with a predominance of pineapple, rich flavourful balanced taste.
A selection of toasted bread with tomato, trio of hams, half tapa of air cured beef and half tapa of cured Ibérican acorn-fed ‘presa’ (Lomito de Bellota).
The air-cured beef did not disappoint but as expected, the trio of hams – to be eaten in the order of Serrano, Green Label and the 100% acorn-fed Black Label – were the best Spain has to offer. The build up from Serrano to the Green Label led to the spectacular finale of the ultimate melt in the mouth, tingling nutty sensation of the Black Label. It was simply to die for.
The toasted bread with tomato was not particularly toasted but tasted fresh and was enhanced by good olive oil. We needed this dish to compliment the meat but found it had to be eaten quickly, whilst hot, or it became a little soggy and not so appetizing.
First course – Tapas:
Continue with: Viña Riquelas Gual D.O. Tacoronte Acentejo.
The asparagus, manchego, onion confit & truffle oil was a match made in heaven. The asparagus had the perfect bite before melting into the home comforts found in cheese on toast but with onion and the earthiness of the truffle oil.
The Spanish classic – serrano ham croquetas – were so light, creamy and simply melted in the mouth, the fried squid was standard Spanish fare – deep fried in batter until crisp with very good Aioli leaving a lovely inky aftertaste.
The squid served to transform my four-year-old’s dislike of fried squid (Yes, she accompanied us on this visit to the family-friendly restaurant). Her previous experiences have been of chewy, greasy fried squid but this, she said, whilst squirting lemon juice over her strips of squid, was simply “tasty and not greasy.”
Moving on to an interesting take on the traditional Galician staple of octopus la gallega (pulpo a la gallega), with paprika and potatoes, Ibérica served the octopus tentacles in chunks, they were succulent and cooked to perfect tenderness. It was served with paprika mayonnaise and potatoes. But the combined soft texture of the dish was slightly ruined by the chef’s heavy hand with the mayo. A little less and it would have been perfect.
The fresh mackerel served on a bed of potatoes and parsley and seaweed emulsion was a real taste bomb. The mackerel was so fresh it felt as if it had jumped straight out of the sea. The parsley and seaweed emulsion was a perfect accompaniment and great to mop up the potatoes. The portion size here was huge, a real treat for mackerel fans!
Second course – Tapas
Served with: Tinto Boada Pepe Yllera 2014 – D.O Ribera del Duero. Tasting Note: Aromas of black fruits espcially blackberry and baked apple. Rich, medium-full bodied, sandelwood with woody tannins and moderate oak. A firm tangy red for the table.
The pluma (Ibérico pork loin) and secreto Ibérico pork secreto) were delivered moist, succulent and beautifully pink in the middle with a crisp outside and a nice kick from the chilli and paprika.
And now onto the finale… the newly launched oxtail sandwich. I was pleased to see my four year-old thought this was the best dish ever. The burgeoning food critic is not wrong.
The sandwich looked like a typically neat and orderly tapas but tasted like good ol’ northern meat pie and mash. The base was a rich, warming oxtail stew cooked long and slow for hours with vegetables and red wine until the meat became soft and tender. The gravy is then reduced and enriched further with the addition of Port. The mixture is packed between toasted sliced bread and served on top of creamed potato with chives. The whole thing is doused in rich gravy and a homemade tartare sauce. If you were craving a winter warmer, order two portions.
Continuing with the home comfort autumn theme, what could be more perfect to end the meal than with a caramelised Spanish rice pudding and Gloria cheesecake?
The rice pudding had all the warmth of milk infused with cinnamon and orange, a beautiful light pudding leaving room for the Ibérica speciality, Gloria Cheesecake, a delightfully light dessert that was given vibrancy thanks to the shards of parmesan and dried strawberries on the side.
Finish with a coffee. This is a wonderful restaurant – although not cheap – to really treat yourself and the whole family.
Ibérica also has restaurants in London, Manchester and Glasgow.All have a focus on authentic cuisine, serving contemporary interpretations of traditional Spanish cooking.
17a East Parade,
West Yorkshire, LS1 2BH.
0113 403 7007