I’ve known of Iberica Manchester for some time, but as a Muslim with no interest in anything pork related, it’s always been way off my radar. When I received an invitation to sample their new spring menu, I politely went back reiterating that ham really wasn’t my thing and that there may be a blogger better suited if they had a set menu in mind… however I was assured there would be plenty of pescetarian options available for me to enjoy: sans pork, sans alcohol.

Hmm… ok, I figured what the heck. Spanish tapas is something I loved in Spain, so hopefully there would be plenty to surprise me, even though the restaurant is actually named after a ham.

An interior scheme I’ve admired for some time, I was always in love with their large window front, shrouded by rich velvet curtains and mood lighting. In the heart of Spinningfields, I’ve only ever heard great things about Iberica, perhaps more from people who want to enjoy the wine rather than the food.

 

 

G and I arrived in time to enjoy some pre-dinner snacks downstairs by the bar area. The first thing to land on our table of bloggers… a beautifully laid out plate of meat. Oh Lord. I really hoped this wasn’t one of those occasions where the vegetarian options were going to be a few carrot sticks.

Luckily, after the plate of meat, came the plate suitable for vegetarians. Four different types of cheese and tomato bread. As the marketing director told us tales of passion, food preparation love stories, we tucked in to what was a great cheese board collection, something I would have happily enjoyed pre and post meal.

 

 

Next, came a bit of ‘porron’ education. A traditional Spanish wine pitcher, which pours the same way as a watering can. Porron’s are not only perfect bottles for storing wine in, due to the way you drink from them, it allows them to be shared by many people without any hygiene worries.

 

 

I know, you’re probably wondering why on earth am I explaining a wine vessel to you when I don’t even drink? Well, Iberica had filled said vessel with water that day for us all to have a go and it was so much fun!!! I must admit not many people were too keen on trying it, watching the waiters execute it with precision was a tough act to follow. G and I were more than happy to try it out, I obviously got water all over myself, G managed to do a much better job. I would totally buy a porron to bring out at dinner parties!

 

 

Porron activities over it was time to go upstairs. G had been nudging me to check with the staff whether they remembered we don’t eat meat, but between the walk from the bar to the first floor I just didn’t get a chance.

Nervous about what was ahead, we took our seats and boom. There it was. A menu. A set menu suitable for PESCETARIANS.

YES.

It turned out our dining companions opposite were also veggies (@eatandtwoveg) so we were in the right company.

Course by course, the dishes came out… some good, some great, some amazing. My little joke earlier about being fed carrot sticks actually came true as baby carrot tempura was on the menu – but I assure you these were no ordinary fried carrots. They were absolutely delicious and tasted nothing like they should have. Soft to bite into, lightly battered and a tapas snack I would order again for sure.

Alongside the baby carrot was crispy cauliflower and pak choi, octopus a la gallega and ensaladilla rosa. The carrots were up there as one of the favourites followed closely by the octopus, a dish I’ve only ever had in Spain but this was just as good.

 

 

Next up was a selection of mains: strawberry and beetroot salad; cod brandada; hake a la gallega and garlic prawns with pasta. We were also treated to a fresh, perfectly-cooked paella. Wait, let me rephrase that, the paella was originally for the two veggie eaters, but they were kind enough to share and we’re so glad they did. Simmered to the right consistency, it had all the feels of when G and I first had our first proper paella on Barcelonata beach.

 

 

One dish you absolutely must order, which I never in a million years would have considered is the strawberry and beetroot salad. I can’t even tell you how unusual it tasted. Unusual in a nice way, of course. I normally hate fruit in salads and have never liked beetroot. But this, I LOVED.

Oh, and no night at a Spanish restaurant is complete without churros 🙂

 

 

All in all, I was really impressed by the standard and service of the evening. I loved how knowledgeable the staff were and how in a restaurant which actually has quite a high profile alcohol reputation, everyone was very honest about which foods contained any form of alcohol or even animal gelatine, making sure that people like me can rest assured my dietary requirements have been met.

My only complaint, and its a BIG one, is that the croquettes on the menu are made with ham 🙁 I think my heart broke when I sat down and saw (and smelt) how amazing they looked. So Iberica if you read this, perhaps you could jazz one of those mouth-watering creations with a touch of fish some time? 😉

Had a lovely time meeting some new bloggers (Hey @madeupstyle and the aforementioned @eatandtwoveg) and spending an evening with my favourite friend tasting food that brought back some great Spanish memories.

Must take Mo back next time we start to feel some Spanish holiday withdrawal.

 

 

*** Thank you to Iberica for inviting us to sample the Spring menu. Of course all opinions, thoughts and musings are my own and the pictures once again have only had brightness adjusted (it was quite dark upstairs!!) ***

 

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The best thing about eating out in Barcelona, is the abundance of seafood. As a Muslim traveller, it means there is always a decent variety of food on offer wherever you go in the city. You’ll find a few sneaky halal places dotted around as well.

Here are some of the local dishes we managed to devour, as well as a few Spanish favourites:

Bacalao

For our first meal in the city, Mo and I propped up one of the seafood bars at La Boqueria and indulged in a feast of fish. Best dish by far was the Bacalao, a salted cod, which was fried with a tomato seasoning and served with home-made chips. A meaty fish with plenty of flavour and not at all dry. Amazing!

 

Pescaditos Fritos

Pescaditos Fritos is basically what it says on the tin, fried fish. Normally served with a nice slice of lemon, its the kind of thing you just munch on in between dinner chat. Like chips (but not).

 

Patatas Bravas

They’re everywhere. They’re all slightly different. Always have a yummy topping so they’re not dry. Simply order and enjoy.

 

Esqueixada

After falling in love with Bacalao, I was excited to try Esqueixada when we stopped for a late dinner at Tantarantana near our apartment. Esqueixada (pronounced es-kay-jada) is a cold dish, a salad if you will, usually made with pepper, tomatoes and onions served on top of shredded cod. The vinegar mixed with the saltiness of the fish gives a nice tangy, refreshing taste, kind of like cevische actually. Perhaps more of a lunch dish.

 

Pa Amb Tomaquet

When I originally saw this on the menu I really didn’t think much of it. And why would I? I mean it’s basically a slice of bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes and finished off with a drizzle of oil and salt. A simple Catalan staple. But this dish must be rubbed with magical tomatoes because this dish it is super moreish and a perfect accompaniment to any main meal you’ve ordered.

 

Paella

A popular Spanish dish, you’ll see this everywhere. A rice dish prepared over an open fire with a variety of veg, meat or fish added. I was advised by locals that many restaurants serve ready made frozen paella (usually restaurants that have photos of their food on boards outside) . Word on the street is that Thursdays are the best time to eat it as this is when its cooked fresh. I’ve tried both a seafood and vegetarian paella at the Salamanca restaurant, right by the beach. Both tasted perfectly fresh, the seafood one was fantastic and the squid within it is probably the best I have ever tasted.

 

Tortilla Espanola

Not your typical Mexican fajita type tortilla, this one’s an omelette. We tried a Tortilla de Patatas ‘Ocana style’ at the Ocana café. A thick indulgent potato omelette which we devoured in minutes. A regular on tapas menus, tortilla omelettes are sometimes served in a sandwich, perfect for those long sight-seeing days.

 

Empanada

We saw a lot of these in Brazil, understandably, as the roots for this dish can be traced back to both Portugal and the North West of Spain. A folded bread or pastry filled with meat usually and fried, empanadas are a great snack food or mini-meal. We were lucky enough to walk past Annur Halal café and sample a lamb empanada (delicious) and we also squeezed in a taste of a croquetas de pollo (chicken croquette) whilst we were there, making the most of the halal options available!

 

Don’t forget to try the sauces too!

And by sauces I mean the aioli, of course. I recently wrote about our trip to Figueres where I consumed a gravy boat portion of this garlic-infused dip. You’ll find aioli a staple on most menus, usually served alongside the patatas. Somehow, it just tastes sooo much better here than it does back home. So, give it a go! Unless you don’t like garlic. Then it’s a bad idea. A really bad idea.

 

 

Are there any other must try foods when in Barcelona?

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