Iberica, Marylebone

Hola senoras, senoritas y bebes. My llamo es no se. Actually I do know what my name is (99.8% of the time) but you don’t. Well, most of you probably do as it will likely be only my two friends reading this.

Vilkommen to Tapas Or Crap As, where some northern tosser looking for a Spanish wife that knows nothing about tapas except what some bloke called Dave in Ebeefa served him alongside a pint of vodka red bull 10 years ago, tries to find the most authentic tapas experience in London. Exactamente.

Oh yeah and I went to La Tasca once and loooovvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeed it. Lo amo, si. How could anyone be more qualified than me?

Don’t expect reviews every week. Or even every month. Money supply is limited (blame Rajoy – kind of similar to Thatcher and doing an excellent job of reforming the economy like she did, and therefore clearly deserves to be blamed for all your and my problems), so until I get a pay rise or someone starts paying me for my palabras bonitos – sponsorship or just giving me free dinners in exchange for me telling you how mierde their chorizo is and moaning about the lack of Spanish hotties in their hacienda, reviews will be very occasional. Comprende?

I shall also be showing off my excellente language skills de Español – I’ve even learnt how to type the weird ñ. I didn’t even need to go to school to learn it, I did it all by myself. I didn’t actually learn much at school but that’s for another dia.

So for my review primera, I went to Iberica in Marylebone. Though I didn’t realise the Great Portland Street area was actually still in Marylebone, but hey ho, some people think Catalonia is in España.

The venue was not even vaguely authentic, bar the obligatory hams. Clean, dimly lit and quite upmarket – a much larger restaurant than you’d expect in Spain. This was built to go mass-market – the opposite of the authentic tapas experience that I am looking for. Still, the civilised, charmless but acceptable nature of the venue does not preclude it from serving excellent food.

Unfortunately I was a little drunken for this review. Well, I’d had rather a decent quantity of beer, muchos cervazas – if not quite the proud, leery yob type of drunk that the Spanish love so much that they created whole resorts for us. So I was worried that I’d either love everything far more than reality, or everything would taste of beer.

To try to take away the taste of cerveza, we ordered some sangria to start. At £24.00 a jug, it didn’t come cheap. Neither was it particularly alcoholic – it did have a more purple tint than one would expect in Spain, and almost had a taste of cheap squash. Then again, that could be my imagination. It was fine, but nothing more. We did, of course, order a second jug.

We were mostly looked after by a very nice but exceptionally talkative young Spanish lady, called Joana. I’m assuming the one n. When we asked her to recommend one dish, her favourite dish, she read out practically the whole menu at a speed that I could not take in. Bravo on the English skills – mi Español es mucho peor en comparison, but all I wanted was one single recommendation – her very favourite dish on the menu.  Ay (new word – it means alas, apparently).

There are two things that every Tapas Or Crap As review will require. Patatas bravas, and chorizo. In fact, every order at every tapas places should have both dishes. Hola todos.

The patatas bravas was pretty average. The potatoes were a little dry and cold-hearted, it felt like I was being rejected yet again by another senorita. The slopped-on sauce was uninspiring – it really didn’t taste like anything more than an ordinary tomato-based sauce – I was struggling to detect any spicy nature to it.

Oh yeah and I realise that my photography is mucho mierde. No se. I do not know why. Perhaps it was how dimly lit the restaurant was – I could perhaps have done with my flash being on. Mi telefono es also mierde. Mierde means shit by the way – you must remember from your French lessons at school.

We also had it with alioli, which was a little better. The alioli, whilst I have had more flavoursome (I attempted to make it uno time – the less said el better), was a pretty decent effort, topped off with a farm-full of chives. The potatoes themselves fared no better.

For the chorizo we had this weird construct of chorizo lollipops. Basically battered sausage from a chip shop, except just a slice of chorizo. I quite admired the inventiveness pero esta should have been sexual – no es sexual. Speaking of which, I had not fallen in love once, despite the alcohol consumed. Not one senorita that looked like a battered sausage.

So chorizo lollipop – hit or miss? Neither really.

So que else comemos? Well, we had some ham croquettes too. Lots of them – Croquetas de Jamón I suppose I should escribe. Hola. I liked these, very creamy and perfectly crisp on the outside – yet I didn’t detect any serrano ham, or any jamon at all. Nein.

We had some Padrón peppers, which are very small green peppers – crushed and covered in a fair quantity of sea salt. Again, reasonable, but nada to write home about.

Jesus, my photography get worse.

I discovered octopus a couple of years back at a Galician tapas restaurant in London. At £11.50, it was a little eye-wateringly expensive. And I would have expected more than just 3 measly pieces. They were quite charcoally on the outside, but the inside they had a pretty awesome texture – that kind of chewy resistance that gives way. For the money, I would not recommend it however.

That is octopus.  Seguramenta.  Llama mi abocado.  I didn’t have any of what was underneath – someone else ate that – I think it was mashed potato but really cannot remember.

My highlight were the lamb chops. Though quite fatty, these were also rather succulent and juicy. Really damn good. So good that I ordered another plate, thinking my fellow campesinos would help me – alas the second plate was all for me. Sadly the second plate didn’t meet expectations – perhaps I just didn’t need to eat any more, but there was definitely more fat on the second portion.

We also ordered some black rice, and paella – both dishes came well after the tapas was finished, though we were warned that this would be the case.

I touched neither. Nada. Nicht. None.

Meal over. I tried to finish everything that I could, and was so full that I didn’t even need anything from my local late night tapas place, Chicken Cottage.

Dinner and sangria came to around £55 per person, if I recall correctamente. Not the cheapest tapas meal ever, in fact even more expensive than a trip to Spain. With Ryanair. Though less chance of your meal being cancelled.  The dishes ranged in prices from £5.50 for the chorizo lollipops, to £11.50 for the octopus – you can see the menu we ate off here.

It certainly was not an authentic experience. Service was pleasant, the food reasonably good yet totally uninspiring – lacking the ‘wow’ factor almost the whole way through, bar the first plate of lamb chops. It was all too civil an experience and lacked that Spanish chaos. Tapas for those that work in banks – from looks, most customers appeared to be English, though we were eating before midnight so maybe not the best judge of whether Spanish people like it.

Scores on the puertas – a 6.30 out of 10. I wouldn’t recommend against it, it is decent enough. But there must be better. Your suggestions are welcome.

Near the end of my visit, the lamb chops were bettered. I had an amazing sideboob view of a bra-less, probably Spanish, hottie – wearing a top with kind of see-through panels at the side. Probably on a date, but he was nearly as fat as me, and no better looking. Truly my highlight of the whole experience – some people probably would pay £55 just for the view I had. So there is esperanza.

Yeah I’m a fat neanderthal gilipollas, I’ll get back to Magaluf.

So, adios.  Hasta la vista. I’ll be back. Quando no se.

Hmmm sideboob.