Spanish food is an odd one. We’re all fans of a good Italian pizza. Mexican street food’s taken the country by storm. Portuguese piri piri chicken’s a firm favourite with everyone, from rugby players like the adorable and beautiful Leigh Halfpenny, to tattooed types like Jodie Marsh. But Spanish food isn’t really mentioned. Aside from paella which I’ve only ever attempted in Spain, I can’t remember ever saying ‘Let’s have Spanish food tonight, shall we?’ after a hard day at work.
So when we were invited to give Ibérica la Terraza on Cabot Square, at London’s Canary Wharf, a go I genuinely didn’t know what to expect. Spanish food served outside in the heart of the concrete jungle? You know, the place featured in 28 Weeks Later? The one you see helicopter-style in the opening credits of The Apprentice? That place. It doesn’t exactly scream al fresco dining.
I am happy to say, though, their concept totally works. Authentic Spanish food served in the great outdoors. If you’re already in central London, it’s a short hop on the DLR and five minute walk to the terrace, which is situated in a sunny little spot outside it’s sister restaurant Ibérica Canary Wharf. Admittedly the weather was poor, but us Brits are evidently used to a little bit of drizzle as there was a table of five and another table of three already sitting drinking cocktails. Always a good sign. The place is lit with fairy lights and lanterns, and will serve cold plates and meats. It really is a beautiful little corner, and I can imagine it gets packed on sunny days.
We took our seats under the heated lamps, and were handed blankets just in case it got too nippy. Our waitress recommended a few drinks, so we sampled the sangria (of which you can have red, white and Cava. Go for the Cava. Seriously) and Agua Valencia. It’s all very surreal. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city amid the drizzling rain yet feeling warm and toasty, as if you’re drinking cocktails around the pool.
As the weather turned head chef César García suggested we eat indoors. “I love the outside space,” he said proudly. “But there’s nothing worse than shivering and trying to enjoy a meal.” It meant a bit of a wait, but we were warm and cosy with our blankets. It was then a short walk to the restaurant which, for a Wednesday night, was heaving. It’s clear it’s a favourite spot with office workers for post-work drinks and cocktails, as well as parties and dining.
We sat at the bar while our table became free, and César started telling us about his inspiration for the place. “You get good Italian in London, but it’s hard to find authentic Spanish food. So it’s my goal to make sure the menu stays as it would be at home.” He’s been in England for a few years working alongside two Michelin Starred Executive Chef Nacho Manzano. “Sometimes I’ll go to local markets to see what fresh food and fish has come in. Quality ingredients is what I work with, nothing less.” And we can tell by the quality of the olive oil we were dipping our bread into.
When we were seated, we let César go wild with food. After all, as the chef he knows what his patrons like, right? We started with pork, cured and hung for four years, three years and five years. Never having been a fan, I couldn’t get enough of the sweetest, three-year cured ham. It was delicious.
Gazpacho was to follow, made with red berries, beetroot, garlic and anchovies. Light, and refreshing. Little did we know how much more was to come!
Smoked cod salad was next, which we polished off, followed by fried cheese and ham croquettes. These were definitely a firm favourite. Next came a Spanish version of fish and chips, Adobo marinated rock salmon and prawns with mushrooms. We finished with confit of Segovian suckling pig with an apple purée and frise salad and black rice with cuttlefish and prawns.
Needless to say by the end we were stuffed. We finished the meal with traditional Spanish rice pudding and coffees. César mentioned they have a chef brought in especially to stir the pudding for three hours once it’s made.
Prices are really reasonable considering you’re in the heart of the banking world. Starters average about £5 per plate, and fish/meat £7. I think what we loved the most was César’s passion (an overused sentiment, I know) for his homeland’s food. While we were eating we could see him in the open kitchen tasting and talking to the team, then he’d leave the chefs to finish off and speak to the crowds at the bar, explaining what to order and just generally making sure everyone was having a great time. You don’t see that very often, and it just makes the whole place, Terraza and restaurant, seem far more than just an ordinary place to eat.
Oh, we didn’t manage to give it a go, but if you get a chance, try and drink from a traditional Porron. It looks like something you should drizzle oil from, but it’s actually quite a challenging way to drink wine!
Ibérica La Terraza | Cabot Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 4QQ | 020 7636 8650