Friday, February 01, 2008

Las Iguanas

Thurs 31 Jan 2008

At the tail end of last year, I visited Las Iguanas on a work night out. I was impressed by how well they handled a large group of less than stone cold sober individuals. But party food is different from real food ... and my good impression was enough to convince I should go back, pay for my own meal and write about a more typical night at the restaurant.

First impressions, on booking, were extremely positive: phone answered promptly, polite, clear and comprehensive experience making a reservation. All good.

We started our evening at the bar. We waited an age to be served and even then, the process of pouring one pint of lager and one small white wine seemed to take a disproportionate amount of time. For some reason, we couldn't just add our drinks on to our table reservation, but if I set up a tab, the drinks could be added to our bill. Confused, but by this time a bit thirsty, I put my card behind the bar.

Fortunately, the sloppy bar service did not extend into the restaurant. Everyone who dealt with us was polite and efficient. Given I'm somewhat picky about service this is no mean feat.

Food wise, the food is reasonably standard Mexican fare. We started by sharing the queso frito (Brie and mango parcel on a mango salsa) and the bolinhos (cod, potato and parsely fritters with chilli salsa). These were quite large portions (four good size cod balls) - large enough to satisfy if you were popping in for a quick lunch or saving space for dessert. I particularly liked the chilli salsa accompanying the cod fritters. The fritters themselves could have done with a little spicing up, but they were nice and crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The queso frito was sort of a Brie and mango enchilada. I thought it was OK, but I probably wouldn't order it again. Having said that, of the two starters, it was Jenn's favourite - so my recommendation would be to give it a try, but not to follow it with enchiladas/chimichangas/burritos.

For main courses, it was a duck enchilada, a chicken chimichanga and the Colombian style lamb shank. And a side order of curly chips, with chilli aioli (mmmm). The chicken chimichanga was my choice: a fat parcel of chicken, fried and served on rice and refried beans, and slathered with sour cream and guacamole. This is simple, but tasty, food - and all three of us polished off everything on our plate. The lamb shank looked particularly impressive: falling off the bone and succulent - and also a bit different from some of the more typical dishes.

After a rather large amount of food we couldn't fit in desserts and instead opted for the bill. While there was a little delay as we tried to sort out the combination of restaurant and bar tabs (something that Las Iguanas should make far more simple), the service was by and large far better than you'd expect at a casual venue (and far better than that you receive at many less casual venues).

I don't think anyone eats Mexican food in the expectation that they'll be experiencing some ground breaking flavour combinations (I certainly don't!). But if you're after something quick, tasty and relatively cheap you can do worse than Las Iguanas - just head somewhere else for your pre-dinner drinks!

Total bill: around £60 - 2 starters, 3 mains, a small glass of wine and, um, several beers!

1. Las Iguanas, Cloth Hall Street, Leeds, LS1 2HD, phone: 0113 243 9533
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