LONDON EATERIES – Brazilian brilliance at Las Iguanas
Now the sun may have set on the actual Rio Olympics, but the festivities are still ablaze and no more so than on the South Bank. Las Iguanas Brazilian restaurant possesses the very same vivacity that we just experienced watching the Rio Olympics. Celebrating 25 years of Las Iguanas bringing the very best of Brazilian cuisine to the UK, they have recently launched the limited edition “Carioca Menu”. Brazilian people and cities are synonymous with vibrancy, music and dance, but in this instance just the venue’s location by South Bank Bridge provides the evening with gusto galore! It must be one of the most bustling and happening areas of London, but incredibly its not too overwhelming or annoying. The restaurant has extensive outside seating as well as a spacious interior.
The other half and myself were greeted by a beaming young lady who escorted us to the bar while our table was prepared, so I had time to survey the capacious cocktail list. I ordered a Pear Drop Caipirinha (9.15), a Brazilian favourite blended with Xante pear liqueur and apple juice. The other half had the Ultimate Caipirinha (8.50) consisting of Las Iguanas Magnifica cachaca, lime, sugar and citrus foam. Both cocktails were pretty sweet but definitely contributed to the evening’s bombastic experience. This was certainly not going to be a quiescent evening, and gladly so!
As we were shown to our table, we could appreciate how busy the restaurant was with staff whizzing to and fro from kitchen to table. Our waitress was a vivacious young lady called Alex who was blessed with the ability to seamlessly manage multiple tables and still give each diner her utmost attention. She was busy but never gave the impression of being stressed. In such an environment I am not sure I could function with such professionalism.
For the starter we had the Carioca Platter (10) which consisted of a selection of delicious Brazilian nibbles. Not only did it look stunning on the table, but it was stunningly tasty too. As I have indicated before, I prefer to try many little dishes rather than limiting myself to a single starter or main meal. I’ve always had the most fun dining experiences when given a selection of goodies to sample. The pão de queijo – cheese balls with chipotle butter, was creamily divine, but were over shadowed by the even more heavenly dadinhos – crispy cheese cubes served with sticky chilly jam. We both adored the sweet plantain chunks topped with cheese, pink pickled onions, and the cassava fries served with crispy manioc root. Unfortunately they had run out of the bolinhos – crispy crab and pawn croquettes with lime aioli.
Now came the mains. I ordered the Picanha, (which is an additional £3) This is traditional Brazilian cut of beef – 8oz rump steak, char-grilled, sliced and served with molho a campanha salsa and your choice of mixed sweet potato and cassava fries, sweet potato mash or salad and fresh herb chimichurri or chipotle butter. Now if you read my reviews regularly you will know that I am very difficult to please when it comes to steak and, although the flavours were extraordinary, I wanted the more subtle texture of medium-rare and was instead presented with a rather well-done steak. The rest of the dishes were excellent, but my advice for a steak enthusiast is this, don’t go demanding steak perfection unless its a specialised steak house like the Heliot for example. The other half’s sumptuous and satisfying Moqueca De Peixe , peeled pawns and sustainable white fish cooked in cream coconut, fresh tomato and lime sauce with spring onion rice was a revelation and deserves top marks.
On to the puddings: the Brigadeiro, which was inspired by Zaza’s restaurant in Rio, is an indulgent rich chocolate ganache, just a tad too too rich for me. I would recommend sharing it between two diners for a perfect end to the meal. The Pé De Moleque ice cream, a creamy vanilla ice cream topped with dulce de leche caramel and crushed caramelised nuts was magnificent.
I was super-impressed with the number of gluten-free dishes available on the menu. Information on ingredients with a potential allergy/intolerance is clearly displayed next to every dish. I wish more restaurants would follow their example.
My impressions of this restaurant, and I imagine its sister branches too, are of great evenings for the more adventurous person, someone who wants to try something a little more zany with curiously exotic flavours, rather than the generic offerings usually found in high street chains. I would definitely go again.
Heart London Magazine 5 Star Rating
Darren Cheers, Heart London Magazine