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On Saturday a friend and I paid an exclusive visit to the Las Iguanas restaurant in the West Midlands. The restaurant was an overall satisfactory experience but I will discuss my opinion of the restaurant in more detail further down. Initially, we wanted to visit a restaurant that was contemporary, affordable with an element of diversity.
When my friend mentioned that we should meet up and have a catch up over dinner a light bulb went off in my head, I thought I could factor this into my blog. Being the forward thinking woman that I am, for a while now I’ve been contemplating doing a few reviews, in fact I may include a variety of reviews on the blog for 2015, I shall see how everything unfolds.
Anyway, so my friend left the arrangements, restaurant choice etc.. to me, I then scoured the internet looking for restaurants that fitted the aforementioned criteria and finally found Las Iguanas, much to the approval of my friend. After hearing so many positive reviews about it, I wanted to see for myself if the rave reviews were truly warranted.
I call ahead of our dinner date and booked a table for two online, the availability slots were extremely limited which was to be expected since we intended to visit a few days shy of Christmas day. Not wanting to be disappointed I double checked that the booking was confirmed by calling to ensure they had received the online booking which they did.
Las Iguanas is a Latin American franchise situated on the outskirts of a plethora of Chinese restaurants, colloquially known as ‘China town’ in a place called The Arcadian. The Arcadian is a fairly upscale location, quiet in the day but comes to life at night. A great place to relax and people watch or simply take in the chaotic view.
Once we arrived at the establishment, we didn’t have to wait too long before being seated. The first thing I noticed was how lively and busy the place was. Latin music was playing at a moderate volume, there was a section for cocktails/beverages and the décor was quaint which fitted the Latin theme. At this point the only disappointment was the lighting, which reflects in my photo’s, although I do regret not bringing my DLSR camera. The lighting was very dim, mini chandeliers hovered over each table – I quickly learnt how problematic porcelain white pictures would be.
Shortly after my brief observations, our host retrieved the electronic booking and showed us to our seats. Prior to being seated the waitress asked if we had any dietary requirements, since I am afflicted with IBS and eat gluten free I informed her of this.
Much to my surprise I was presented with a separate gluten free menu. This had thrown me off slightly as I’m used to choosing from a scarce range of gluten free options when dining, this intrigued me even further.
There was also a menu for the vegan/vegetarians along with the original menu with a selection of dietary specific foods clearly marked with a small symbol at the end of each delicacy.
All three menus had authentic Latin cuisines, no dietary need was neglected or inauthentic, take it from someone who has travelled to a few Latin American countries the selection was well versed and mirrored the true Latin flavour. Each Latin American country was represented with their national dish – how authentic is that? The starters were things like nachos, tapas, tacos, guacamole – the Latino ‘safe options’ as I like to call them due to their popularity to more sophiscated foods like empanadas and quesadillas.
There was also a choice of ordering a ‘sharing tray’ a reasonable sized portion to share with whomever which works out cheaper. We moved away from the starter onto the main course, prior to ordering, our second host Babs (shout out to her, she was AH-MAZING) was warm and friendly, excellent people skills, who introduced herself and made sure we were content and replenished during our short visit.
At the time of our visit cocktails were buy one get one free, my friend took advantage of that, me on the other hand, as a non drinker I declined and let her drink what would have been my beverage. There was a selection of soft drinks and fruit juice to choose from, so I had some freshly squeezed orange juice.
The main course, with such a huge variety of Mexican, Brazilian, Spanish and other Latin cuisines, wasn’t an easy choice. Finally I decided to try the Vatapa Gambas – A gluten free Brazilian cuisine for £12.95. Prawns stewed in a thick sauce; coconut milk infused with tomato, peanuts, green onions, garlic and fine green beans with a side of rice and shredded coconut. This sounded the most appetising to me, just the thought of the coconut sauce made me salivate.
We didn’t have to wait to long for our meal considering the how busy the restaurant was, as soon as we got our drinks, a few moments later Babs came over with a small terracotta clay pot which she lit and stored the clay dish with the prawns on. The rice, shredded coconut and what appeared to be two small clusters of black beans were served separately.
The prawns were cooked thoroughly, not rubbery nor over cooked just right and sauce had a incredibly intense flavour of coconut. You could really taste the other flavours coming through especially the peanut and green onions, yet it complimented the coconut milk. No ingredient over powered the other which made the meal more enjoyable.
The rice was cooked to perfection, not too hard nor was it sticky. Here’s a tip for you, add the shredded coconut to the sauce to get an extra boost with a slight coconut crunch = heaven.
My friend ordered the blazing bird with the spicy jerk sauce for £7.95, this recipe had more of a Caribbean flare to it. I guess she wanted a mixture of Latin America with Caribbean flavours.
Her meal was HUGE, so much so that she offered to share it with me, of course being the greedy guts I am I accepted. The meat was well barbequed, with a sweet jerk marinade lathered over the top of the chicken, very succulent and fragrant. The cost was more than reasonable for such a large portion.
Afterwards, we went onto reviewing the dessert menu, desserts are often off limits for me since most of the them aren’t dairy free. They often consist of ice cream made from cows milk which would only aggravate my IBS. I had reservations about dessert from the start, but why should I feel excluded because of an aliment that is no fault of my own?
The choice of desserts sadly weren’t dairy free nor vegan friendly. However, if gluten is your own problem and not lactose, there certainly was a good range of exotic sounding desserts and pudding at the ready.
I think maybe if they omitted the yoghurt and ice cream from each puddings perhaps that would cater to our need? Then the cost of the dessert would be extortionate for only a 1/4 of the dessert, they would have to be some compromising and negotiating to do on your part.
I hope in the future Las Iguanas revaluates, their dessert menu – expanding their range of dairy free delicacies as the choice was quite poor. As side from being disappointed with the lack of dairy free desserts, I enjoyed my experience and would definitely recommend Las Iguanas and classify it as an authentic Latin restaurant.
The price was affordable, the location is on the perimeter of the city, the food was delicious and allergy friendly. The customer service was outstanding, we felt that the staff were friendly and accommodated our overall needs and I look forward to visiting in the near future.
Question; Have you visited one of the Las Iguanas chains in the UK? If so, what was your experience like? What are some of the difficulties that you face when fine dining?