Following a re-decoration of the Manchester branch, Las Iguanas invited me down to Deansgate to try out some food and participate in a cocktail masterclass.
Having never been to a Las Iguanas before, I was somewhat skeptical as to the quality of the food. But how wrong I was! Unlike many successful chain restaurants, the menu felt cultivated and had a personality, rather than simply producing recognisable dishes that customers would blindly choose.
Separated into sections by locations such as Mexico, Peru, or Argentina, the menu offered plenty of choices for any tastes or dietary requirements. I ordered halloumi skewers to start, with a vegetarian enchilada main, and churros for dessert.
The halloumi skewers, although difficult to get wrong, (who doesn’t love halloumi?) were divine. Griddled to achieve the classic crispy outside, but served fast enough to still be piping hot and retain the soft, melty centre. They were also drizzled with a sweet chilli sauce and topped with sprigs of fresh oregano that made for a surprising but enjoyable contrast of flavours. Oregano is a regular ingredient in Mexican food. Many people, however, don’t know this as it often doesn’t feature heavily in English Mexican restaurants.
My main course — the enchilada — was a refreshing take on the dish. Instead of being drenched in cheese like others I have had, there was a perfect scattering. It was served on a bed of refried beans and rice — again, a good amount. Mexican food is filling and I often find portions far too big, especially in chain restaurants. The vegetarian filling offered a lighter enchilada, but the butternut squash was just as satisfying and flavourful as meat options. (I imagine!) The refried beans, however, were the best surprise. Contrary to the usual pale coloured, tasteless mush that fills enchiladas, the beans were spicy, salty, and still retained some structure. This made them look so much more appealing on the plate, too.
Finally, the churros. Oh, the churros. Crispy and coated in cinnamon sugar, the deep fried doughnuts were accompanied by dulce de lece and chocolate ganache. The ganache was so delicious that I ended up eating it with a spoon — much to the shock of my waiter. When he came to collect our plates he politely said he’d “give us some more time.”
The new decor features a larger bar, with good reason it seems! The cocktail masterclass taught us to make a classic Caipirinha using Las Iguana’s own cahaça — a Brazilian white spirit. It also showed off the skill and knowledge of the bar staff. We also tried the piña colada which was creamy, fruity, and delicious without being overpowering.
Las Iguanas might be easy to dismiss alongside other chain restaurants that dominate city centres but the food was impressive and the atmosphere was a lot calmer and relaxing than most. And with 2-4-1 cocktails all day every day, how can you say no? Look out for the new menu, launching on the 2nd of April.