Las Iguanas, Leeds
My sister is a footballer. A good one. She plays for Charlton Athletic Women’s team in some capacity, as my colleagues are surely bored of me boasting. She’s once taught me the offside rule, but I’m still not sure I get it (I mean, I know what it is, but why?!). It’s safe to say that whilst she’ll be donning her football shirts and shouting at the telly with the best of them, I’ll be doing the much more stereotypically girly thing and pretty much ignoring all things football in the next couple of weeks, as I usually do. Don’t get me wrong, I can drum up a bit of World Cup fervour when England are playing and I’m not one of those scrooges that complains every time something football-related crosses their path, but it’s safe to say that it’s not really my thing.
You know what is my thing? Food. And with the World Cup being hosted in Brazil this year, it gives me an excuse to eat Brazilian fare and drink Caipirinhas, which just so happen to be my favourite cocktail. There’s a surprising amount of Brazilian food out there in Leeds. I’m lucky enough to have a Brazilian friend and so I’ve had it home-cooked – empanadas I’m a fan of, chicken hearts not so much (although I was brave enough to try them!). But on top of that, you can get your fill of delicious steak at Fazenda (it’s all you can eat, so wear stretchy trousers), pick up some Latin American-inspired street food from Hay Latin America at Trinity Kitchen this month, or pop down to Las Iguanas.
We were invited down to the latter last week to try out their new menu, inspired by Latin America. I’ve been to the Leeds Las Iguanas a couple of times before – mostly to make the most of their Happy Hour deal, which may be the best one there is. Two cocktails from the ‘Happy Hour’ menu for the price of one before 7.30pm on any day (and all day Sunday-Wednesday). Given how potent a Caipirinha can be, that’s a pretty dangerous offer – although it is valid on some non-alcoholic cocktails, too! Despite dining before Happy Hour finished, however, I was tempted by the slightly more exciting selection on the main cocktail menu – this Strawberry & Vanilla Caipirinha was basically made for me…
It was everything I hoped for and more – I could have easily had five, but it was a school night and that’s a little anti-social. Instead, I tucked into our starters – we had two to share: the ‘cha-cha chorizo’, which although a little salty for my tastes was rich and just a little bit spicy with plenty of sauce to dunk, and the ‘patatas bravas in bits’, little chunks of potatoes (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside) on sticks with a bowl of sauce to dunk. Fun and delicious. Although we enjoyed the starters, I think they may have been a mistake – because what came next were the biggest portions I’ve seen in a restaurant – or at least it seemed that way! For £12.95, you definitely got your money’s worth!
We’d gone off the ‘tex-mex’ menu for something a little bit different – I was actually pleasantly surprised when we first looked at the menu at the variety of dishes on offer, many of which seemed quite unusual and exciting. I’d opted for the ‘Camarão a la Criolla’ – juicy prawns in a spicy, creamy sauce made with coconut milk, served with garlic butter tortillas for dipping and a mound of rice. It was absolutely gorgeous – just enough heat without disguising the flavour, a more-ish sauce and fluffy rice. Paul went for the ‘Hot Guyanese Pepperpot’ – a spicy mutton curry served with orange wedges, grilled plantains and the aforementioned mound of rice. I pinched a little bit and the mutton was tender – despite its reputation. It was a too hot for me – it was made with Scotch Bonnets – but Paul thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our waitress (who was absolutely lovely) recommended that we go for a side of ‘Pan Ajillo’ – a coriander, chilli and garlic ciabatta, which went down incredibly well for dipping. I was impressed by her knowledge of the menu, and it was certainly a good recommendation!
Despite bursting at the seams by the time she collected the plates, I couldn’t resist ordering a portion of churros with dulce de leche dip – my absolute favourite dessert. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it. These were delightful – crispy on the outside, soft and doughy in the middle, dusted with crunchy cinnamon sugar with a sweet dip that I could have eaten with a spoon, if that wasn’t totally uncouth. The perfect finish to our dinner – even if I did have to roll out the door!
So, if you’re inspired by the World Cup to try out the food and flavours of Brazil, you should pop down to your local Las Iguanas – if only for a taste of those Caipirinhas!
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