February 2017 marks the sixth anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Las Iguanas - Anchor Square/Harbourside, Bristol

I have often suggested that within the heart of every foodie exists a preference for a specific chain restaurant and fundamentally, for us Bristolians, Las Iguanas comes up trumps given that its very first branch was opened in our beloved city (on Whiteladies Road to be exact) back in the early 1990s. Thus, humble beginnings that have gradually developed into the twenty-five-part franchise that exists today. Fast forward to the evening of our latest visit which began with The Boy and I trekking across the centre amidst the weekend merry-makers (through hen party hootenannies and student-style shin digs) in order to reach the Harbourside branch in time for the birthday festivities of a friend…

Date and Time: Saturday 29th October 2011, 18:30
Name of Establishment: Las Iguanas*
Location: Unit A, South Building, Anchor Square, Bristol
Reason for visit: Birthday celebrations and Caipirinha-fuelled chit-chat

Full of the typical Saturday night hustle and bustle and channelling its distinctive party vibe, Las Iguanas coupled excitable chatter with the Latin American beats overhead which, from Brazilian Samba to Cuban Mambo, made for an appealing buzz that resounded throughout the space. Though fundamentally it was the intimate bar area that was well attended (no doubt the bodies here making the most of 'Happy Hour' - a deal which bestows on the venue's clientèle, their cocktail of choice, times two for just the price of one) the restaurant was also busy; though proving cosy as opposed to crowded meaning that one could enjoy the ambiance without feeling overwhelmed by it. Our party sat at a round table (so much easier for conversing as a group) which overlooked the twinkling lights of Millennium Square courtesy of the floor to ceiling windows to our right. To the left, was an artistic interpretation of the famous Rio de Janeiro skyline and this, in addition to rich terracotta-coloured panelling, bamboo-effect booths, coloured lanterns and large, leafy potted-plants facilitated a vibrant effect which, in my view, successfully captures one's interest without being cheesy nor over-done.

Now, to say that our table took advantage of the aforementioned 'Happy Hour' is rather an understatement and in fact (and all in the name of a well-rounded review of course) we just so happened to sample two-thirds of the line-up! The Caipirinia (£5.80) was my particular favourite and given the venue's commitment to the Latin American spirit, it would have been rude not to indulge in its refreshingly bitter-sweet bite. I absolutely love the crisp zing of fresh lime which this cocktail muddles with the 'house' Magnifica Cachaça, sugar and crushed ice – just delicious! The Dappled Apple (£6.00) was also well received – a simple yet tasty combination of vodka, cloudy apple juice and crème de cassis. Overall, we agreed that all the drinks we had chosen had been expertly prepared and although part of the buy-one-get-one-free deal, had not been scrimped upon in terms of their alcohol content. I will note here that service was efficient and friendly; we were given a 10-minute warning in regards to the cut-off for attaining cheaper drinks (as if we needed any further encouragement) and the birthday girl was even treated to a complimentary Caipirinha which was presented to her, complete with candle – a nice touch!
Cocktail o' Clock
On to the food and although there were initial concerns expressed in regards to the muddily layout of the menu, (“a child with a set of crayolas could have made this easier on the eye” said The Boy), we decided to start with the Breads, Chips and Dips (£3.90) to share amongst us. This was a reasonable portion for the price and yet I’m afraid for me, just didn't have the wow factor – the breads (a sliced multi-seed and chunked ciabatta) were a little dry and would have benefited from been warmed through...not to mention the tortillas which were tasty but unfortunately, in short supply! Improvements all round though when it came to the main courses and it was the Pescado Fritas (£7.90) for me which, it has to be said, were just delicious. This comprised succulent white flakes of fish coated with a crunchy crumb of coconut and chilli and supplemented with a dipping pot of mango peri peri sauce. Attractively presented on a rectangular board, the icing on the cake came in form of sweet potato fries - although a handful were a tad overcooked, plenty were perfectly executed; achieving an appealingly earthy sweetness which for me, coupled the joy of comfort food with a real sense of autumnal fare. Other dishes included the Prawn Bobo (£12.50) which its recipient informed us harboured a satisfying kick and the Pollo con Chorizo (£10.20) which was also beautifully presented (this time in a shallow earthenware dish) and reportedly a vibrant accumulation of flavours and textures. Here, although the chorizo proved a little tough, the peppers were described as wonderfully juicy and the chicken well-cooked and tender.
Pollo con Chorizo
Pescado Fritas

We did not opt for desserts on this occasion and if you cast your eyes over the image below, you will see why, (for the record this is an expertly made, two-tiered coffee-come chocolate birthday cake endorsed with an obscene number of Cadbury's Flake bars – excuse me whilst I dive in!!) That said, there were some rather tempting options on the menu and, in the absence of the cake to end all cakes, I would have luxuriated in the Aztec Chocolate Fudge Cake (£4.90) – a warm, spiced chocolate orange sponge served with a generous scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream – yum!
Chocca' Block!
In conclusion, an enjoyable evening all round – Las Iguanas delivered excellent service, reasonable prices and freshly-cooked food of a commendable standard. I love that this chain supports businesses from the Countries that inspire its cuisine and in turn secure top-notch ingredients; their coffee for instance which, supplied by Ipanema, is Rainforest Alliance certified and their cachaça partners, Magnifica, grow sugar cane without chemicals and mix it with only natural spring water during the distillation process. Closer to home, Las Iguanas draws on the expertise of Bristol-based Bart Spices for an ever-present range of Latin-based products including salts, sauces and oils. And so, returning to my original point, this is clearly a much-loved chain...with a brain - committing itself to 'every Latin minute and every Latin mouthful' and yet remaining mindful of its roots.

And now for the second opinion…
The birthday girl gave Las Iguanas (Anchor Square) a rating of 8/10 and in three words, described her experience as ‘colourful, sumptuous and atmospheric’.


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