Hockley has long held the title of the coolest area of Nottingham. The edgier, more out there sibling to the Lace Market, it thrives with culture and creativity. The food offerings around here much adhere to that vibe, but with it comes a risk. New and different establishments aren’t always a success, and one particular premises on Carlton Street fared worse than most. In recent years it’s seen businesses come and gone so frequently that the place seemed cursed.
That curse seems to have been broken with the arrival of Bar Iberico last August. A spin-off of sorts of the prestigious Iberico World Tapas over on High Pavement, this new offering boasts a more casual dining experience with the same high standard of Spanish eats, and has been busy since the day its doors opened.
I wondered whether a cold and rainy day in February would see quite the same volume of customers as it did in the summer, but the restaurant was teeming when my parents and I arrived at lunchtime. Luckily there were a couple of tables available in the more relaxed downstairs area which suited us perfectly, and we soon got down to the task at hand.
We ordered 7 dishes between the 3 of us, mainly vegetarian with a couple of fish options as well.
First up were baked eggs, yolky and nestled in a gorgeous smoky ‘fritada’ sauce. There were chickpeas and spinach swimming underneath too, making it particularly hearty. Unfortunately the eggs were too runny for our liking (when the white is wobbling it’s too much).
Having spotted the swordfish pinchos on my Instagram feed a few days before, I knew I had to find out if they tasted as good as they looked (and they really are beautifully presented) Generous chunks of fish skewered together, sprinkled with colourful spring onion and pink peppercorn – the result was a taste that I can only describe as dancing on your tongue, incredibly light and fresh… and absolutely as good as it looks!
More skewers, this time tiger prawns spiced with ginger and glazed with a sticky sweet molasses sauce. The prawns were big and juicy, each mouthful rounded off with a crunch of peanuts. My mum and I had a skewer each, but if she’d looked away at the right time I’d have nabbed hers as well, that’s how bloody good they were.
But the award for both the tastiest and most surprising dish goes to the crispy cauliflower. I know, cauliflower has never been the vegetable to rock anyone’s world but this was game-changing. Smothered in something akin to a sweet and sour sauce (tons of ginger and chilli), it had an almost meaty consistency, and an addition of smoked almonds took this to the next level in terms of flavour.
Seriously, have you ever seen cauliflower look better than this? No, and you never will.
Unpictured are lemon and paprika chips, cooked perfectly with an always-edible allioli dip, and a courgette hummus with olive oil biscuits, light and refreshing but with pomegranate that felt out of place.
A flatbread was the last thing to arrive and we’d pretty much finished up by the time it did, but it proved perfect for mopping up the remains of our other food. Hot and doughy, the bread was topped with chestnut mushrooms and oozing with a combo of gorgonzola and garlic butter. In short, the dream hangover food I never knew I was craving.
The total bill came to just over £40 which we didn’t think was unreasonable, especially considering the quality. Wonderful service, a great atmosphere and food that’s both exciting and delicious. Will we be returning? A unanimous yes!
robyn’s review: 9/10
Find Bar Iberico on 17-19 Carlton St, Nottingham, NG1 1NL