Having survived January with its cold, yet often ‘dry’ conditions, we now progress joyously into the grey and damp of February.
Such is our great British winter. Time to start seriously planning some holidays in the sun – the Cote d’Azur in France, the Italian lakes, or perhaps Andalucía in Spain with its warmth not only of climate, but of its people, food and wines.
All this is just a train ride away. OK, if you’re actually going to Spain, it may be rather a long ride, but hop on a train from Sussex and God and the RMT willing, you arrive in Victoria. A 500-yard walk along Victoria Street and opposite Westminster Cathedral is a little bit of Spain, tucked away under the Zig-Zag building, in the form of Iberica Restaurant.
Iberica Victoria is a true Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant, with the added advantage of an interestingly different list of Spanish wines, many of which are imported direct from the producers in Spain. Many of these are served by the glass, allowing a different wine to be paired with each different tapa – and there is a wide selection from which to choose. Apart from the lack of a dancer in a flowing red dress, accompanied by Flamenco guitar and castanets, the restaurant achieves a truly authentic Spanish atmosphere, serving the best tapas I have eaten outside Andalucía itself.
In the words of the group head bartender Nacho Ordiz: “A true Spanish meal is nothing without drinks.”
And the selection of more than 50 wines is designed to showcase the great diversity and vibrancy that modern Spanish wines are all about.
That iconic and massively underrated wine called sherry, is offered in six different styles, all by the glass, starting at the good value of £5 for a bone dry Fino or Manzanilla. Sip as an aperitif or match with Calamares – fried baby squid with garlic mayonnaise. Or if you fancy a glass of something bubbly, try the crisp, dry Raventos Blanc de Blanc Cava, with its delicious aromas of pears and green apple on the palate. A plate of Iberico ham is ‘de rigueur’.
Recently, Albarino from the north-west of Spain, has come to the fore on many wine lists and it has become a favourite dry white wine of mine, with its distinctive, crisp, refreshing character. Iberica has no less than five different Albarinos, including a very unusual and utterly delicious aged version from the 2011 vintage. Fabulous served with salt cod brandade and root vegetable crisps, or poached hake, one of the Iberica signature dishes.
A good choice of other white wines is also available, together of course, with an eclectic list of reds, which pair perfectly with the meat-based tapas. Seasonal specialities are featured on a changing list, irresistible when available. Hare croquetas or partridge pie. Sheer heaven for us omnivores. And with 15 reds by the glass, including some from the deliciously fruity yet little-known Mencia grape variety, the combinations with these or other tapas are endless. It may make for a very long lunch next time you are in town.
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.
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