Las Iguanas is a Latin-themed restaurant and bar, and there is no mistaking the buzz of activity that is always present from the moment you arrive. If you want good South American food and some exciting cocktails, this is a good place to find them.
Las Iguanas is only small and is easy to miss if you are hurrying around trying to find somewhere to enjoy a nice meal. Its location on Mill Lane, at the bottom of St Mary’s street, is a rather trendy area, housing the gastropub The Mill.
It is both an easy walk to the train station and to the Cineworld cinema on Mary Ann Street, if you’re looking for other ways to spend your evening. There is a large glass frontage to the restaurant, which is covered by an awning to provide cover for an outside seating area. Inside, you are met with a sudden explosion of customers and staff, all milling around a poorly placed cash register that necessitates you have to squeeze past them to your table or up the steps to the bar area.
On a slightly raised level, the bar and its seating area do become a little cramped as the restaurant fills up for the evening. This means it is not exactly a stress-free experience getting a drink. The tables are generally arranged in to groups of two, four and six seats, though a lot of the time they are combined to create seating for groups.
The decor is something which definitely catches your eye upon entering Las Iguanas. Living up to its Latin theme, the walls are splashed with bright colours of orange, green and red. There is an earthy feel to the place, with an abundance of plants, and a large wooden Aztec figure that stands guard by the steps to the bar.
The air is definitely buzzing in Las Iguanas and the lively music adds to this party atmosphere, although don’t expect authentic South American music. Despite the music, the people and staff always seem to be enjoying themselves, and there is a noticeable good spirit between staff that makes for better service.
Las Iguanas attracts a range of customer, although there does always seem to be large groups of men and women in their mid twenties to thirties. During the day, Las Iguanas attracts families and friends alike, but it is definitely the place for twenty-somethings to go.
The food at Las Iguanas is made up of well known South American dishes. Tapas is quite expensive; a plate of nachos (£5.50) with melted cheese, jalapenos, salsa, soured cream and guacamole comes with the option of additional toppings of chicken, or chorizo at an extra £1.60.
For a main course, there is a choice from enchiladas (£8.50-£9.50) or an extremely rich and filling Puerto Rican paella, with a topping of butternut, asparagus and portobello mushroom (£8.90) or chicken, chorizo, squid, salmon, tiger prawn and mussels (£10). The second topping is probably the best, as the salty flavours of the chorizo mingle with the prawns and soft, slightly oniony rice.
One of the dishes on the menu that is a little less mainstream is XINXIM (pronounced: zinzim - £10), which is described as Pele’s favourite. The lime chicken in a creamy crayfish and peanut sauce with rice, beans, coconut farofa and sweet plantain creates a textured sensation in the mouth. It is sweet, yet creamy and tangy, and not at all disappointing.
There are a range of cocktails on offer here, from the most popular creations like Tequila Sunrise, Margharita, and Cosmopolitan (all £4.20-£5.90) which are also included in the two for one cocktail selection during the happy hour (12noon-7.30pm, Tuesday-Saturday and all day on Sunday and Monday). However, if you ask the staff, they will encourage you to try the more authentic Latin cocktails, like the Spiced Mojito (£5.80) and the Caipirinha (£5). These cocktails and are made, naturally, with Cachaca.
There is also a selection of wine. A glass of their Argentinean Chardonnay will set you back £3.10 and £13 for a bottle, and their Chilean Merlot is a fine tasting, rich and fruity wine which is also the same price. For a more expensive wine to accompany the meal, their Brazilian Cabernet Sauvignon (£16.50 a bottle) has a very full bodied taste, and is slightly plumy.
The beers that are available by the bottle are South American, and include Brahma (£3.10), Corona (£3.20), San Miguel (£3.10), and Cusquena (£3.20). There is also the Spanish San Miguel on tap, a pint goes for £3.30.
The Last Word
Despite the rather cramped dining space at times, Las Iguanas offers friendly, knowledgeable service and a lively atmosphere, too.