Palate Portfolio: Las Iguanas, Southbank

Ok, listen up. If you don’t finish this post, if you (inexplicably) decide you have something better to do rather than get to the end, we want to make sure you at least receive this message: Oh mah LAWD Las Iguanas got game.

Since Las Iguanas reopened its Festival Hall branch on October 20th after extensive renovations, you would expect them to be a little rusty from the break. On the contrary, we were wowed from the start. Shoutout to the renovators, the place looks SICK.

I was informed that there were also some lovely Samba dancers adding to the aesthetics of the venue. I cannot verify this, because at that moment I was entirely focused on the cheese fondue and patatas bravas we had just been presented with. (In hindsight we can confirm Brazilian attire was present as shown at the start of this post).

The official name for this dish was “Huancaina”, which I believe is Portuguese for “get in my damn mouth” (disclaimer: I do not speak Portuguese). Is there anything more heartwarming than dipping food into melted cheese? I suspect that when I gaze down on the face of my firstborn, the feeling in my heart might come close to how I feel when I look at this picture.

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As if this cheesy gift from the gods was not enough, it was accompanied by two crispy Empanadas. Filled with tender lamb braised in mint, tomato and chipotle, and served with spicy cranberry salsa, we could’ve eaten those Empanadas all night. We had to pace ourselves though, we were filling up fast and the mains were yet to arrive.

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The Las Iguanas menu is divided into regions – Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Peru & Beyond. My fellow Nibbler and I loved the look of the Brazil menu, so we both ordered from that section. The Xinxim comprises chicken and crayfish in a creamy lime and peanut sauce, served with spring onion rice, green beans and sweet, sweet plantain. If I had to describe it in three words: Satay On Steroids. You know those dishes where you just close your eyes and sag a little in your seat at your first mouthful? This is one of those dishes. The Moqueca de Peixe Nibbler #2 ordered was a delightful foil to the richness of my Xinxim – a mixture of seafood cooked in a coconut, fresh tomato and lime sauce.

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As if the food wasn’t incredible enough, it was accompanied by perhaps the tastiest cocktails I’ve ever had. I don’t say this lightly, either. Las Iguanas was a revelation for me in the alcohol section. As a student, I was unaware that alcohol could taste good. The time-tested strategy is:

1. Alcohol

2. Mixer to mask the taste of alcohol

Somehow, the warlocks that Las Iguanas employs as mixologists actually managed to make the taste of alcohol in their drinks a pleasant one. I can’t convey how big of a deal it is that I genuinely enjoyed the taste of alcohol beyond the level of “doesn’t make me grimace”. The Strawberry Caipirinha was a perfect mix of sweet and sour, and the Huana Party was like orange juice had hit puberty and come out the other side with a great body. Look I don’t know if that comparison even makes sense, it was fucking good ok?

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The combination of amazing food and alcohol soon had a predictable effect on us. Our eyelids started to droop, and we yawned our way home, to dream of our return to Las Iguanas.
D.L.


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