Monday, 7 September 2015

Restaurant review: Las Iguanas, Coventry

I was delighted to be invited to do a review of Las Iguanas in Coventry. Ever since I saw that we were getting a few new restaurants in Coventry, including Las Iguanas and Wagamama, I have been looking forward to them opening. While I always maintain that there are some fantastic restaurants in Coventry, there really aren't enough of them and there certainly aren't enough places in the city centre.

I have previously reviewed the Las Iguanas in Leamington Spa when it first opened - you can find my review here. We really enjoyed the food, so were looking forward to a similar experience in Coventry. So, I made my way into the city centre on a Friday night after work to see how things compared at the Coventry Las Iguanas.

When I arrived, the restaurant was buzzing, which was nice to see. I think people had clearly been taking advantage of the cocktails during 'Happy Hour' (12pm - 7pm), and who can blame them? There has definitely been a lack of places to drink cocktails after work in Coventry, so I am pleased that Las Iguanas has been able to fill that gap. I found the music a little too loud for my liking, however, and the layout of the restaurant is confusing at first. The bar is at the front and you have to go round the bar to find people to seat you. I also felt they had squeezed far too many tables in for the size of the place (a common problem in restaurants nowadays, it seems).

Service was friendly and the staff were doing their best to help, but seemed a bit rushed, presumably due to how busy the restaurant was. Given that I visited during their first week of opening as well, I can certainly forgive a few teething problems.

The absolute best part about our visit was the food and drink. To drink we chose the Carmenére Veramonte, a Chilean red. This hadn't been our first choice of wine because they had a couple that weren't available, but it all worked out ok in the end, because it was truly a great wine. A rich, full-bodied wine, which was delicious on its own, but also stood up to the spicy flavours of the food very well.

For a starter we shared some bread and olives (which is listed as a side on the menu). I really liked the olives, which were very fruity. The bread was ok, but I couldn't work out if it was supposed to be warm or not.

The main event was perhaps the best part though. I chose the Camarao La Criolla from the 'Brazil and Beyond' section of the menu. The dish is described on the menu as, "Plump prawns in a sauce of peppers, tomatoes, parsley, coriander, garlic, paprika, coconut milk, cumin & lime. With chilli & garlic buttered wheat & corn tortillas & piles of spring onion & garlic rice". It was spicy, creamy and delicious. The prawns were cooked nicely and the whole dish was just buzzing with flavour. It came served with a wedge of lemon, and I found squeezing a bit of lemon juice onto the dish really helped to bring out the subtleties of the flavour too.

My husband had the steak, which he really enjoyed. It was cooked perfectly to his specification (medium rare).

I couldn't really manage much in the way of dessert, but I fancied something cool and refreshing after the chilli heat of my main, so I opted for the mango sorbet, which was very tasty. My husband couldn't resist the lure of the churros and I nicked one of his too - they were amazing. Lovely and crisp on the outside, wonderfully soft inside and heavenly chocolate and dulce de leche sauces as dips.

Overall then, this was a gorgeous meal and I definitely plan to return. Prices are a little on the expensive side compared to some other chain restaurants, but I think this reflects the quality of the food (which really is very good quality). I'm very happy that Las Iguanas has come to Coventry and I look forward to dining there again in the future!

Disclaimer: The meal was complimentary for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review and all views are of course my own.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Recipe: Maltese pork and aubergine pasta sauce

I have this really old Maltese cookbook that my mum gave to me called Cooking Maltese Cuisine (she in turn was given it by a relative). All the recipes are wonderfully vague and it shows its age when it gives a recipe for Turtle Pie  (the first ingredient is '1 kilo of fresh sea turtle'...). Don't worry, I'm not going to be making anything with sea turtle (interestingly one of my newer Maltese cookbooks lists a recipe for Turtle Pie, but when you turn to the page it's supposed to be on it says something like 'this recipe has been removed because sea turtles are now an endangered species'). But I have decided to try and make some more Maltese dishes in general.

Given the vagueness of the instructions, and the fact that I like to give most recipes my own twist these days, I adapted a recipe from Cooking Maltese Cuisine for 'Spaghetti with aubergines' and made it my own. The original recipe basically involved making a tomato sauce from tomato puree and water, cooking the pork mince in it, and serving it with spaghetti and fried aubergine slices on top. To cut down on washing up I decided to cook my aubergines with the tomato sauce and pork. Et voilá.

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 aubergine, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed.
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
250g pork mince
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper

1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until the onion is starting to soften.
2. Add the aubergine and garlic and cook until the aubergine is brown and starting to soften (5-10 minutes).
3. Stir in the dried mixed herbs and the pork mince. Turn the heat up a little and fry until the pork mince is cooked, stirring frequently.
4. Add the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce briefly to the boil and then simmer gently for 20 minutes until the tomato sauce has thickened.

Serve with your choice of pasta.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Recipe: Homemade 'baked' beans and jacket potato

This recipe is a variation on the baked bean recipe that I blogged about a while ago here. And this time I decided to serve it with a jacket potato, which made a simple and hearty meal.

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 - 35 minutes (for the beans - jacket potatoes will of course take longer!)

1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 stick of celery, finely sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 400g tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil over a medium heat and fry the celery and carrot for 5-10 minutes until they are starting to soften.
2. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
3. Add the smoked paprika and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
4. Add the tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with jacket potatoes.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Recipe: simple lentil and aubergine curry

Inspired by this recipe from Delicious magazine and by what I had in the cupboards/fridge, this very simple 'curry' is healthy and delicious. I love how the aubergine absorbs the flavours.

Tastes better than it looks in this photo...
Serves 2
Prep. time: 10-15 mins
Cooking time: 35-40 mins

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 medium aubergine, cut into chunks
1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 heaped tbsp medium curry powder
450ml vegetable stock
100g dried split red lentils
Chopped fresh or frozen coriander

1. Heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the aubergine and pepper and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the aubergine has browned and is starting to soften.
3. Add the tomatoes and and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the tomato has started to break down and release its juice. Add the curry powder and stir. Cook for a further 1 minute.
4. Add the stock and the lentils. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Stir frequently and top up with water if necessary.
5. Add the coriander towards the end of cooking time and stir in.

Serve with rice and/or naan bread.