Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
A few years ago, London’s Old Spitalfields market was a derelict remnant of an industrial east London – bleak, windswept and uninviting.
Then came the trendiness of Hoxton, followed shortly by Shoreditch, and developers saw pound signs in their eyes. The market area was tarted up, open walkways covered with glass, and new buildings sprung up to fill in vast spaces of unused land.
Helped by the money from the nearby City of London, and the number of nearby offices with workers ready to enjoy tasty street food each lunchtime, the area is now buzzing most of the day and evening; and a new market area has opened up in the centre, selling the kind of thing that your mum will adore browsing.
One of the new restaurants is Las Iguanas, a two-storey Latin American diner with comfy outside sofas on the ground floor, and a large outdoor mezzanine area.
When we got there, the place seemed deserted, given there were no staff in sight and few people around. We followed a group of other bemused potential diners up a spiral staircase to find the main restaurant, and were led to a set by the edge of the mezzanine balcony, affording a great view of the market below and some people watching opportunities.
The ever-changing menu reflects the diverse mix of Spanish, Portuguese, African and native Latin influences that make up South American culture. Traditional dishes from across the continent, including Mexican classics like fajitas, burritos and enchiladas, slow-braised chilli con carne and sizzling steaks and burgers fresh ‘from the flames’, are joined by new signature dishes such as the enticingly zesty Halloumi Salad – with a kick of sweet chilli and ginger to really wake up those taste buds – and classic Brazilian favourites like the exotic, creamy and satisfying chicken Xinxim.
There are separate gluten free, veggie and vegan menus, and of course kids also have their own dishes to choose from, along with smaller portions of some of the main courses.
There’s also a smaller lunch menu, with smaller versions of their main courses and desserts, if you need to be in and out in a hurry.
We started with non-alcoholic cocktails, and were offered a selection including a few that were two for one during what’s probably the longest happy hour in history – every day until seven, and all day Sunday-Wednesday.
The menu is what you’d expect from a Latin American – a mix of main dishes that you’ve probably seen before, including quesadillas and enchiladas, and some you won’t have done, like the Xinxim (if you can say it, you can have it!). ‘Pele loves it,’ it tells you on the menu, which means it must be good. We think they mean their head chef, rather than the Brazilian football player, but maybe they both love it. No, that would be Peles love it. Google doesn’t help me much here. Where’s a reliable Wikipedia article when you need it?
Anyway, it was good, a tangy lime chicken in a peanutty sauce with slices of perfectly ripe plantain – a type of banana which is served cooked. The side bowl of toasted desiccated coconut to sprinkle on top added a little extra depth of flavour and texture to the dish.
The ‘holy’ guacamole was served as a splodge of mashed avocado in the centre of a slightly too-big bowl surrounded by all the things that would normally be mixed in. To join it, we got some whitebait – teeny deep fried battered fish that you eat whole. Try not to look at the heads as you pop them in your mouth, and you’ll be fine!
The ‘Aztec’ chocolate fudge cake was wonderful, with a generous layer of orange inside – if you like jaffa cakes, you’ll love this.
We were impressed by this restaurant – as a chain with 30 branches, we never expected great food, but it surprised with great service, and at about £20 each, including our drinks and service, it was great value. We’ll definitely be back with friends or family to try other things on the menu.
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