Clouds dominate the skies as we creep ever closer to winter, but there is one place in town that can make you forget the harsh realities of living in Leeds and move you to Mexico, or send you to Brazil and beyond with some seriously sizzling flavours and a cocktail that can kick your behind all the way to Latin America.
The warmest of welcomes awaits you at Las Iguanas, down on Cloth Hall Street. Though a chain restaurant, this is not the feel you get from the place with its soft lighting and its bar stacked high with Latin inspired liquor.
Richard, bartender extraordinaire and king of the cheeky smile, was leading the cocktail making master class that was to kick start our evening. As we pummelled limes to make our caipirinhas – the national cocktail of Brazil – Richard introduced us to Las Iguanas’ little alcoholic secret – their own brand of cachaça. This spirit, made from sugarcane juice, puts the punch in their Caipirinha, which is otherwise a refreshing, citrus treat for your taste buds, bringing you back to those summer days spent basking in the sun. With 2-4-1 on cocktails and coolers pretty much all week, with the exception of a few hours at the weekend, you may find it hard to leave the bar (especially when Richard is working his magic behind it).
As we took our cocktails back to our tables, we inhaled the spices circulating in the air, admiring the sizzling, smoking plates being brought out from the kitchen. And so, our meal began. To our table arrived heaped plates of home-cooked tortilla chips, smothered with cheese, jalapenos, salsa and the silkiest guacamole we’ve ever tasted. Both a veggie and meat option are available, but either would be a brilliant way to commence your feast.
Once we’d demolished our nachos, perfectly cooked calamares, melt in the mouth empanadas – a kind of Latin-American pasty – and crispy black bean bolinhos made their way to us. All were perfectly spiced and paired with one of Las Iguanas’ 62 handmade sauces. If you’re not in the mood for a full-blown meal, tapas options like these are definitely the way to go.
For the main event – feisty fajitas. Cooked to order, this really is the freshest you’ll find this Mexican classic in Leeds. Whatever you choose to put in that soft wheat tortilla, whether it be marinated strip-steak or shelled prawns, you’re sure to be blown away by their spice combos. If you want something a little milder, try the Bahia Moqueca – a creamy coconut curry loaded with squash and palm hearts, giving the dish a heady sweetness.
Rubbing our swollen, yet satisfied stomachs, we finished out meal with cinnamon-dusted churros, served with silky, indulgent chocolate and dulce de leche dips. Before heading back out into the cold, we knocked back the best coffees you’ll find this side of the Atlantic – cortadas – an espresso coffee sweetened with a lusciously dense condensed milk. As we left, the cold Leeds air left us longing to be back inside. Don’t make the same mistake we did – stay longer.
Whether you want to join Richard on a cocktail making master class, chill at the bar with a caipirinha or fully immerse yourself in the flavours or Latin-America, Las Iguanas is the place to be. Let them take you away.
Featured image from skiddle.com.