So…last week we went to a chain restaurant for dinner. Not just any old chain, though, but one that began in Bristol back in 1991, and has become known for its food and its cocktails since then.
Las Iguanas on Whiteladies Road has rebranded recently, and is known as Clifton Cocina as of October 2012. With a new “development dish” scheme, Clifton Cocina now gives diners the chance to have their say and help to decide which dishes from the chef’s specials menu make it onto the main menu for the next season.
We were invited down to see the changes for ourselves – and after the meal we had, I think we’ll definitely be back.
The last time I visited the Whiteladies Road branch was well over a year ago with a good friend and my little sister…who decided to order fajitas for her main, followed by sweet fajitas (pancakes with all manner of fillings) for dessert. This time around, we skipped dessert (far too full after a starter and a main), but made the most of the cocktails.
Cocktail fans will be happy to know that their happy hour is from 5-7pm Tuesday to Saturday, and all day on Sunday and Monday. It was this menu that we chose from: the boy went for a classic “Dark ‘N’ Stormy” (Goslings rum and lime with fiery ginger beer, £7), while I chose a Dappled Apple (£6) – a sweet and refreshing combination of vodka, cloudy apple juice and creme de cassis over ice. A great start to the night – and accompanied by a small plate of spicy tortilla chips and salsa, on the house.
The cocktails and tortilla chips gave us a little time to look at the menus – both the standard fare, plus the new Clifton specials menu. Manager Jimmy claims that some dishes on this menu will rotate every two weeks, with a complete change every month. To give you an idea of what to expect, have a look at the photo below…
I chose my starter from the specials menu, intrigued by the Empanadas queso fresca (£4.90) – fried pastries stuffed with feta, black bean, sweetcorn, sweet and pickled chillies. I’ve had some horrific empanadas in the past, but the pastry here tasted fresh and not at all greasy, and the filling was generous. I didn’t get as much of a chilli kick as I was expecting, but this may be a good thing…the pastries were served with an amazing fresh herb sauce and I think any more chilli would have killed off the flavours of both elements.
From the main menu, the other half ordered the Albondigas (£5.50) – another generous portion! Lamb meatballs (still slightly pink in the middle, it was good to see) paired with fresh mint, apple and nutmeg…delicious! We couldn’t really taste the mint in the tomato sauce, but the mild chilli kick added a great edge to the dish.
The size of my starter surprised me – but not as much as that of my main course! I was intrigued by the Xinxim (£11.40) from the standard menu – an amazingly rich-sounding combination of lime chicken, crayfish and a peanut sauce.
I was presented with a huge earthenware pot sat on top of another pot containing a candle, plus a huge plate of rice, green beans, sweet plantain and toasted farofa (coconut) to sprinkle over the dish.
I’d definitely order this again, but may need someone to share it with next time! The chicken and crayfish were both perfectly cooked, the sauce thick and creamy, the hint of peanut and the lime combining perfectly. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to be sprinkling the coconut on (just the chicken? The rice and vegetables as well?) but it was delicious. I’d have quite happily gone for a smaller portion of rice and veg, but ate as much as I could!
It was the tried and tested Chimichanga (£9.90) that whetted the boyfriend’s appetite: a huge, crisp tortilla stuffed with tinga chicken, onion and cheese. The filling itself was beautifully smokey and very generous, and the whole thing came with mounds of rice, refried beans, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. The plate of food was even too much for his appetite, and we decided to pass up the offer of dessert.
Yes, it may be a chain, but the atmosphere is fantastic: a blend of drinkers, couples and celebratory groups leads to a relaxed and buzzing atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. The food’s pretty damn good too, and the cocktails are well worth a happy hour visit. I’m looking forward to heading back to try out more of their ever-changing specials in the future…
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
Find Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina on the Bristol Bites Directory…