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Food review: Las Iguanas, Birmingham

After deciding to tackle a day of shopping at Birmingham’s brand new Primark superstore - not one of my finest ideas on a busy Saturday afternoon - myself and my partner were feeling stressed and a tad peckish.

Once our nerves had settled from the pandemonium that was the five-floor shopping war zone, with people battling for deals and racing around with trolleys like chariots, we decided to settle down for a relaxing spot of lunch.

Craving somewhere warm and inviting on such a wet and windy afternoon, we settled for the vibrant Latin American notes of Las Iguanas on Temple Street. The eatery has a number of locations in Birmingham, including one in the Arcadian Centre and another at Resorts World for those wanting to grab a bite to eat before catching a show at the NEC or Resorts World Arena.

With an eye-catching yellow exterior, contrasting egg blue door, and an even more tempting sign boasting happy hour prices on drinks 24/7, we immediately grabbed onto our shopping bags with tired arms and went inside.

Perfect for couples, families, large parties and more, the extended eatery boasts both large tables and cosy corners to suit every diner’s needs at any time of day.

The expansive restaurant boasts loud and Latin-inspired decorations to take you on a trip to South America and the Caribbean. Thick reclaimed wood tables, pastel paint-splashed seating, carnival paintings, and greenery hanging from the ceilings seat you right in the centre of a tropical paradise for your meal. Neon signage replicates the bustling carnivals of the nation, while ample ceiling lighting makes sure the room is illuminated enough so you’re not dining in the dark. The space between each table is enough to ensure you’re not drowned in other people’s conversation, and the background music is loud enough to create atmosphere, yet still quiet enough to enjoy conversation with your dinner guest. In short - Las Iguanas is bursting with flavour before you’ve even tucked into their dishes. Upon entering the restaurant we were met by a friendly and helpful server promptly and seated in a quiet, comfortable booth under a stunning plant and pallet wood canopy. We were handed a number of menus to make our choices, and recommended drinks to try to suit our day.

My partner went for a refreshing house lager, while I opted for a tangy Tropical Cooler mocktail with mango, pineapple, lime and lemonade to wash away my post-shopping jitters. Our drinks arrived promptly and kicked off our dining experience to a summery start despite the clouds and lashings of rain outside. The drinks menu itself is packed full of cocktails, lagers, wines, spirits, and soft drinks to suit every taste, as well as mammoth party bowls for those planning to paint the town red. What’s more, Las Iguanas have also kicked plastic straws to the curb in favour of environmentally-friendly paper alternatives.

Speaking of menus, you’re certainly not spoiled for choice when you decide to dine at Las Iguanas. The restaurant boasts both a lunch and evening meals menu with choices to suit vegans, vegetarians, those who are gluten intolerant, and even visitors who are in a rush and need their food prepared as quickly as possible so they can be on their way.

There is even a number of deals that combine starters, main meals and desserts for those looking to cut costs or cut down as their New Year’s resolutions continue.

Each food menu takes you on a journey across South America with pages dedicated to dishes from the likes of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and beyond - I must admit while watching the rain outside, each page had me picturing the lush, palm-strewn beaches these dishes would be perfectly sampled upon.

For starters, I went for the crispy cauliflower bites with amarillo aioli, and my partner opted for the mouth-watering baja fish tacos served in flour tortillas with sour cream and avocado aioli.

Once ordered, it wasn’t long before our dishes turned up on our table and we could begin our gastro trip across the world.

The crispy cauliflower bites came in an ample portion that could have easily fed both of us. Each morsel was crisp and spicy with a soft, fluffy centre that kept me mumbling ‘yum’ throughout. The amarillo aioli added a sunny, bright flavour with unexpected heat that complemented the flavoursome cauliflower bites effortlessly. The baja fish tacos were similarly bursting with flavour, with the splendid battered sea bass working perfectly alongside the refreshing sour cream and avocado aioli. The salad inside provided a much-needed crunch with the soft flour taco that kept the ordinarily-messy meal from falling all over the plate.

Our appetites suitably whetted, we eagerly awaited the arrival of our main courses. I took a trip to Brazil with the cheesy butternut squash maracanã, including butternut squash, mixed peppers, ethically sourced palm hearts and spinach in a rich, cheesy tomato sauce, served in a sour dough bread bowl inspired by the famous Maracanã Stadium in Rio.

My partner, meanwhile, headed to the Dominican Republic and went with a spicy goat and scotch bonnet chilli curry with spring onion rice, fried plantain and pink pickled onions.

My cheesy butternut squash maracanã was the perfect soul-warming food for a grizzly and cold day. The accompanying spinach side provided a sour kick with flavours that blended perfectly with the stodgy dish. The stew inside the bowl included large chunks of soft butternut squash, crunchy peppers and delectable palm hearts in a sumptuous cheese sauce that was deliciously rich and creamy. The accompanying sour dough bowl featured notes of garlic and chilli, and was the perfect dipping accompaniment for this oozing dish.

Similarly, my partner’s goat curry was exquisite. The curry itself was boneless and allowed for you to dive straight in, yet you didn’t lose any iota of flavour from the loss of this ingredient. The curry was fruity yet adequately spicy thanks to the scotch bonnets, and the chunks of goat meat were tender and succulent. The pickled pink cabbage introduced a welcome and strong tang to the dish that worked effortlessly with the fresh and fluffy spring onion rice.

Both dishes, much like our starters, provided great value for money as the portions were enormous. I was defeated in the last few bites of my dish, no matter how much I willed myself to eat an entire loaf of bread with such an amazing filling.

Stuffed to the brim, we decided not to opt for any desserts, but Las Iguanas boasts a mouth-watering selection of sweet treats such as churros, mango sorbet, dulche de leche macadamia cheesecake, and an intriguing dish titled ‘Mexican mess’, including crushed meringue and mixed berries with whipped vanilla mascarpone cream, prickly pear purée and hibiscus flowers.

After paying our bill - and being pleasantly surprised that our delicious meal and drinks had come to under £50 - we braved the rain once more, but this time with a smile on our faces. With perfectly-prepared dishes and a buzzing atmosphere, head to Las Iguanas for a taste of paradise without having to fork out on flights.

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