November 20 2017

Review: pre-theatre dinner at Las Iguanas

Pre-theatre and early dining menus proliferate in Bath, so much so that this review heralds the start of an informal series dedicated to the most highly recommended selection over the coming weeks… not least of all in an attempt to big-up the varied array of restaurants and bars that have kept the area around Bath’s biggest theatre buzzing long before any address in and around Sawclose became synonymous with the word ‘redevelopment.’

Las Iguanas salsa-ed into its home on the Seven Dials courtyard long before it was one of the original links in what’s now a 50+ strong chain (the original branch, by the way, was established just down t’road, in Bristol). This big, bright diner – complete with a covered alfresco patio within a pretty ‘hidden’ courtyard and featuring ancillary cocktail/tapas bar (Casa Iguanas) downstairs, at street level on one side of the building – is an all-things-to-all-people kinda zone, perfect for parties or date nights…. and, despite its USP, you won’t find yourself sitting next to a straw donkey and being blasted with faux-carnival music, either. But what you will get is a robust South of the Border feast in all its gutsy glory; the menu represents a big-hearted Mexican wave that stretches across Latin America, and makes it the place to go in Bath if you’re craving a Chimichanga, bursting for a Burrito, desperate to feast on Fajita, on a quest for Quesadillas or simply craving a cocky cocktail. But if, like we were, you’re on a pre-theatre jaunt…

Tapas Time at Las Iguanas offers a choice of 3 or 5 dishes to share (£15.95/£25.95 respectively) until 7pm each day, and all day Sunday and Monday. The menu also flags up dishes which can be served quickly, which is very helpful if you’re panicking about getting to the show on time. But we took to our table at 6pm and explained that we had to dash out again by around 7.20pm, and one of the very friendly members of staff reassured us that our chosen ideal selection (tapas and main courses) wouldn’t lead to us having to take doggie bags into the theatre.

From the tapas sharers, we opted for crispy calamares, two delectable lamb, mint, tomato and chipotle empanadas (totally moreish little Mexican mini-pasties) and what’s possibly the most fully-laden nachos I’ve ever encountered. Seriously piggies, we could easily have stopped there and been satisfied until long after the standing ovation. But we didn’t; we mambo-ed on through Bahian Coconut Chicken (an utterly gorgeous melange of chicken infused with coriander, cayenne and cumin, bathed in a rich, creamy coconut, ginger, garlic and tomato sauce) and Xinxim, informally regarded as a Las Iguanas signature dish and combining more chicken with plump, lime-infused crayfish submerged in a rich peanut sauce and served with plantain and ground peanuts for sprinkling at a whim. The concept of having to consider side orders to supplement your main course action is refreshingly redundant; both dishes came with their own supporting cast of spring onion rice, greens and nifty little add-ons such as coconut farofa, and portions are generous, to say the least – it’s a wonder, really, that we managed to squeeze into our seats at the theatre afterwards… but we managed it, bang on-time and despite making the very most of those 2-4-1 Caipirinhas.

It may be a stalwart of the Bath eating out scene, but Las Iguanas moves with the times on a regular basis, putting new additions in the spotlight alongside their classic selection of greatest hits. As of this season, the Ipanema Mussels are trending, and the rather tantalising Seco de Cordero (Peruvian-style slow cooked lamb shank in a golden ale, red wine and Amarillo chilli sauce) begs to be investigated. As it’s Vegetarian Society approved too, the restaurant is renowned for offering imaginative veggie/vegan options, to which the Cauliflower and Corn Quinotto (Peruvian-style quinoa risotto with smoked cheese, roasted cauliflower and charred baby corn, topped with puffed quinoa and crispy chilli) has recently added a fresh new dimension. Meanwhile, service is properly lovely, the cocktails are properly really, really good and the final tally makes it an affordable treat for all – those sharing medleys in particular are an absolute bargain, and main courses include plenty of £11-£15ish options.

¡Aclamaciones!

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