NOTE: THIS RESTAURANT HAS SINCE CLOSED AND BEEN REPLACED BY A NEW ITALIAN RESTAURANT – DA GIUA See Review https://wp.me/p4Ev7N-18U
Whitecross Street, immediately to the north of the Barbican, has become something of a relatively low cost culinary destination. At the latest count there are perhaps 16 eating places in the street (if one works from Cote Brasserie at the south end to Jane Roe Kitchen at the north and not counting coffee/sandwich shops or Waitrose) covering several different ethnic food options – French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Indian – as well as generic food type specialists – burgers, fish, pizzas, vegetarian etc. At weekday lunchtimes there is also nowadays perhaps the biggest and most varied street food market in the whole of the capital city with up to around 40 food stalls on the busiest days – and the restaurants and the food stalls all seem to be extremely busy.
The latest, and very welcome, addition to the Whitecross Street eating scene is a Spanish style tapas restaurant – Sabor Iberico – which occupies the premises previously the location for Italian restaurant Alba, almost directly opposite Waitrose, thus bringing yet another ethnic food option to those looking to eat out at lunchtimes or in the evenings.
We get the impression that Sabor Iberico was perhaps put together as something of a rush job. The decor is fairly basic – pale yellow/cream and exposed brick walls – indeed the exposed brick makes it somewhat reminiscent of Polpo which serves Italian-style ‘tapas’ dishes and has built up a hugely popular following. Wooden tables and comfortable chairs – decently spaced – and light fittings which could best be described as minimalist make up the decor. At the time of our visits, with the restaurant only open a couple of weeks, the downstairs private dining room option – and the tiny deli a door or so down the road, but connected to the restaurant at basement level, were still to be finished.
But one visits a restaurant for the food, ambience, service and perhaps price – and Sabor Iberico would seem to come up trumps on all of these. Like any tapas restaurant the selection of small dishes can be pretty variable, with price often the best indicator here, but mixing and matching one can put together a very good meal indeed, and at relatively low cost.
The menu comprises a number of small dishes ranging in price from £2.50-£9 – many come in small or large size options – plus a few larger dishes from £12.50-£13.50. The most expensive dish on the menu at the £13.50 mark was lamb cutlets with saffron butter bean puree, wild mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. But the menu changes frequently so these might not always be available, but other equally interesting dishes will be.
I have eaten there twice now. On the one occasion myself and a colleague (a fellow contributor to Barbican Life) shared three or four tapas dishes and one of the mains. We started off with a dish of olives and nibbles – I’m not a lover of olives, but my companion was and he declared them truly excellent. Of the tapas we had a chorizo tortilla (£3.50), padron peppers (really good) – £3.95, a plate of Iberian ham (£7.50), salt and pepper fried seafood (which appeared to be just calamari, but nonetheless very well prepared and tasty) – £4.95 and a main dish of pork chops and prawns £13.50 (excellent). Probably rather more than we needed but there was a 25% opening discount in place so this all came to around £25 for the two of us, and we washed it down with glasses of wine in the £5-6 range.
On the second occasion with a different colleague we stuck to tapas dishes – patatas bravas – nicely spicy sauce (£3.95), the padron peppers again, tiger prawns with garlic and sliced red chilli (fantastic) at £8.95, a chorizo sausage special (also really good at £7.95) and some more of the olives and nibbles to start us off. My colleague visits southern Spain and reckoned the tapas to be very good even by Spanish standards. That was more than enough for the two. Menu again cost around £25 for two without a discount.
We had a glass of cava (£5.50) and of Monastrell (£5.90) so a meal for two with a couple of glasses of wine around £36 – with good coffee afterwards perhaps £40. At some restaurants in the area you can pay that for a single main course alone.
Overall the wine list looks reasonably good. As befits a restaurant in that location, the most expensive wine is around £50 a bottle rather than the £300 upwards one finds at many city restaurants keen to separate clients from their city bonuses! There is fair selection at the £18-25 range and eight are available by the glass at between £4.90 and £6.40 – or by the half litre carafe from £13.95 – £18.40.
Service was friendly, good and prompt – which would make it a good choice for a pre-theatre or concert dinner for those going on to the Barbican Centre or Milton Court for performances
How often has one gone to a restaurant and thought that you’d probably prefer two or three starters to a main course. That’s the beauty of tapas. One can have a great variety of tastes and if one chooses well at pretty low cost. Sabor Iberico is, in the writer’s opinion, a great addition to the area and one where one shouldn’t feel constrained by the price from eating out on a regular basis.
Sabor Iberico is at 107 Whitecross Street, London EC1. Tel 0207 374 6713. Website is under construction but restaurant does have a Facebook page.