casual · Chain · city centre · Cocktails · Dinner · World food

Las Iguanas, Nottingham City Centre

We were curious after seeing Las Iguanas launched a new menu on social media so decided to head down to a restaurant we’ve previously disliked. Funnily enough, we found ourselves accidentally sat next to a food blogger event that we weren’t actually invited to. Awkward.

Trying to suppress the flashbacks of many a disappointing work do, we wanted to see if this new menu changed our minds about a restaurant we’ve previously labelled dire.

Interestingly, dishes on the new menu are split by South American country of origin, you’ve got Peruvian, Brazilian, Argentine, Mexican and Chilean. There’s the usual suspects from Mexico like fajitas, tacos and nachos with quite a few more unusual or lesser known native dishes. We decided to take a tour of South America, starting in Mexico with 2 taco planks and moving through Brazil with the intriguing sounding xin xim.

First things first as always: da dranks. Las Iguanas offers 2for1 cocktails all day, e’ry day. A great deal, but note the cocktails are wildly overpriced individually to compensate for this. £10.75 for a mojito?! Yeah, jog on mate. As part of 2for1, it becomes simply reasonable value for two cocktails, rather than a bargain. One of my pet hates comes into play here too, the cocktails you order on 2for1 have to be the same one. What if your friend has disgusting taste?! I don’t like to compromise on my drinks (or share, for that matter). This said, the caipirinhas we both ordered were some of the best we’ve had, second only to the ones we replaced our bloodstream with when in Brazil or Pepper Rocks. Luckily, we both like a caipirinha very much so there were no fall outs. Of course there is a simple solution, forget it’s a school night and get 2 each.

The taco planks are a novel way of serving tacos, the soft shells are overlapped under the filling so each one assembles itself when you lift it up from either side. A gimmick but actually surprisingly useful.We had chicken and guacamole and the chipotle beef and sour cream, both of which were really tasty on the warm and slightly charred taco. There wasn’t much complexity in the chicken rub, it could have been any packet fajita mix but it was still tasty with the creamy avocado. Chipotle beef stole the show, the slow cooked, spiced meat was juicy and delicious, perfect with a big dollop of that cool sour cream, tang from pink pickled onions and fresh coriander. We ordered two planks as a main so we could sample more, but these are typically served as sharing starters which I think would be a great way to start a meal with a group of friends or family.

Good tacos, but to get a 10/10 from us you need to beat Smoqued Taqueria at Nottingham Street Food in Vic Centre. They are BOMB.

The quirky sounding xin xim is chicken and crayfish in a creamy lime and peanut sauce. It’s hard to describe as it’s not a curry per se, but it has a similar DNA – no spice though. It came served in a big clay pot over a candle to keep it hot, I rolled my eyes at how unnecessary it seemed but came to find it actually did a fantastic job keeping the sauce hot until the end of the meal – which I appreciated more than I thought I would. We ordered xin xim because it sounded different and I really don’t think we’ve had anything like it before. It was great. That sauce was incredibly delicious – subtle without being a bit bland it was velvety smooth and flavourful with nuttiness from the peanut. There wasn’t a fishy taste from the crayfish, they mainly added a sweetness and texture which was really nice alongside the tender and juicy shredded chicken breast. The only thing missing was that zing from lime, it would have been good to serve this with a wedge on the side to add some freshness as you go.

On to the sides, the xin xim was served with spring onion rice, roasted plaintain and green beans. First of all, chuck off the boiled green beans, they were cold, plain and really didn’t add much. The rice was cooked well, but the spring onion was way overcooked to the point it was almost brown and added no crunch or onion flavour. This really this should be stirred through once the rice is cooked to wilt slightly but still maintain its fresh taste and bite. Things get interesting at the plaintain – it divided the room, I loved it but Stuart didn’t as it was too sweet for him. I enjoyed the almost caramelised savoury banana flavour with all other elements of the dish, it is a really nice accompaniment that you don’t see all that often. Very sweet with a savoury edge, if you like that contrast on your food then you will enjoy this side! There was also a desiccated coconut dust of sorts, which we sprinkled a bit of for a coconutty hit, but we didn’t eat it all.

All in all, we were actually very impressed with a chain restaurant we had previously tarred with the brush of mediocrity. They seem to have really tried with this new menu, genuinely bringing interesting dishes to the table (no pun intended) alongside known favourites so there’s something for everyone. We would definitely have the xin xim again, in fact I’ve looked up the actual recipe online and may try my hand (sorry, Stu). The taco planks were surprisingly fresh, delicious and well put together all washed down with a very good cocktail indeed. The service was good and we were even given an iPad at the end of our meal to rate the experience. Definitely head down and try a South American dish you’ve never heard of, it might just be your new favourite.

Food: 10/10

Value: 7/10

Atmosphere and surroundings: 5/10

Experience: 7/10

Service: 9/10

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