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Las Iguanas Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield on the joyful surprise of the decent chain

Published on June 28th 2012.


Las Iguanas Reviewed

SO you expect little, just a functional lunch, you roll up, and you chat and the food entertains you, even puts a smile on your face.

Las Iguanas did that last week.

I thought, oh dear, another bobbins Deansgate chain with food probably made in a warehouse off the M25 and shipped up in a lorry driven by one of those drivers Jeremy Clarkson upset.

This was a weird dish of lime chicken, green beans and a sauce which turned out to be crayfish and peanut. It was immensely enjoyable, a spicy delight with strong flavours and pungent, powerful sauce.

Still, I thought, Manchester Confidential can't be just about reviewing top end places for two reasons. One, that wouldn't be very reflective of the dining scene in the city, and two, we'd run out of places to go.

So it was a lunch time meeting in a restaurant that starts small scale and then goes vast behind the Deansgate entrance. They all seem to do that on that stretch of Deansgate as though there's some Tardis jiggery-pokery going on.

Inside Las Iguanas the chain marketeers have gone a bit mad with colour and decor to show how crazzzeee Mexican and Latino the place is. The extremes are represented by Virgin Marys with Sacred Hearts and pictures of carnival ladies with sumptuous chests - although it's possible some of the latter ladies aren't ladies. 

Las Iguanas 021Las Iguanas Sacred Hearts

Las Iguanas - impressive pair of wingsLas Iguanas - impressive pair of wings

The menu tries to be crazzzeee as well with descriptions packed with exclamation marks and names such as 'Voom'. The staff on our visit weren't as loony, indeed were very attentive. The prices shown in this review are part of the lunchtime offer so cheaper than evening prices - the Blazing Bird was £1.90 more expensive in the evening.

We tried a quesadilla of spicy chicken, peppers, onion and cheese for £1.60 which was a moist, hot little number and quite excellent.

QuesadillaQuesadilla

Then my guest had the Blazing Bird, a half chicken, with fries, coleslaw, salad and the Voom sauce, described as 'seriously hot'. It was hot but seriously so and suffered from a mite too much sweetness. Still the impressive collation was wolfed down with lip-smacking vigour and declared 'very good'.

Las Iguanas 008Las Iguanas - Blazing Bird

I was tucking into an ugly dish which tasted really good, the frijoles refritos (£1.90) a big slop of a thing made from black beans, soured cream and cheese. It put me in mind of the bonfire night black peas my mum used to prepare in a cauldron for hours before the event, study, filling, somehow healthy because of the uncultured ruggedness of the food. 

Las Iguanas - bean fundLas Iguanas - bean fund

I also went Brazilian and had the extraordinary xinxam (£10.90). According to the menu 'Pele loves it'. I think they're talking about the dish and not something else. 

This was a weird dish of lime chicken, green beans and a sauce which turned out to be crayfish and peanut. It was immensely enjoyable, a spicy delight with strong flavours and pungent, powerful sauce. The coriander in it was a real lift.

There was another oddity with it, a rice and green bean collation with coconut and plantain which I took a blurred photo of, so you'll have to take my word for it. Didn't get much from it either in terms of enjoyment although having plantain for the first time in a while was entertaining. 

A shared pudding of creamy caramel cake (£4.90) was the most beige thing I've ever eaten. And so sickly that overweight Rennaissance Cardinals sat on silken cushions might have demurred. It was, despite that, sort of addictive.

Sort of repellantly attractiveSort of repellantly attractive

Las Iguanas is sensible with the wine and the prices and knows its middle market well. Very few wines stray over the £20. An adequate Torrontes at £17.90, light and breezy worked for us and for the xinxam and the Blazing Bird.

So sated and full and mouths tingly from the spices, my guest and I salsa-ed out to Deansgate.

This was a decent and entertaining meal, food costing less than £15 per person. Chains can be depressing in their rigidity of food, service and ambience, Las Iguanas at lunch was enjoyably loose and joyful - it reminded me of Grinch bar on Chapel Walks a decade or so ago. Ok I'm not going to run back every day but there's nothing too much wrong with this city centre lizard. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

Las Iguanas, 84 Deansgate, City. 0161 819 2606       

Rating: 13/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below)
Food: 6.5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Las Iguanas 018Las Iguanas

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

The chiefJune 28th 2012.

I went to the Deansgate one last year and got food poisoning. Had a pulled pork sandwich thingy, and have a feeling the pork had been pulled a good few days before... Never been back since. Also, I don't think I've ever run to the bathroom so quickly since...

Jonathan SchofieldJune 28th 2012.

I didn't have food poisoning, nor did the person I was with, nor did, it appeared, other people in the restaurant. To accuse a place of giving food poisoning is a mindless, damaging and cruel slur to deliver anonymously without clear evidence or proof.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyJune 28th 2012.

Ignore him Chief. He's obviously been working with (the organ) Gordo for too long...

Doctor QJune 28th 2012.

The prices seem very reasonable, might give this a try if I'm passing in the next few weeks. Thanks Jonathan.

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

The restaurant in question has a 5/5 Food Standard's Agency hygiene rating, which is very, very commendable and shows a keen, deep knowledge of safe practices by the chefs at the restaurant.

Also, every other chain of the restaurant has either a 4 or 5 rating from the board, so it appears that your allegations are, if not false, certainly isolated.

Personally I went to the one in Liverpool One about a year ago. I thought the food was quite average and left underwhelmed, but neither I, or anyone of the 3 people I was with had food poisoning, and the restaurant was very clean.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

ratings.food.gov.uk/…/Las-Iguanas-Limited…

February 2012

Poster BoyJune 28th 2012.

Over reaction methinks Jonathan...The Chief's comment is not even a rant. Taken at face value (and why would you doubt it?), is merely a statement of fact of one incident. Is the expression of personal experience and comment no longer permitted? Does only your opinion count?...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Calum McGJune 28th 2012.

Proof? It's very hard to 'prove' where you get food poisoning from...! Unless of course a sample was sent off for analysis...

Jonathan SchofieldJune 28th 2012.

Of course only my opinion counts

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

Went to the Birmingham Branch and really enjoyed it, and was planning a lunch with a girlfriend at the Deansgate branch in July, looking forward to it now!

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

I ate at the Iguanas at the O2 in London. Thought it was excellent. The Enchiladas and Chimichangas are delicious. Been wanting to go to the Deansgate one but haven't made it there yet. :(

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

This restaurant has a wonderful ambience in the evening especially weekend's, the food is very tasty though the menu a little confusing (ask the staff if your not sure). They have a special price early cocktail menu and they do wonderful cocktails! The staff are brilliant, we had a pre Theatre meal and they were quick and attentive, I organised a 20+ table for a office meal out, and there were no problems plus everyone had a great night.... I love this restaurant - doesn't feel like a chain either, so all I can say is excellent value, a great place.

James ClancyJune 28th 2012.

I love Las Iguanas on Deansage. Have been at about once a month for the last couple of years. It's great for a mid range group night - several big tables and booths available. Great buzzy atmosphere. Friendly helpful staff. Happy hour 2 for 1 on cocktails and a percentage off the food is great value and a great start for a big night out if you can face eating at 7pm or earlier. Can not fault the place. Have the tapas... If there's 4 of you you can have all 12 tapas and you get to try everything. Recommend the caipirinha cocktails. Yum !

NeetJune 28th 2012.

One of my favourite venues for a cheap and cheerful lunch with my friends. The 241 cocktails are good, including the virgin ones, and the lunch menu is tasty though everything is a smaller version of the a la carte menu. I suppose my only complaint would be that some of the starters are too small. However, for the hungry the Big Barrito is very filling. We've never been disappointed or ill. Good value for around a tenner and fun decor - much better than eating at the Food Court.

Stephen GreenhalghJune 28th 2012.

I have dined at Las Iguanas a few times and have always enjoyed it,it puts its neighbour just a few doors down to shame.

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

Been a few times recently and it's been brilliant. Can't believe I overlooked it for as long as I did.

Cuban Sandwich.... to die for. Totally delish.

LukewarmdogJune 28th 2012.

Went to the Deansgate branch the first time by accident, that other tapas place was busy, loved it and it has become a first choice for a convenient, inexpensive meal. Love their Poppadoms and Empanadas.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Stephen GreenhalghJune 28th 2012.

Thats exactly how we stumbled across it,never been bk to the other tapas since.

Laura Dipple-JohnstoneJune 28th 2012.

Las Iguanas is the best value family dining out of all the Trafford Centre options, offering exciting interesting dishes at a great price and the staff are always very helpful.

journeynatorJune 28th 2012.

i've been to the Trafford Centre & Deansgate one, always really good service, they usually do some sort of eat before 6.30pm deal which is really good if you're out for dinner after work

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

@The Chief - did you go to the doctors and get diagnosed? What type of food poisoning was it? Over a year ago you say? You do realise its highly unlikely it would impact you so quickly..such a useless mindless damaging comment. I personally agree with the posts - stumbled in with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised with the flavours and presentation of the dishes..definitely would go back

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 29th 2012.

If you read what he says he makes no comment about how much time passed before he got ill - only that when he did he needed the bathroom urgently. As long as chief is being honest then his comments valid.

Maggie MilnerJune 28th 2012.

my niece introduced me to Las Iguanas and I loved it - best chain in my view!!

JoanJune 28th 2012.

Jonathan. Can I query another point of fact? I really doubt that you salsa.

Jonathan SchofieldJune 29th 2012.

Joan, I salsa through life

Nick WestJune 29th 2012.

I've been to a few Iguanas all over the country and have never had a bad experience. The pricing is spot on, especially good value at lunch time, well worth seeking out the two for one cocktails, too.

Staff always excellent, to boot. It's as brilliant as Chiquito is woeful. One of the better big chains.

NorthernGeezerJune 29th 2012.

I've been out with a few 'iguana's' meself over the years and a bad experience is part of the deal ;-)

Dave RobinsonJuly 1st 2012.

All above comments seconded, and I'd like to add the Trafford Centre branch (seemingly only them) also does breakfast, from 9AM each day, excellent value from £1.80 - £3 all including decent filter coffee/tea. Had the best bacon butty ever - it had lovely basil or another herb on it which worked sooo well! I don't like tomato/brown sauce! So genius for me! Other options include churros with chocolate sauce and posh toast with posh honey/Brazillian jams/dulce de leche! Amazing!

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