Iberia (London, UK)

One of the joys of going to London is that it gives me a lot of opportunities to explore cuisines that I usually don’t find in New England, and may even have trouble finding in the US at all. In this case, my visit gave me a good chance to visit a second location of Iberia that recently had opened a short walk from my Brother’s London flat. To get something out of the way, “Iberia” is an interesting placename; Western European and North American English speakers usually use this term referring to Spain and Portugal (the Iberian Peninsula, after the ancient Greek name for the river, Íbēros), but the term also applies to another ancient geographical region almost 4000 km to the east, the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli, which was also known to the Greeks as Iberia. So Iberia in Pimlico is serving up classic Georgian food, and since it has been several years since I last had a foray into Georgian cuisine, we decided to make that our last major meal of my visit.

Iberia is in a nice little restaurant space just across the street from the Pimlico tube station on Lupus Street, and marks a notable improvement over the last place I remember being in this spot (a particularly non-impressive curry shop). This isn’t a new venture for Iberia’s owners, it’s actually a second location, with the other located up in Islington. It’s a bit of a funky space, with kitchen access and stairs to a lower level taking up some of the width on the ground floor, leaving a bit of a narrow space with a few tables, but aside from that quirk, it’s a well-decorated, pleasant enough dining space.

Upon seating, we were immediately served up authentic Georgian Mineral water (საირმე), which is a nice way to set the expectation that this is a slightly different culinary experience. This was actually very tasty and refreshing, but if you want to be kind to yourself, note that along with the high amount of mineral flavor, it’s more than a little high in sodium. After a brief perusal of the menu, we had selected a starter for the table, khachapuri, and a main course for each.

If there’s a single dish that Georgian Cuisine is known for, it’s khachapuri, basically bread with cheese. They’ve got an almost uncountable number of variations on this theme, and we selected one of the simplest, imeruli khachapuri, which is basically just a flatbread stuff and topped with cheese, ideal for dipping. This was nice and enjoyable, somewhat between a lightly-sauced pizza and a Mexican cheese crisp, and it worked out well, but if I come back I’ll try the acharuli khachapuri, which is basically the same formed up into a bowl around some butter and an egg, and something I’ve had at a few other Georgian places.

For the main course, Dan had Ojakhuri, which is basically a dish of meat (pork, in this case) with fried potatoes and onions, served with a plum sauce. The pork was tender and flavorful, and the spicing fragrant but not overly spicey. A notable detail here was the plum sauce, which was more of an Asian style salty-plum sauce than a sweet sauce, but the overall dish was quite enjoyable.

Sophie had the Ajapsandali, which was basically a Georgian version of a ratatouille (aubergine, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes), but it had a bit of an herbal bite to it; I tasted coriander, onion, and more than a little garlic, but that made this into a flavorful and aromatic aubergine stew. I generally avoiding aubergine, but I might actually consider this one next time.

For my main, I had the Kharcho, a beef stew served up in a creamy, heavily-spiced walnut sauce, served with a stack of cheesy cornbread (chvishtari). In a lot of ways, kharcho reminds me of some of my more favorite curries, since the stew itself with lots of the same spices, tomato paste, and it is thickened with ground walnuts that gives a nice earthy flavor to the stew. This was good, as was dipping bits of the chvishtari in the kharcho as I ate.

The classic Georgian dessert. Basically walnuts that are dipped in concentrated grape must, nuts, and flour to make this dessert with almost a Snickers Bar-like consistency. Very flavorful, and not as sweet as you’d think from the description; I always struggle with describing the taste and texture of this dessert, it’s almost like a less-sweet and more concentrated Turkish Delight, and a nice way to end the meal and offset some of the heavier herbs.

Overall, I rather enjoyed Iberia. If I go back, there are a lot of great-looking items I’ve had in Georgian food that I’d like to try at Iberia, such as Acharuli Khachapuri (the egg and butter variant of Khacapuri), Khinkali (Georgian dumplings, basically like a chunky soup dumpling, and usually you don’t eat the knot). It’s definitely a warm and inviting spot, and worth a bit of culinary exploration.

One Response

  1. David B 01 Nov 2023 at 05:34 #

    Useful review, thanks.

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