With all the sunshine we’ve had lately, Cardiff Bay makes for the perfect place to relax with friends over drinks or food. Mermaid Quay boasts a string of restaurants spanning several cuisines, and with so much variety it can be tough deciding which one to go to!
I visited Las Iguanas in Mermaid Quay recently with my friend Dan. Las Iguanas is a Latin American restaurant chain, specialising mainly in Mexican cuisine. The Mermaid Quay branch recently celebrated its 4th birthday, having opened in March 2011, and it has grown to become one of the most popular restaurants in Mermaid Quay.
As we entered, we were greeted at the door by a friendly waiter and escorted to our table. We were conveniently located next to the open-plan kitchen, allowing us to watch the chefs at work.
The restaurant was dimly lit with rustic wooden flooring and furniture, bright red tables and chairs and a red and orange ‘bamboo cane’ room in the centre of the restaurant which had enough seating to suit a large group (in this case, a rowdy hen party!)
Meanwhile, the upbeat Latin music playing gently in the background helped to invoke a lively carnival atmosphere.
Although the menu focuses predominantly on Mexican classics (think burritos, tacos, fajitas and enchiladas), it also features a collection of tapas dishes and has a section dedicated to ‘Brazil and Beyond’, including options like chicken and crayfish in a lime and peanut sauce with rice, plantain, fine green beans and coconut farofa.
You can also choose from several flame-grilled burgers, steaks and chicken dishes, while veggie, vegan and gluten-free menus are also available and we were offered these upon arrival.
To start, I ordered the quesadilla with garlicky mushroom, chilli, thyme and cheese (£4.90) – a new addition to Las Iguanas’ menu. This was a generous portion consisting of two filled, folded and halved tortillas, garnished with coriander and served with a bowl of spicy tomato salsa.
The garlic mushrooms were juicy, fresh and well-flavoured, and they tasted great with the melted cheese. The chilli gave the dish an added twist, without being too spicy and overpowering.
Dan ordered the gambas (£6.90), consisting of butterflied shell-on prawns in a garlic, lemon and chilli sauce, served with ciabatta. The prawns looked fresh and succulent, while the sauce smelt amazing.
I was allowed to dip some bread into the sauce, which confirmed that it tasted just as good as it looked and smelt. I didn’t get to try any of the prawns, which just goes to show how nice they must’ve been!
To accompany our starters. we shared a portion of bread and olives (£3.95) including wholemeal and ciabatta breads, Peruvian olives and balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping. This was served on a wooden plank and offered good value for money, as it was more than enough for two people.
The olives were big and juicy and the bread was soft and tasty – it tasted even better dunked into the olive oil and balsamic!
For my main course I couldn’t resist the sound of the cordero (£16.50), even if it was a little pricey. One of the options from Las Iguanas’ Brazilian offering, this dish included pan-fried boneless rack of lamb in a sweet orange and tamarind glaze with a tangerine, chilli and herb salsa, served with garlic and chilli mash and fine beans.
The lamb was cooked medium-rare and was incredibly tender, complimented by the orange and tamarind glaze – the best lamb I’ve had the pleasure of eating in a long time! Meanwhile, the garlic and chilli mash was creamy and flavoursome and the beans were well-cooked, with plenty of bite left in them. However, I found the tangerine, chilli and herb salsa too zesty and bitter, so I left most of that.
Dan opted for the chicken fajitas (£14.50) for his main, served at the table in a sizzling skillet containing chicken breast strips, fresh coriander, lime, paprika, cumin, sliced onions, spring onions and peppers…
… teamed with freshly made guacamole, soured cream, jalapeños, tomato salsa and soft wheat tortillas.
Dan polished off most of the fajitas, until he began to feel full up – they made for a fairly filling meal! He was really impressed with the tenderness of the chicken and the variety of flavours in the dish.
The puddings menu included a selection of mouthwatering Latin American desserts including churros with dipping sauces (from £3.50), Aztec chocolate fudge cake (£5.30) and berry Mexican mess (£5). As much as I would’ve loved to have tried out churros for the first time, like Dan I was feeling fit to burst, so we gave it a miss this time.
Dan and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Las Iguanas. With a menu featuring an assortment of popular Mexican and Brazilian dishes, and a vibrant atmosphere to match, it’s the perfect go-to for somewhere tasty to eat in Cardiff Bay – whatever the weather!
(029) 2045 9165
I was invited to Las Iguanas as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.