Life must be pretty good for the folk at Bar Iberico right now. Not only does the Carlton Street tapas joint continue to grow in popularity, but they’ve also just been named Nottingham’s Best Independent Business for a second consecutive year. We talked to co-owner Dan Lindsay to find out the secret of their success…
Congratulations on being named Nottingham’s Best Independent Business for the second year in a row! You must be feeling pretty chuffed…
Oh, it's amazing! We’re really shocked to have won it. There are so many independent businesses in Nottingham, so to be recognised above all of them is just great. It’s probably the award we’re most proud of.
How have you tried to keep things fresh and exciting since opening?
We just try to be more relaxed, easy-going and current. We change our menu regularly, and try to keep up with food and drink trends, which keeps our customers interested.
Do you try and stay on top of changing food trends, like the growing demand for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options?
We've always had quite a good spectrum of food for vegetarians, and we introduced a vegan menu fairly early - it's always really well received. Iberico is definitely good for that style of dining.
Where did the idea for Bar Iberico first come from?
The original Iberico was opened with the ambition to mix Spanish cuisine with a Far-Eastern style of cooking. But with Bar Iberico, we wanted to be more traditional with what we did. Neither my business partner nor I are Spanish: he’s South American and I’m born and bred in Notts. We just shared a love of that concept of sharing and being interactive with what you eat.
It’s a good way to try new foods too...
That’s exactly why people like it. You might love something and I might hate it, but we can just swap and carry on eating. It doesn’t ruin your overall meal – there’s always something else to eat.
What is the creative process for creating new dishes?
I think we’re really hot on that. Jacque [Ferreira – Head Chef and business partner] is a very creative person who bases the menu choices on seasonality – we change the menu four times a year. Obviously the Spanish influence is very high, so we use a lot of Spanish ingredients and methods of cooking. A lot of our dishes are designed around the equipment we have in the kitchen, like the Josper grill. It’s a high-powered charcoal grill that’s found a lot in Spain. Then there’s our wood-fired pizza oven. All the chefs will have their own ideas that they'll bring to the table, and we do a big cook-off every three months. We'll close the restaurant in the morning, the chefs will cook all the food, the waiters will all come in and we'll have the opportunity to iron out what we think works and what doesn't. And that gets translated into the new menu.
Have any dishes in the past not worked particularly well?
We used brown shrimp that were fried in their shells, which are like a snack in Spain and come served with alloli. They didn’t go down very well!
Where do you like to dine out in Nottingham?
I love Asian food. My former Head Chef has got a place called Kushi-ya, so that’s probably where I’d choose to eat. It’s relaxed in the way it’s presented, but it’s really precise cooking.
We’re big fans of the custard tarts on your dessert menu. If you were a tart, what flavour would you be?
Lemon custard tart. I’m known to be a bit sharp on from time to time, but I’m quite sweet really!
What are your plans for the future?
Without wanting to sound arrogant, it feels like we’ve hit the nail on the head with regards to what people want at the moment, so it will be a case of moving with the times and changing the experience if that’s what people are looking for. We’re not looking to drastically change what we do, but we are looking to expand the brand and take it elsewhere. It will hopefully be a slow, steady expansion, and we look at potential sites quite regularly. Birmingham is probably the number one choice because of its proximity to Nottingham, but York is a possibility as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Only that I’m from Nottingham, and really want to support the Nottingham scene. We’ve got so many great independent places, particularly in Hockley. It’s tough to find areas like that in other cities. Nottingham really has got so much to offer, and we really champion independence here. It’s what separates us from other places.
Bar Iberico, 7-19 Carlton St, Nottingham NG1 1NL