“ Riverside, The Oracle,Reading RG1 2AG.Tel: 0118 956 6200 „
Reading has a lot of decent places to eat and drink in the city centre. I explored some of them last year when I was attending a training course. Mostly they had to be, by force, the sort of grab and run food outlet, due to the relatively brief lunch-time break. Our return to Reading more recently has been due to my wife attending Optical Express, where she is considering having laser eye correction. The appointments have been relatively brief, which gave us more time to eat at leisure afterwards. The most extensive range of food outlets are to be found between The Oracle shopping mall and its related car park, on each side of the River Kennet, which flows through the city. Here can be found all the usual suspect such as Yo Sushi, Wagamama, Bella Italia, Pizza Express, plus the almost inevitable MacDonalds. Most of these (except MacDonalds) we have tried at some time or another and so we were looking for something a bit different for an extended lunch and, for me, a delayed Father's Day celebration, delayed because of our recent holiday to Mexico, as a result of which we thought we should recapture the experience and go for something with a Latin American feel. Las Iguanas is on the south side of the river and presents itself as a vaguely Brazilian theme. Certainly the dishes would not seem out-of-place in either a Portuguese or Spanish restaurant. Let's just say that this is probably as authentic Brazilian as Chaquitos is Mexican - probably the Latin American equivalent of Tex-Mex. The restaurant is quite large and, on the day we visited, quite full although there were a number of tables free and set for diners. Nevertheless, we were asked if we would mind waiting at the bar for a table to be made available for us! I suspect this to be a "technique" to get us to buy more drinks than we would otherwise have done but it failed as I was driving! Eventually, after a ten minute wait, we were shown to our table. The tables are fairly close together but not uncomfortably so. I was carrying a golf umbrella due to a forecast of heavy summer storms but there was nowhere to put it except on the floor. The seats where quite hard but not too uncomfortable for the relatively brief stay of our meal. The décor suited the theme of the restaurant although the suspended ceiling was little more than a wooden frame, open to the concrete roof above. I was surprised that they hadn't at least sprayed the concrete matt black so as to hide it. The menu consisted of tapas for individual portions or for sharing and other general starters. We decided to share three tapas: Gambas (Four fat, fiery prawns, split and cooked in lemon, chilli and tomato sauce), Mussels (...in a tomato, smoked jalapeno and half fat crème fraiche sauce) and Pato Taquito (Shredded roast duck rolled in a flour tortilla and char-grilled, with stcky chilli jam). We both sampled all of these and the taste was truly excellent although a little less spicy than I had anticipated. If the food isn't hot enough for you though, there are bottles of both spicy chilli and fruity chilli sauces on the table, which you can add to taste. For our main courses I chose the Pescado con Coco (Fresh haddock, fat Chilean blue mussels in their shells, crayfish tails in a light, fragrant saffron and coconut broth with new potatoes, cannelloni beans and baby tomatoes) and my wife had the Cordero (Lamb rump with parsley and coriander rub, roasted and served with a fresh papaya and mint salsa, saffron potatoes and seasonal greens in melted garlic and chilli butter). Once again the dishes were excellent and filling. We certainly felt we had had our money's worth to the extent that my wife passed on a dessert, choosing a black coffee alone. I went for the Chocolate Banoffee Pie. Here was our first disappointment of the meal. My wife's coffee was quite a while arriving; my dessert had already been delivered. When it did arrive it was a white coffee and it then took several more minutes to deliver what she had actually asked for! My Banoffee Pie was not what I had expected: there was not a lot of banana taste and in fact it looked more like a cheesecake than a pie. Throughout the meal the staff were attentive and friendly, even if they couldn't always get the order right first time! The whole meal, including drinks, for the two of us, came to just under £45. In all I felt that this was good value for money for a tasty and enjoyable meal in pleasant if not outstanding surroundings. The restaurant advertises that they have Brazilian Cachaca, a type of rum but made from pure cane sugar juice rather than molasses, which is produced especially for them near Rio. There are few places in the UK you get this, if you are a fan, so Las Iguanas may be worth a visit for this alone. I would have liked to have tried it but I was driving; maybe next time. I would be more than happy to return to Las Iguanas and probably will as my wife has to go back soon to have her eye op done. Not sure if that will improve the look of the food for her but at least the taste won't need a lot of help! And no, there wasn't any lizard on the menu!