Review: Las Iguanas, Grey Street, Newcastle

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A QUICK internet search for a phone number to book a table revealed one of Newcastle’s latest eateries is a staple in pretty much every city.

Usually, I prefer to steer clear of identikit chains, but every time I pass Las Iguanas the ceiling-to-floor windows reveal a restaurant alive with the clatter of dishes and the chatter of diners.

Its popularity was proven when I rang to book and was told they only had 6pm or 9pm that night – on a Tuesday.

I bagged the 6pm spot and was asked if I was celebrating anything special.

I wasn’t, but presumably this means they pull out all the stops – or a cringe-worthy rendition of happy birthday – if you do choose to celebrate there.

Offering something new to Newcastle’s eating scene, this Latin-American restaurant serves up something unique by combining the usual Mexican food with an eclectic mix of dishes from Peru, Brazil, Cuba and Chile.

Inside, Las Iguanas is cool and contemporary with lofty ceilings giving it an airy atmosphere.

The quirky lighting, lime-coloured seating, wooden floors and attention to detail down to the funky jam jar-like jugs the cocktails are served in, make it easy to forget this is a chain.

The lengthy, mouth-watering menu makes choosing what to eat tricky.

A cocktail of Dark ‘N’ Stormy later, rum and lime topped with ginger beer that costs £7, unless you get there before 6.30pm when it’s two-for-one, we turned to tapas (three for £13.50 before 7pm).

Within 10 minutes, the endless stream of ceramic plates loaded with generous portions of pato taquito (roast duck and caramelised onion with chilli jam in a tortilla), nachos topped with all the usual suspects plus melt-in-the-mouth strips of beef and calamari, coated in crisp crumb cassava started coming.

When the Taco tray (£13.50) carrying tortillas, melted cheese and salsa, pink onions, sour cream, slow-braised shredded beef in smoked chilli, lemon, garlic and chilli prawns and spiced shredded lamb landed, our fear of not having ordered enough evaporated as we joined our waitress in attempting to create enough room on our rather small table for two.

Each dish was full of flavour and brought with it a new explosion of spices on the tongue.

The restaurant has put its own stamp on traditional dishes, giving them a nice personal twist.

Stuffed, we settled the £35 bill and rolled out of the door and up the road to the theatre, vowing to come back and sample more of the menu.