Anthony Lydekker enjoys delicious Picota cherries during their very short season
A few days before Spain’s great afternoon at Wimbledon (the Lady’s Champion) I enjoyed an excellent tasting menu at Iberica opposite Victoria Station.
This was to celebrate the short season of the Picota cherries which come from just one region: the Jerte Valley in SW Spain. They are distinctive in that they are harvested without stalks. Slightly smaller than most cherries they have a unique taste which is sweeter than other cherries.
Whenever we get a box of cherries we often go straight to the recipe for duck with cherries in Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking or any of a handful of versions of Clafoutis.
However César Garcia, the Group Head Chef of Ibérica had a few creative surprises in an evening’s tribute to these cherries with no stalks.
Of course, for we Brits, cherry consumption has a close relationship with alcohol and tots of kirsch and brandy. And then there was Cherry Brandy. For some years I was fortunate to work on the advertising of a leading Cherry Brandy with a Dutch name. But as the years passed sales of all sweet liqueurs have tailed off.
Not surprisingly Cherry Brandy did not feature, but at the end of dinner there was a digestive: Néctar, Pedro Ximénez D.O. Jerez a good Sherry based brew with raisins and dates which happened to be very sweet indeed.
We had six dishes and these are the hightlights of four.
The soup “Picota Cherries Gazpacho, soft cheese ice cream, anchovy and mint” was subtle and outstanding. Forget anything to do with “ice cream” it was their name for a a cold cheese mousse. What worked very well was the unexpected introduction of snippets of anchovy. A clever palate tweaker.
In terms of getting everything together the pan seared Tuna was very good because the `hero of the piece” two slices of a large Tuna were seared to perfection: burned a little bit outside but softly cooked inside. It came with two sauces both good but maybe one would have been enough: a classic Ajoblanco, almond creamy soup reduced to a sauce and a second was Picota Cherry sauce.
The Iberico grilled pork pluma with apple purée and Picota Cherry sauce was excellent.
And, no surprises, the dessert was Picota cherries with a crema Catalana foam.
Iberica is proud of its wines from small houses and only available in the UK from them. On the road to the digestif we enjoyed Cava Vukarnau Brut Reserva (with an added Picota cherry), and two 2015 wines: Perro Verdejo DO Rueda and a first class red Sers Singular. DO Somontano.
I shall be getting down to Iberica much more often. Within their main menus there is scope for fairly informal quick meals and many opportunities for some of the complex dishes that we enjoyed. You may find unfamiliar wines and they have five or more brandies. The teams at work are good natured. The Tapas is worth a visit on its own merits.
Iberica has five branches in London and one in each of Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow