To Ibérica the stunning, former Bonhams/Hepper building on East Parade to learn about paella. We’d been invited by Marcos the CEO of the Ibérica Group who explained how we’d all been having too many touristy paellas and they were here to show us the proper thing.
The secret said Marcos is in the stock. It must be a proper fish or meat stock. The rice absorbs the liquid and provides all the flavour. There should only be a thin layer of rice, cooked over a high flame, preferably wood-fired and never stirred, this would release too much starch and make it sticky. When the rice can absorb no more stock the remaining liquid is allowed to caramelise so that it toasts a little at the bottom of the pan. This, is called the socorrat and considered the best bit of the paella.
To prove it they brought out a fish and a meat paella. It was thinner than I’d expected and not at all creamy like risotto. One was topped with prawns the other chicken (no mixed fish and meat they said) They were right of course the flavour is all in the rice, and with a special scraper, the chef released the wonderful crusty layer. It was indeed very good.
They also brought out anchovies and a selection of charcuterie, a plate of creamy and delicate croquetas, a strawberry and beetroot salad with an ajo blanco dressing, roasted bone marrow and steak tartar topped with fried quail eggs and for dessert, rice pudding with a brûlée top, churros and chocolate and an apple and salted caramel ice cream topped with whipped crema catalana.
What began as a talk about paella, morphed into a full blown lunch washed down with some rather luscious wines. We’re often sniffy about chains (Iberica will hate me for calling them a chain rather than a ‘collection’) but this we are willing to concede is one of the best, not least for its fabulous setting (make sure you use the loos) and of course the authentic paella.
Ibérica Leeds, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds LS1 2BH
T: 0113 403 7007