I am genuinely happy to report that Las Iguanas has landed in Torquay; you can read the review for the Exeter branch here. We were invited down to see the latest addition to the Las Iguanas family which is housed in the new Abbey Sands building that has appeared on the seafront. This new build is the resort’s latest move to gentrify itself, smarten up some of the crumbly bits and put it in line to being THE British resort to go to.
And this also includes introducing a 24 hour charging period on the car parking along the seafront which, to be honest, is absolutely insane. Thanks Torbay Council *slow clap*, thanks. After driving around in circles and realising that there is a helpful and handy car park right behind Las Iguanas that we had driven past three times, it didn’t seem that bad after all.
The modern exterior of Abbey Sands is reminiscent of a luxury resort, somewhere nice like Monte Carlo or possibly Barbados. Not being an expert on Coastal Resort Architecture of the early 21st century, whether Monte Carlo has a Costa Coffee is a mystery so don’t quote this article.
The restaurant sits at the end of the row of some smart eateries, its glass front exterior lets light flood in. It is crisp, colourfu and airy, allowing a panoramic view of Torbay. You can see right over to Brixham on a clear day, and during the sunset the horizon is transformed in to a blaze of orange and reds as it hits the buildings across the bay.
Las Iguanas has redesigned its menu since I last visited. New dishes have appeared (these are handily shown on the menu by the big letters that say ‘new’) which increases the esoteric nature of the selection of food and drinks. They still have the Happy Hour cocktails, there are still things on the menu that I really liked in the Exeter Las Iguanas and I am happy to say that there are still a huge range of drinks too.
The restaurant was busy. It was a Friday night, there is a light samba soundtrack floating in amongst the laughter and jive of the Friday night revellers. For some, this is just a meal out and then possibly a drink afterwards and for others this was the embarking point of an epic night of alcohol, frolics and partying. That is the one thing that appeals to me about Las Iguanas, it can be many different things to different people. It is a party, it is also a lively meal out, it doesn’t fit a narrow stereotype.
We kicked our meal off with a couple of Corona’s, coming with a lime (needed and expected!) we decided to try the new Quesadilla starters. Tortilla, filled, folded, pan-fried & served with tomato salsa. You can go for garlicky mushroom, chilli, thyme & cheese or spicy chicken, peppers, onion & cheese both for £4.90. I liked the idea of this as a starter, definitely could have done with more filling though, but then I have an appetite of a small buffalo. My able assistant found them a perfect portion.
The main course wasn’t a hard choice for me being the massive burger fan that I am. I went for the South American Dream, a new addition to their menu. Lightly spiced beef patty in a toasted bun stacked with fresh herb chimichurri, slaw, sliced beef tomato, baby gem and a creamy tomato & gherkin sauce. It was a good patty, very dense. Interestingly I couldn’t tell whether this was a ‘handmade’ burger and I would question whether it was, but then this isn’t a burger bar, its Latin American restaurant and I’m not marking anyone down for this fact.
The chimichurri and the sauce worked together really nicely and yes…I had curly fries. And this leads me on to one thing I admire about Las Iguanas. They make what could be a really exotic menu quite accessible to the British public, yes you can have curly fries with your flame grilled Latin American burger. The Brazil and Beyond section has names that you would not find on a pub menu, but the Mexican menu has favourites like Nachos, Burritos, Tortillas, things which would not be out of place in the usual ‘British-ness’ of our collective national psyche. The balance between the exotic and the familiar is one that could be either too much or too safe, and I think Las Iguanas has a good balance in that respect.
So lets talk dessert. Again nothing too exotic for me, nothing beyond the Creamy Caramel Cake. I enjoyed it so much last time I was at a Las Iguanas it was perfectly accompanied by two coffees and further fantastic service from Jodie our waitress.
I genuinely like Las Iguanas a lot. This is ‘casual dining’ and it can be as expensive or cheap as you make it. They have branches across the UK and there are more than likely going to be more in the future appearing, and its easy to see why they have a bit of a cult following too. With the the happy hour cocktail offer and various other offers that they run, it is definitely Mexican/Latin American with a friendly and accessible twist.
Scroll down for photos of the meal and the new restaurant!
4 Abbey Sands
Tel: 01803 297 053