Senor Jamon plans a Spanish Conquest

Jamon, jamon at IberiCo from Daniel Pedrosa

IberiCo, that lovely little Spanish deli off Ecclesall Road, is on the move . . .

THE FiRST time I met Daniel, the owner of Spanish deli and tapas bar IberiCo on Hickmott Road, his Northern accent with a slight Sheffield twang led me to think he was a local lad with a liking for that country’s food.

Then when he effortlessly slipped into Spanish to greet an expat customer I thought ” By ‘eck, he’s got the lingo!”

He certainly has. But it’s our lingo. Although he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Spaniard – he is tall, pale and laid back rather than short, dark and animated – Daniel Marquez Pedrosa is from Cadiz although, as he will tell you, his family comes from Cordoba. The city apparently had an influx of German immigrants a century or so ago.

He’s been in Sheffield since September 2014, arriving under the Erasmus scheme to study English at university. He obviously liked what he saw although South Yorkshire couldn’t be more different to the South of Spain. But he wasn’t so keen on teaching, his job after university, so looked around for something different.

The shop, a combination of grocery, coffee bar and cafe, opened last August Bank Holiday and brought an exotic flavour to the already vibrant mix of places on Hickmott and Sharrowvale Road, the lively area off equally Cosmopolitan Ecclesall Road.

Cheeses and meats at Iberi.co

While it has become a favoured destination for locals lured by the tempting sight of hams, hanging from the hook and on the cradle, it is also a rendezvous for expat Spanish, of whom there seem to be many in Sheffield.

“The Spanish say prices are higher than back home but they would be, wouldn’t they?” he jokes.

Until he speaks his native language you’d never guess he was Spanish although there’s a little clue on the menu with its idiosyncratic spelling of ‘ sandwhiches.’!

IberiCo almost never happened. The shop had been earmarked as a greengrocers but that fell through. Daniel had earlier been interested and got a call from the landlord.

The deli is the heart of the business, stocked with hams, cheeses and boxes and tins and packets of Spanish produce – everything from anchovies to tins of beans and excellent olive oil.

The shelves are full of goodies

It won’t be there much longer. IberiCo is moving . . .but not far. August 13 has been pencilled in for transfer to the former premises of Olive & Joy in Dyson Place.

The larger premises will allow for a wider range of deli items and increase the offer not only from the shelves and counter but on the table.

For Daniel the move into bigger premises so soon wasn’t part of his business plan. “But you have to take your chances when you can. When we first opened this place didn’t look as it does now.”

Daniel, already Senor Jamon to local foodies, has made the little shop a favourite with many as an enoteca or bodega where they can sit down with a plate of meats or cheeses with a bowl of olives, glass of wine and bread from Phil at nearby Perfectionery. Seats are limited although in warmer weather they spread outside.

With more room in Dyson Place there will be tables inside and out. “There will be much more food. We will have a young Spanish chef and she has written a very good menu. It’s going to add a lot to Dyson Place,” he says.

Expect the transition to take a few weeks before it gets fully into gear. There will still be those plates of meats and cheeses plus a menu for more casual dining.

And as IberiCo moves out another food business moves in, upmarket patisserie Gilt from Abbeydale Road.

Looking romantic: IberiCo

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A passion for paella

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Omar gets all steamed up over his paella

A dark back yard in the drizzling rain off a busy Sheffield street is not the most exotic location for cooking paella. But then the city has had few chefs as exotic as Omar Allibhoy, even if he’s only here on a temporary basis.

On March 16 the photogenic young Spaniard, dark-eyed, dark-haired and bearded, opens the fifth branch of his Tapas Revolution mini-chain in Meadowhall, so we can stuff ourselves silly with pulpa a la Gallega and pimientos de Padron without troubling easyJet.

You’d think Omar, from Madrid, would have it in for Sheffield. Five years ago he and his pal rode their scooters from Liverpool on the west coast to the east, cooking tapas for anyone they met on the way. They stopped at a Sheffield Travelodge overnight and had one of the bikes nicked. But at least he got to Grimsby before Sacha Baron Cohen!

To promote the new enterprise, still being built as I write, Omar had taken over Matthew Holdsworth’s tiny Bhaji Shop bistro on Chesterfield Road for the night to host a pop-up restaurant for local foodies and bloggers. There are tapas but the highlight of the night is the paella.

Omar needs a metre-wide paella pan and the Bhaji’s kitchen was much too small so he camped out under an awning in the back yard. The weather is less than Spanish. I nip out to take a look and he emerges from a cloud of steam as the dish cooks fragrantly. He might be worth a mint by now but, while he’s brought a team of chefs to help him, he’s still in charge of the paella. It’s his particular passion.

When it arrives it is an intensely, savoury, smoky, complex dish heady with the smell and taste of saffron and paprika, with chicken (but no rabbit), artichokes, three types of beans and rice which is still firm yet yielding to the tooth. It’s quite the best I have ever had.

Omar got a leg up in life working for the world’s most famous chef, Farran Adria, and the world’s sweariest, Gordon Ramsay, who dubbed him the restaurant version of Antonio Banderas. That was worth a few PR and newspaper headlines (and it’s on the cover of his recipe book) but he does display an engaging enthusiasm.

While all his outlets are in mega shopping outlets I observe it is unusual for Sheffield to get a trendy chain restaurant so soon. Usually all the big names go to Shrewsbury before Sheffield. The city can’t even sustain a Loch Fyne, which has just closed. He winces slightly at the word ‘chain,’ as if someone has just knocked over a dish of his albondigas, and stresses everything except the bread will be made on site: no microwaves, no heat-and-eat, no freezers. “It doesn’t feel like a chain to us; it’s a very personal project.” OK, whatever the Spanish is for autonomous link in a chain, it’s that!

Of course, any food which you get for free will taste wonderful but, that aside, it was very, very good indeed. We weren’t fed any old patatas bravas – in fact we didn’t get that at all – and for me the starriest dishes were the chorizo a la sidra (lovely sweet and spicy Asturian sausages roasted in cider), pulpo a la Gallega (soft steamed octopus with sliced potato in paprika) and some intensely cumin-flavoured meatballs.

And, of course, there was excellent Iberico ham, Manchego cheese, marinated anchovies and much more, washed down with Sangria, Spanish beer and wine.

Omar is on a mission to introduce the city to what he calls real tapas. He mutters that Britain  has seen ‘the dark side of Spanish food.’ But we’re not such principiantes (beginners) in the tapas department. Back in the Nineties that excellent chef Michael Morgan introduced them at his Mediterranean restaurant in Hunter’s Bar.

One more thing. At the same time as Omar opens Tapas Revolution there will be a churroseria, a kiosk selling that famous Spanish snack, next door. Can’t wait.

More details at http://www.tapasrevolution.com The book, Tapas Revolution, is published by Ebury Press at £20.

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Steamed octopus and potatoes

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