MAXINE GORDON samples the taste of South America in York

WHY am I reviewing a chain restaurant this week, you might ask?

Simple. Lots of people go to chain restaurants.

We are lucky in York to have lots of independent cafes and restaurants, but most of us eat in chains too – and both deserve critiques.

Two of the tastiest meals I’ve had in a while have been in chain restaurants.

People can be terribly snobby about food. MasterChef-type meals are all very well, but sometimes you just want beans on toast. Or a jacket potato. Or a Wagamama raisukaree curry. I know I do!

This week, I was lured to Las Iguanas for three reasons. Firstly: I'd heard good things about its South American food. Secondly: it serves two-for-one cocktails all day. Thirdly: I had a two-for-one voucher to use for mains on its a la carte menu (sent to me via email because I am on its mailing list).

So on Sunday night, the family headed down Back Swinegate way to see what the flavours of Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico had to offer.

The menu is extensive, with separate selections for vegetarian and vegans as well as for anyone who has to avoid gluten. There are dairy-free and nut-free options too. On our visit, a fixed-price menu was available, but we chose from the a la carte, mindful of our discount vouchers.

As we pondered our choices, we ordered some drinks: a frothy red beer from Chile, Rothhammer Brave Red Ale (£4.60), for my husband and father-in-law, which they said was drinkable if not an award-winner. My teenage daughter and I took advantage of the two-for-one offer on cocktails and mocktails and picked a surprisingly refreshing and thirst-quenching banana cooler (£4,95) with banana, mango, lemon, vanilla and soda. Alcoholic cocktails start at £8.95.

To begin, we shared a plate of nachos: a nest of warm corn chips, woven together with melted cheese, with hidden burrows filled with tomato salsa, sour cream and guacamole, topped with slices of jalapeños peppers.

Covering the cuisines of South America ensures most tastes are catered for. Like steak? Then head for Argentina. Prefer tortillas, chillies and refried beans? Set your knife and fork for Mexico. We were all tempted by the plates of Brazil which featured fish, prawns and chicken in rich sauces flavoured with coconut, lime and peanuts. My Bahian coconut chicken (£14.95) arrived in two dishes; the first with a heap of rice laced with spring onion and a side of deep-green curly kale. In an accompanying bowl were strips of chicken breast in a creamy, mustard-yellow sauce. The chicken was extremely tasty; perfectly cooked, it was tender and had taken on the flavours of the delicious sauce – a heavenly marriage of ginger, garlic, tomatoes, coriander and coconut milk. My hubby ordered the same dish and was equally impressed, but would have liked more rice.

A veggie feast of butternut squash, palm hearts, green beans and spinach got the thumbs up too from our daughter. Her Moqueca de palmitos (£13.95) came in a coconut curry that had a sourer note than ours but was equally tasty. It was served with spring onion rice and sweet plantain – similar in taste and texture to a roasted banana. We really liked the little dish of toasted coconut to sprinkle over the top which added another layer of texture.

Grandad picked the unpronounceable Xinxim (£14.95) but was able to declare it another winner. Billed as a "classic recipe from North Brazil" this was an unusual mix of chicken and crayfish in a bright yellow creamy lime and peanut sauce. It was served with spring onion rice, fine green beans, sweet plantain and more of the coconut farofa. We also shared a bowl of curly fries with garlic mayo (£3.80), which were good too.

If you have a very sweet tooth, then you won't want to miss the Dulce de leche macadamia cheesecake (£5.95), a generous serving of creamy caramel-flavoured cheesecake topped with thick caramel sauce (but you might want to share this with another). More manageable and my preference was the creamy caramel cake (£5.25) where the sponge was soaked in a sweet syrup, drizzled with Dulce de leche and crowned with peaks of caramel cream and fresh blueberries. We also shared some dairy-free coconut ice-cream, which was rather bland in comparison (£4.95).

Service was good and we liked the relaxed feel of the restaurant and the fact that the music was very much in the background.

With use of our vouchers, we found it very good value too: our food bill for four came to £56.60.

Las Iguanas

21 Back Swinegate, York


T: 01904 521100

Food: Tasty 3.5 stars

Service: Good 4 stars

Ambience: Relaxed 4 stars

Value: Decent 3.5 stars

Reviews are independent and paid for by The Press