Las Iguanas have grown from small beginnings in Bristol to become the largest privately owned group of Latin American restaurants in the UK, with restaurants well established in Bristol, Bath, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Brighton.
Hot on the Cuban heels of the opening of their 10th site in Bristol in June (the second in the city), Las Iguanas will be flinging open the doors of its first ever London restaurant opposite the Royal Festival Hall in August. The new 225-seat restaurant positions this ambitious, independent operator in the heart of the capital. The new site boasts impressive views over the river Thames and is positioned next to the Golden Jubilee Bridge which provides a popular pedestrian link between the north and south banks.
Las Iguanas’ new site on Festival Walk is part the redevelopment of the whole South Bank Centre which spans 21 acres of land dedicated to the arts. The centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall and attracts 3 million visitors each year. The Royal Festival Hall, widely regarded as the jewel in the crown of Britain’s post-war architecture revival, is currently closed for a £91million refurbishment which will re-establish it as a world-class concert hall and arts venue. A number of renowned food operators are already established at Festival Riverside, the first phase of the redevelopment, including wagamama, Strada, Giraffe and EAT.
Las Iguanas director Ajith Jaya-Wickrema is delighted with the group’s first site in London as it represents the pinnacle of the evolution of the brand so far.
“The Royal Festival Hall is a national institution and, arguably, we have found one of the best sites in London. It’s really a credit to the Royal Festival Hall that they have given this development so much thought. There were many bidders for our site but we were given a fair and equal chance of success as the criteria was based upon what was appropriate for visitors, not on balance sheets.”
Londoners and visitors to the capital can look forward to an unrivalled authentic Latin American experience at Las Iguanas. This will be the place to enjoy a feast of fresh and imaginative regional dishes with a twist. Start or end your night with a visit to the in-house cocktail bar – the Cachaçaria (ca-sha-sa-ria) – where the cocktail of choice is a Caipirinha made from Las Iguanas’ Magnifica Cachaça produced by the company from its own sugar cane plantation just outside Rio de Janeiro.
The bright and bold interiors of Las Iguanas’ restaurants are inspired by regular visits to South America where the team source modern interior design features and eye-catching artefacts. The group shuns the carbon copy chain mentality and endeavours to make every restaurant look different and enhance its neighbourhood.
The Festival Walk site extends to 6000 sq feet on two levels. Historic brick arches frame the interior and the contemporary glass frontage floods the restaurant with light. Look out for specially-commissioned Brazilian wood mosaics, bamboo furniture, curvy booths and cool lighting. The Latin style extends outdoors to the piazza where there are a further 60 seats for al fresco diners.
Las Iguanas always had London in its sights, but has put its formula to the test in the big metropolitan cities of England first. Its expansion has been strategically planned so that the big step into London has been a relatively small step in terms of finance. Five new sites are planned for 2007, a further six in 2008 and the same in 2009.