The restaurant has a real Balearic feel to its decor, not to mention the sobrassada on the menu. | Emily Abay


Lovers of Balearic and Spanish food living in Australia no longer have to travel half way round the world to enjoy it. All they have to do is head to Bondi Beach and book at table at Iberica, set up and run by husband-and-wife team Joaquin Saez and fashion photographer Emily Abay who have decided to turn their attention to fresh seafood, garlicky sobrassada and plentiful paellas.

“Just a stone’s throw from the sun-drenched sands of Bondi Beach, our Spanish Mediterranean Restobar is a vibrant oasis that pays homage to the Balearic Islands. Our decor is a reflection of the laid-back sophistication found in Ibiza and Mallorca, designed to whisk our guests straight to the heart of the Mediterranean. Savour the flavours of the region with a menu bursting with fresh seafood, aromatic paellas, and a curated selection of Spanish wines and cocktails,” Joaquin told the Bulletin.

Q.— Tell me about your background and how/why did you embark on a career in cooking?
A. — I am Chilean. I lived in Europe for six years and Spanish culture is very well known to me.

Q.— Where did you train?
A. — I am an engineer by trade and left my career due to the passion I had for hospitality about 10 years ago.

Q.— What is your natural style of cuisine?
A. — Mediterranean cuisine is my go-to.
Also, I would say I am a fan of simple components where all is based on the quality of the main ingredients with no more than 4-5 features so you don’t get lost with too many tasting profiles.

Q.— How did you end up in Australia? Where else have you worked in the world?
A. — Australia was always an interesting venture for me due to how different this country is in comparison to where I ‘ve lived before.
It was interesting for me to be able to contribute by sharing a different perspective, a different culture to locals here.

Q.— Australia has a very Asian-influenced style of food, why Spanish and in particular tapas?
A. — People like to be transported and feel like they’re in another country. Spain is a destination Australians love, especially the Balearic Islands.
It feels like giving them the opportunity to revive their holidays by giving them a similar experience at home.
Also, there were a lot of Spanish restaurants in Australia about ten years ago and they slowly started to close down due to the lack of quality and variety.
Spanish cuisine has so much to offer and we think we are stepping away from the traditional misconception Australians have regarding Spanish cuisine.

Q.— Considering the great seafood and shellfish Australia has, although the Pacific Oyster, for example, is rather large, what has Spanish cuisine got to offer Australians?
A. — Australian produce is amazing. Seafood, meats, vegetable and fruits are of really high quality.
Australians are craving a different type of cuisine that can be reproduced locally sourced.

Q.— Why have you decided to focus on Balearic dishes?
A. — Because of the good cuisine and lifestyle of this region. We want to offer the whole experience.

Q.— What are the highlight Balearics dishes and how do you source the ingredients and produce?
A. — We use a lot of sobrassada. We’ve got excellent Spanish products stocked by suppliers.

Q.— How is the diversity and quality of produce in Australia?
A. — Australia is an amazing country with a vast offer of different products. Its topography makes it able to offer cool climate and tropical climate fruit and vegetables.
The wine offer here is incredible too.

Q.— Is the Spanish community in Sydney growing and I presume you area key part of it?
A. — Absolutely. We’ve got Spanish guests visiting every night but we don’t want to segment our clientele as all guests from all nationalities are welcomed.
It is great to establish conversation with Spanish guests who can relate with the products we’re offering and take them back to what they used to eat in Spain.

Q.— What makes Spanish food and wine so special? Why is it so popular all around the world?
A. — It is easy to fall in love with Spanish cuisine.
There is a lot of care and a great selection of ingredients that combined work together.
Spanish wines are getting more and more popular in Australia. They are not the most demanding ones but people are happy to get recommended new varieties.

Q.— With a Spanish/Balearic restaurant, what do you think you can offer that other restaurants don’t in Sydney considering the vast range of restaurants?
A. — There’s no other Balearic restaurant in Sydney that offers the full experience as we do.
Love and care, service, wine and food offering, restaurant fit out ... I feel like we’ve ticked all those boxes.

Q.— What do you miss most about Spain?
A. — Everything haha … . I’d say the unexpected late nights, making new friends, enjoying a few beers and snacks.

Q.— And what has Australia offered you that you could not find in Spain?
A. — Australia is a great country if you want to start up your own business. If you do it right, chances are you’ll do well.

Q.— How do you see you journey in Australia progressing?
A. — I’d love to open another restaurant. We’ve got Ikaria (Greek), Iberica (Balearic) and hopefully in a couple of years we will be able to open another beautiful venue.

Q.— Which is your favourite Balearic dish?
A. — Arroz de matanzas.

Q.— Which wines do you import?
A. — Wines from all over Spain. Our wine list is 85% Spanish wines or Spanish varieties.
From Listan Negro to Garnartxa Blanca; our offer covers the whole country.

Q.— What are the biggest challenges you face in Sydney?
A. — It’s hard to be away from your whole family. But you meet people that are in the same position and treat them as your family members.

Q.— What are your typical clients, is it a mixture?
A. — A lot of foodies, usually between - 25-55 years old. More locals than tourists I would say.

Quick fire round
What’s your favourite meal or dish?
Uffff… depends on my mood, haha

I’d say I would be down for a charcoal skirt bbq any day of the week.

What was your childhood career dream?
Football player. That didn’t happen after my 3 ACL injuries.

What’ s the first thing you do when you get up in the
Make my bed.

If you didn’t live in Sydney, where would you live?
Probably in Bali.

What was the last film you watched and your favourite?
Last film was Her and one of my faves is Pulp Fiction.

What was the best career advice you ever received?
Learn something every day. Even if it’s a new way to peel potatoes.
Also, treat your staff right. They are the core of your business.

What are you afraid of, if anything?
Losing one of my children.

What’s your favourite music?
I love all kind of music… the good one though, haha
Probably indie rock, or hip hop.

What’s your favourite drink/cocktail?
Gin Martini or Last Word.