Thursday, 14 February 2013

De Barcelona a Brixton

Boqueria (@BoqueriaTapas)
192 Acre Lane, Brixton, London, SW2 5UL

London has no shortage of options when it comes to tapas. Whether it be the genuine article (Barrafina, Jose, Brindisa), or the multitude of tapas ''fusion'' places such as Kopapa, Imli, Bocca di Lupo, Bodega Negra... the list goes on and on! So I must admit I always have a slight apprehension when it comes to trying new tapas places. Don't get me wrong, I've had some of the best meals of my life sitting atop cramped bar tops in Barcelona, but it's rather difficult to differentiate yourself from other places when there's two-a-penny serving the exact same dishes on every high street in the city.

What I immediately liked about Boqueria was its location. This is also likely to be its biggest drawback to be honest. Some will find the location a bit out of the way to go for tapas, but I think that sometimes London is a bit to hub-by for its own good, with restaurants tending to cluster solely in ''trendy'' areas. I think this is less true in other cities, where you can chance upon great finds in the most unlikely places. And good quality, convivial, socially inclusive dining seems like a great way of creating a focal point for the local community.

Me and Owen (our first time dining out together in a while!) decided to mix things up a bit with the ordering, choosing some of our default tapas options as well as some which sounded a bit more off-the-wall (Suckling Pig with Lemon Sorbet and Parsnip Crisps, anyone?). There is an a la carte menu, as well as a blackboard with the daily specials written out. A cool touch we thought. The dishes were brought together in triplets according to their similarity so I'm going to review it as we received them.

Iberican Chorizo ''Joselito''

Jamon Iberico (Julian Martin)
First up, we got the Pan con Tomate (£2.20, not pictured), Jamon Iberico (Julian Martin, if that means anything to you, £9.00) and Iberican Chorizo Joselito (£8.90). Out of the more conservative dishes here, we were definitely most impressed with the chorizo. Lightly smoked and tender, with fat that dissolved like butter this is definitely what I look for when I think chorizo. It's on the expensive side, but for this quality I thought it was worth it. This was less true for the Jamon Iberico itself, which was cured solid and cut to translucent thickness but had a bit too much of that slightly rancid taste for my liking. I'm not really going to elaborate on the pan con tomate, because it's a kind of standard dish that is pretty hard to mess up. It was fine.

Calamares a la Romana (Patatas Bravas pictured behind)
Buñuelo de Bacalao
Next up were the frito dishes; Patatas Bravas (£4.20), Calamares a la Romana (£5.70) and Buñuelo de Bacalao (£6.30). Again, the patas bravas was a dish that I think you could order at any tapas place and not really be able to discern much of a difference. Having said that, it was perfectly fine, slightly crunchy on the outside and nicely fluffy in the middle. I could have done with the bravas sauce being a bit spicier, but that's probably just my own preference. The Calamares, a dish of which I had many fond memories of in Barcelona was a bit disappointing I have to say. It wasn't very tender and heavily battered. The Bacalao was our favourite of the bunch here. It was very finely minced, thinly battered and very lightly seasoned (it is salt cod after all, best not to overdo it). It was also deep fried nicely, with no hint of frier oil in the fish itself. Great stuff.

By the way, does anyone find the concept of serving sharing dishes in odd numbers for a predominantly even numbered social activity quite annoying? I'm not singling out Boqueria at all here, as this is widespread (maybe to get people to order more of the dishes to be more equal?) but it really infuriates me having to cut apart that last shiu mai, croquette or even prawn to split it!

Cochinillo Asado
Rape a la Catalana con Gambas
Arroz Negro
The final trio out of the main dishes were the more slowly cooked options. These were the Cochinillo Asado (the aforementioned suckling pig, £8.70), Rape a la Catalana con Gambas (Grilled monkfish and prawns, £7.90) and the Arroz Negro (paella cooked with squid ink, with squid and mussels, £9.80). The cochinillo was the highlight of the entire meal for us. The meat was very tender, whilst the skin was just crunchy enough (crackling is often too rigid...see Jason Atherton at Pollen Street Social for someone who knows how to do it really, really well). The flavour combinations were really cool too, combining the meat with the more typical apple sauce and more untypical lemon sorbet. The latter was a real relevation, breaking through the fat from the meat really nicely and providing a nice hot-and-cold contrast to the dish with the apple sauce somewhere in between. I could have eaten the parsnip crisps on their own too! Fantastic dish.

Again, like the previous calamares, I found the monkfish a bit tough, and the sauce a bit overpowering.  The prawns were good, but again dominated slightly by the sauce. I quite like monkfish and prawns in a dish like this to have a slightly grilled, meaty flavour (a la plancha!). The arroz negro was good though, cooked al dente with a slightly salty, rich flavour. Judging by Owen's blackened teeth after enjoying this dish, I would probably say this is not really first date material!

Leche Frita
Crema Catalana
So lastly on to the desserts. I ordered the Crema Catalana (£3.80), the Catalonian version of the Creme Brulee which ends up being exactly the same apart from the fact that it has a slight orange taste. It was good, maybe a bit too orangey for me but I did enjoy it. I think I would have preferred Owen's Leche Frita (£4.00), which were cubes of milk deep fried and coated in cinnamon. It tasted great, and a dish that I have to admit that I hadn't come across before. It had a slight taste of milk, but without that sharp lactic element to it. The creaminess combined with the spicy cinnamon taste almost seemed like eating solidified cappuccino foam... in the best possible way! 

So in the end, we did enjoy the restaurant, albeit more for the meat dishes than the fish dishes (excluding the bacalao, which we really enjoyed). If I lived in the Brixton, Clapham or Stockwell area of London, I think it would definitely be worth the trip for good tapas and nice, modern vibe. I'd like to also mention that the service was fantastic on the night. The waiter who served us was really receptive to all our questions and really friendly overall. I know we don't talk about service very often, but it was very much appreciated so I thought I'd mention it. A final word on the wine. I had a glass of the Resalso (£5.25), a tinta fina from Ribera del Duoro. I really, really enjoyed it, and would love to try some of the cavas and sherry next time based on the quality of it.

- Shahz

N.B. We were very kindly invited for our visit to the restaurant by the Boqueria team. For reservations, you can visit their website ( or phone them at 0207 733 4408.

Boqueria on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

No comments:

Post a Comment

Well, what you think?.......