Boqueria in Brixton:
Or to be more exact somewhere in a no-man’s land in between Clapham North and Brixton. Does it sound appealing? Well, maybe on a warm summer’s evening. But, walking down cold dark London streets in an area I don’t know at all really isn’t that inspiring. Even if the destination IS named after one of the finest food markets in Spain. The good news is my visit to Boqueria Tapas Bar was worth it. I’d arranged to meet a friend who works in the area, but, I arrived very early because I didn’t have a clue how long it would take me. The bar wasn’t quite empty, but it was very quiet, as you might expect at 6.15 on a Monday night. Stylishly minimal, clean and nicely laid out, with the staff all in matching black uniforms, I liked the feel of the place immediately. My friend arrived straight from work in that kind of ‘omg what a day’ kind of mood that working in the NHS probably gives everyone. Wine was obviously needed quickly. A few minutes later, wine, boquerones en viagre and olives on the table, things looked good. We’d been trying to work out what to order from the wine list and in the end the waitress stepped in and recommended a very good bottle of Beronia Rioja, Crianza. We ended up with a slightly unusual mixture of dishes, I think because there were so many meat and fish dishes we wanted to try. And then we were persuaded to add in a couple of the ‘specials’ too. Of the two croquetas, I loved the Jamon with the ultimate in rich creamy ham filling. Somehow the chicken one was a little drier and consequently didn’t quite match up, but I suspect if we hadn’t been comparing the two, I’d have thought it was pretty spot on. Bunuelos de bacalao were nicely balanced potato and fish based fritters with a tasty garlicy lemon mayonnaise The best of the dishes, Arroz Negro – black rice with squid and mussels was rich and full of seafood, the rice with just the right amount of bite. A revelation – I discovered that my dining companion didn’t like eggs…just like me. So, ordering the ratatouille with quails eggs was something of a challenge. Quails eggs are just about small enough to work (or perhaps it’s just my delusions of grandeur) and these were fried, lovely soft yolks and a crispy based white. The flavour combination worked really well with the ratatouille too. Cochinillo asado was very pleasant, but not quite what I had hoped for. I remember the messy, plate of wood roasted cochinillo I ate in Segovia, and this was nothing like the same dish. Very beautifully presented, a portion of meat formed into a square, served on top of a puree of parsnip with sweet potato crisps and lemon sorbet it looked very ‘gastro’ and just didn’t have the same depth of flavour I remembered. But then, I’ve been spoilt!
Our final savoury dish, another ‘special’ was fabada asturiana, a white bean stew that I seem to come back to time and again. It never disappoints and is one of the ultimate spanish comfort food dishes! We probably shouldn’t have even thought about pudding and dessert wine but a shared Tarta de Santiago and two glasses of Pedro Ximenes sounded too good to miss. Tapas here is priced from just under £5 to just over £8 for almost all dishes. By the time we left the place was lively and almost full, even relatively early on a Monday evening – it’s somewhere with a lively atmosphere that genuinely did remind me of the bars in Barcelona. It’s fun, and from the look of the large table in the centre of the restaurant seems a great place to go for a celebration with a group of friends. My friend was already plotting her staff Christmas party by the time we left, which is a real endorsement!