Boqueria, 192 Acre Lane, London SW2 5UL
The fairly new Boqueria is named after the famous food market in Barcelona so we had high hopes for this one, also Jay Rayner had tweeted that he’d had a great lunch there recently. We decided to go and celebrate my birthday, and were heading to Barcelona a few days later so it was turning out to be a Spanish themed affair. The restaurant is based in Brixton, we’re not familiar with that area in the slightest, so much so that we thought we were in Clapham (worth getting a cab from the tube). After a slightly tense walk out of our comfort zone through a (shall we say dubious) residential area we came across Boqueria. The sleek-fronted establishment looked quite out of place, first sight inside looked good though, a long stretch of bar leading into the dining room that was out the back. And it literally is just a room, possibly the plainest room we’ve ever eaten, known to most as ‘modern’. I know it’s not all about the decor, but it’s nice to have things to look at with an atmosphere and a bit of a buzz. There was nothing, and pretty much no one dining with us at first, but then it was a Tuesday. We found it to be the total opposite to its gastronomic namesake market which we visited a few days later, buzzing with people, colours, smells and an abundance of all kinds of food imaginable, the best market I’ve ever visited.
Anyway, we ordered a beer each, a slightly girly Damm Lemon Shandy £2.70 for Ade and Estrella Damm £3.40 for me, there was a good range of Spanish beers and the cheapest bottle of red was £13, a Viña Albali, Valdepeňas 2011, the lowest price we’ve seen for a long time. The menu has most of the regular dishes, plus a few more contemporary dishes such as Suckling pig with parsnip, sweet potato crisps, apple sauce & lemon sorbet. We went for Pan con tomate (bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil) £2.20, a toasted bread smeared with mashed up tomatoes. This was probably my favourite dish, I absolutely love the flavour combinations, so simple. Although the versions we had in Spain had a lighter smearing of tomatoes, this was more of a bruschetta.
Tortilla española £4.90 is a must for me whenever I have tapas, this one was much better than average, not too soft as they can be and Ade loved the arty carrot effect spicy tomato and red pepper sauce. The Espinacas a la crema gratinada con piñones (spinach with melted cheese and pine nuts) £4.90 appealed to Ade straight away, with my cheese ‘condition’ I was unable to try it, he polished it off in no time, he adores pine nuts.
Meat-wise the menu is very heavily sausage and pork-based, no chicken or beef to be found. The Butifarra con judiones y setas (Catalonian sausage with white beans and mushrooms) £7 struck me as quite as quite a British looking dish, it was very light and delicately flavoured, perhaps too subtle so for me, the oddly placed shitake mushrooms added no flavour whatsover. Chorizo a la sidra (chorizo with cider) £4.50 again was also quite delicate, the cider was just about there in the background but the meat was great, plump and full of robust smokeyness.
The Selección de embutidos (ham selection) £7.95 was delicious, a great range of meats including a token few pieces of chicken (so they do have chicken on the menu!), the Jamón serrano, Fuet de Vit (Catalan style salami) and Caña de lomo (Cured pork loin) were the stand-out meats. We chose one dish from the biggest specials board ever, and I mean the board was big not the list, it took up almost a whole wall and there was only about four things written on it. The Bunelos de Bacalao (Cod fritters) £6.30 were lovely and golden, they didn’t really taste much of cod, soft and rich, one portion was more than enough for two to share.
By now things were picking up a bit and most tables were full, my dessert of Creme Catalana (caramelised creamy custard) £3.50 went down a treat, very similar to creme brûlée but more textured and creamy. Ade’s Sorbete de limón al cava (lemon sorbet with cava) £3.50 was more of a drink than a dessert, great though. We asked our fantastic waiter (his poor little ‘sidekick’ was obviously a trainee) to chose a couple of sherries for us as we had no idea which to go for from the sherry and cava menu, he delivered a Moscatel Torres Floralis £4.50 and a Pedro Ximénez, Reserva de Familia £6.20, the latter was a joint winner, dark and fruity the first lighter and more refreshing which was much needed in the clammy restaurant, a lack of air con or fresh air on a hot night made for uncomfortable eating, especially under the partially glassed ceiling that we were under.
The food we had here was fine and was good value, but for us, not worth the trek and the lack of ambience was a let down. If we were local, we would definitely give it another chance, and perhaps if it hadn’t been named after a world famous food market we may not have had such high hopes. Plus it was my birthday so the pressure was on to have a great night. The service was good but awkward in parts, a new waiter was a bit too enthusiastic in clearing away our not yet finished plates. The tapas we had in Barcelona that following weekend was stunning Even our little local reliable Mar Terra restaurant gives a more authentic Spanish experience and a far bigger choice of traditional food. As we left via the bar there was a bit more action going on, perhaps we would’ve had a better time sat there. We hear they have a cafe coming soon, serving churros, now that we’d go back for…
192 Acre Lane,
London SW2 5UL
020 7733 4408
Mon – Thurs 17:00 – 23:00
Fri – Sat 12:30 – 24:00
Sun 12:30 – 22:00
Nearest tube: Clapham north, Clapham Common or Brixton