Halfway down Acre Lane, two doors down from an Afro hairdresser-cum-newsagent-cum Christmas tree store, is Boqueria Tapas, the self-proclaimed “most exciting Tapas bar in London”…Now I’m not sure about the earth-shattering excitement – on an excitement Richter scale where 1 is paint drying and 10 is the Second Coming Boqueria is a comfortable 5 – but the food is definitely a teaser for the tastebuds.
Another winner of this year’s Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards, Boqueria is heavy on the Catalan tapas tradition, with reassuringly enthusiastic Catalan staff. Friday night saw it relatively quiet in the back and its clean white interior doesn’t ooze Spanish warmth but the sherry bar at the front of the restaurant was fizzing with happy couples gorging on fat garlicky olives, toasted almonds and no doubt sipping Boqueria’s Sherry of the Week, a nutty, creamy Guttierez Colosia Cream.
The ample menu is adventurous without breaking boundaries – therefore suitable to impress but not baffle. For the middle to low price range Boqueria caters for there are good, strong flavour combinations and well-sourced primary ingredients. We ordered chorizo alla sidra – pungeant, sweet and salty, although I couldn’t detect the subtlety of cider, a delightful, moreish dish of spinach with pine nuts, melted cheese and raisins and fat, juicy langostinos with garlic and parsley. The latter were excellent.
A bacalao con samfaina – a Catalan ratatouille – was well cooked and moist, but lacked a bit of punch in the vegetables. Suckling pig with parsnips and a citrus fresh lemon sorbet was far more appealing, with contrasting textures and each flavour and element well-defined. Iberian pork cheeks were good, well-seasoned and generous.
Desserts were delicious. We had a very traditional Crema Catalana which was lusciously creamy and silky. A three layered, triple chocolate tart was super-rich but didn’t feel cloying or heavy, with a crispy biscuit base.
All in all, Boqueria Tapas is a warm, friendly local tapas bar with chatty, charming staff and an authentic, interesting tapas selection. I wouldn’t travel across London for it, but it makes for a great local regular.