People in HK must be having some serious tapas withdrawal symptoms because the Spanish invasion just won’t stop. If BCN, 22 Ships and Vi Cool weren’t enough, Boqueria is now up and running in Lan Kwai Fong.
LKF Tower already draws quite the crowd due to Lily & Bloom and Gold by Harlan Goldstein, as well as favourite drinking holes Azure and Tazmanian Ballroom, so Boqueria is in a good location to offer Spanish nibbles before a night out.
I’ve not been to the original Boqueria in New York, so can’t comment on whether its standard is equal to that of the flagship, but I have travelled to Spain enough times and eaten enough Spanish food to know what I enjoy and to rack up probably 10 years’ worth of food- induced siestas. When I received a kind invitation to sample what Boqueria has to offer, I was interested, as the chef, David Izquierdo, hails from Valencia and promises to bring the traditional taste of Spain to our tables in HK.
Before you enter Boqueria, the entrance opposite the lifts has a pantry-style display which gave me the urge to raid it for its bottled pimiento and olives. Whether this set up is designed to catch the eye or whet the appetite, I don’t know, but it certainly worked! The interior is set up rather nicely with Moorish tiles, an open kitchen and a compact tapas bar with bar stool seating near the front of the restaurant, opening up into a larger dining space. I like that there are hanging legs of jamón for all to see, but this display became rather a tease as the hunger pangs grew.
I was running late and by the time I joined the fellow foodies, starters were being demolished, the first being a platter of slightly too thickly sliced Iberico ham, (aged for 36 months) and nutty Rosemary Manchego.
As with most new restaurants within a month of opening, there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way and Boqueria was no exception. For me, the best dishes of the night were the Bombas de la Barceloneta, which I was quite obsessed with, the Carne a la Plancha and the Albondigas.
The Bombas de la Barceloneta (beef and potato croquettes with salsa brava and garlic allioli) were so deliciously moreish that I was pretty sad when I could only have one. I don’t know how this came to be as I thought I was mumbling under my breath, but after talking to the others about how lovely it would be to have another plate, all of a sudden, a fresh plate of croquettes appeared in front of me. It was a miracle! Many thanks to the mysterious waiter or perhaps it was the manager that overheard, but I was pleased as pie I got to stuff my face with another one. The beauty of these bombas was the golden crispy coat that wasn’t overly greasy and the creamy mincemeat and potato filling that made this more than just a mere potato croquette. The allioli was excellent and the dish was quite close to the ones I had in Madrid.
The Carne a la Plancha, or Hanger steak, was surprisingly well prepared; tender and flavoursome, the slices were decently charred around the edges and made tastier by dunking them generously in the mojo verde.
I was also quite taken by the Albondigas or lamb meatballs which were gratifyingly meaty and happily buried under a tangy tomato sauce. The small dollop of sheep’s milk cheese did not necessarily add to the taste but it made for good decoration.
Other dishes of the night were the Pintxos Morunos- seared Australian lamb skewers which were grilled competently but let down by the overwhelming amount of salsa verde and the Salteado de Setas- sauteed wild mushrooms and manchego cheese, which were nice but didn’t really wow my palate. In addition, they served Spanish tortilla, which I’m very fussy about, having had some incredible tortillas on my travels around Spain. I do rate Spanish restaurants on their tortilla, as despite its relative simplicity, isn’t the easiest to perfect. Boqueria’s was a bit of a disappointment as it was too dense and I felt it would also have been better served warm rather cold.
No Spanish restaurant is complete without a paella dish on their menu, and Boqueria has their own Paella de Mariscos with Bomba rice and half the ocean’s creatures in it- monkfish, squid, shrimp, clams, mussels, as well as saffron and salsa verde. The squid and shrimp were perfectly charred, scrumptious and plump and the rice was a good consistency and texture with the all important burnt bits at the bottom, but I couldn’t really detect any saffron. Consistency was a little off and we felt that our half of the table had the better paella versus the other half, whose paella was on the wetter side and tasted less well seasoned. It is of course the case that in Spain there are variations on the preparation of the classic paella; some are served drier and lighter in some regions, so it boils down to personal preference but with whichever preparation, Boqueria would need to be more consistent with this main dish.
Two desserts brought our evening to a close with the first being the Pina Inopia: slices of pineapple with lime and molasses. Pineapple is a great way of refreshing the taste-buds and the molasses added a sticky sweet contrast to the sharpness of the lime.
Then there were the fat, short churros; gorgeous stumps of fried dough coated with cinnamon sugar and served with a melted thick, hot chocolate. I really enjoyed Boqueria’s version of the churros and overall it was a finger-licking, tasty end to the meal.
Boqueria has some solid dishes on offer and I think in time, the inconsistencies will iron themselves out. It’s a fun spot and the atmosphere, coupled with their sangria and beer, will certainly help get one in the mood for a night on the town.
Chopstixfix rating: 3/5
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Boqueria, 7/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2321 8681 www.boqueria.com.hk