Inspired by the world famous "La Boqueria" market in Barcelona, the newly opened Boqueria Tapas and Gastro restaurant in Stoneybatter promises to deliver dishes made from locally sourced ingredients cooked with love. The man in the kitchen is chef Matt Fuller, who has spent time cooking in Ireland at L'Ecrivain, Salon des Saveurs (one of the few restaurants I miss in Dublin) and Citron at the Fitzwilliam, as well as spending several years cooking in Valencia, Spain, where it's said that Ferran Adria was quite a fan.
We had arranged to meet several family members for Saturday dinner at Boqueria and, as our taxi headed across the river Liffey and up through Stoneybatter, I wondered if we would be getting tapas or tapas concept. The first thing I learned is that Boqueria is already proving very popular with diners being turned away due to no space at the inn, although several were able to return later in the evening when tables had emptied. The second thing I learned is that the dining room is attractively clean and simple, with cream walls and bright chairs. The third thing I learned is that the menu reads wonderfully well, with an equally imaginative wine list.
With 6 of us at the table, we ended up ordering a substantial amount of dishes from the menu. Interestingly, we weren't allowed order for a short while, in order to give the kitchen time to process the existing orders. In order to keep us occupied, we ordered bowls of olives (€3.50) and baskets of bread with flavoured butters and wonderful olive oil (€4.50), along with a superb Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva (€48) and a Louro de Bolo Godello (€39).
|2oz Dexter beef burger|
|Lamb belly with Manchego cheese|
|Pork cheeks with caramelised pineapple|
After a short while, our dishes started to flow from the kitchen. Crispy cubes of fried potato were artfully arranged on a slate platter with stripes of spicy tomato sauce and dots of roast garlic mayo (€5.00). The perfect presentation on this simple dish indicated that we were dealing with a kitchen that was aiming for more than just good. Irish rare breed pork cheeks were cleverly paired with tangy caramelised pineapple (€7.00) while a mini burger made from Dexter beef came with a small portion of chunky chips (€5.50). Goatsbridge rainbow trout starred in a vibrant bright dish with fennel velouté and fruit salad (€7.50) while the humble mackerel was enhanced by apple and fennel salad (€6.50).
The intriguing lamb belly "San Jacobo" with manchego cheese (lamb with cheese!) had to be ordered and arrived as breaded portions of soft lamb and melting cheese (€7.50). A sublime pea risotto was a perfect shade of gentle green topped with shreds of smoked pork belly (€6.50) and perfect scallops came with delicious tarragon rosti and muted passion fruit (€12.00). There were many more dishes enjoyed and savoured, but I think you get the picture.
|Barrel chips with tomato sauce and garlic mayo|
|Pea risotto with smoked pork belly|
|Cured Goatsbridge rainbow trout with fennel velouté and fruit|
|Chargrilled tuna with pistachio and mango|
The dessert menu is equally tempting with standout dishes such as a tantalising strawberry and basil soup (€7.50) and a wonderful combination of chocolate mousse, bright olive oil and flakes of crunchy sea salt (€7.50). Unfortunately, there was no sweet wine selection when we dined, but I am told that a selection will be available shortly. If the main wine menu is any indicator, I'm already looking forward.
|Mel y mato with fresh fruit|
|Chocolate mousse with olive oil and candied bread|
The word "tapas" has definitely been enthusiastically embraced by the restaurant industry lately. Tapas now rarely means small Spanish dishes, but instead it is now used largely to mean small plates and food designed for mixing and sharing. How many times have you been faced with an enthusiastic waiter who has offered to explain the restaurant concept to you, only for him to start with the now-dreaded words "Our food is served tapas style…."? Sigh…
Boqueria isn't traditional tapas; there are no pintxos, sardines or bits of toasty bread here. It's what I call tapas-style dining, but also very much influenced by traditional tapas and Spanish cooking. It's thoroughly classy, which is no surprise given the pedigree of the chef. But it's also enhanced by the friendliness and chattiness of the superb staff who clearly enjoy working there. Post-dinner analysis on the way home was of the opinion that we had just dined in a standout spot.
My single regret is that I think that having 6 of us gathered around the table was just too much. Everybody wanted a bit of everything, which largely meant that no one got to have enough of any one thing. Some dishes were vigorously defended from intruding forks, but I think that the best way forward is to visit as part of a couple or smaller group. In my mind, there's no doubt about it, this is going to be a hot restaurant for 2015. Get there while you still can.
Boqueria, 3 Prussia Street, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
Tel: +353 (0)1 868 3575