Food & DrinkGrub Spy

High-quality tapas to be had at Boqueria

Grub SpyBy Sunday World

My wife and I hadn’t been out in what seemed like an eternity.

With two kids - the younger of whom seems intent on being a career insomniac - means that getting out for a restaurant meal is as elusive as a Dáil consensus on the future of Irish Water.

So when Grub Spy begged the editor for a week off to rest his poor stomach, I jumped at the chance to fill his boots.

We headed to Boqueria in Stoneybatter on Dublin’s northside, a tapas place we’d heard good reports about.

It’s a smallish restaurant that features an L-shaped dining room with simple yet elegant furnishings, and a welcoming staff were on hand as we arrived on a quiet Wednesday evening.

The menu comprises a dozen tapas, five sides and six desserts. The waitress suggested four tapas between two, but being hungry types, we ordered five, with a side of croquettes.

First up, the croquettes. Wow! These were as good as we’ve tasted anywhere, the perfect little crispy croquettes sitting on a fresh tomato purée with a hint of garlic and olive oil, and stuffed with a gooey, cheesy béchamel filling. 

Next, the veal tortellini. Well executed, lovely thin pasta parcels with a beautiful braised veal filling, gremolata and a truffle cream. It was a perfectly balanced plate of food, and we mopped up everything with freshly-baked bread which arrived on the house, along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Scallops arrived in quick succession. Charred on the outside, and just a hint opaque in the middle, they came with a delicate and perfectly-seasoned rosti, an almond brittle 
and a tiny bit of passion fruit. Sounds like an odd dish, but believe me, it was a belter.

An Artichoke and Macroom Buffalo Mozarella Salad, as described on the menu, was the perfect follow-up after the heavy first few dishes.

Unfortunately, what arrived was a salad of Jerusalem artichokes.

Don’t get me wrong, it was another fine offering, complemented by a crunchy wild green salad, lightly pickled red onions, shaved beetroot and cherry tomatoes, that were perhaps an ingredient too many. But if I see artichoke on a menu, I don’t expect a ‘fartichoke’, as the Jerusalem variety is often referred to.

The plate of cured stonebass with pickled pear, balsamic pearls and strawberries, was the stand-out dish amongst stiff competition. Lightly salt-cured, this underrated fish reached dizzy heights as it met the fruit in a holy trinity of flavour.

The final tapa was our least loved. Not that there was anything wrong with the perfectly-cooked duck breast, described as cured.

And the suet pudding it came with was tasty, as was the jus. We’d happily have eaten it as a main in a good bistro, but it seemed to lack a wow factor compared to the others.

Desserts – a pannacotta of Macroom ricotta with hazelnut crumb and meringue, and a chocolate mousse with candied bread, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt – were absolutely spectacular.

This is tapas elevated to a level we’ve only ever come across in San Sebastian, the gastronomic capital of Spain, with a brilliant Irish twist. Just don’t mention the fartichokes.