Monday, 18 April 2016

Boqueria, Stoneybatter

"Whaddya mean, it's a destination restaurant?" Colley, a regular character in the Moss Reid series of novels, sounds more narky than usual this morning. "What's a destination restaurant when it's at home?"

"Oh look it up in Wikipedia," I reply, the way my Da used to tell us kids to look things up in the encyclopaedia.

"Ah go on, tell us," Colley says.

"OK." I start flicking through websites on my iPhone. "It's a restaurant that attracts customers from far and wide, as a destination in its own right. And I quote: 'The idea of a destination restaurant originated in France with the Michelin Guide, which rated restaurants as to whether they were worth a special trip or a detour while one travelled by car in France'."

"Michelin stars, right. But a destination restaurant? In Stoneybatter?"

"Yep. Called Boqueria."

"As in the famous food market in Barcelona? Whatchamacallit. In Las Ramblas?"

"Yeah. It's a tapas bar."

"With a Michelin star?"

"Of course not. Do you believe in Michelin stars?"


"Well then. You can forget about Michelin stars."

Pause. He's thinking. "It's a right scam alright."

"Michelin stars?"

"Yeah. They just want you to drive further. To run your tyres down. So you need to buy new tyres. From Michelin."

Better humour him. "Too right, Colley."

"Or Dunlop. But a tapas bar?" he continues. "In Stoneybatter?"


"Oh. Ahhhh." The sound of a penny as it drops from a great height. "You mean that little grey place at the bottom of Prussia Street?"

"Yeah. No. I mean they've just repainted it. A bright blue."

"That place used to be a shop you know."

"I know."

"Then a cafe. 'Relish' it was called. Then a chipper. 'Streets'. So now it's a whatchamacallit - a destination restaurant?"


"But serving Spanish tapas? In Stoneybatter?"

"Well, yeah, but not quite."

* * *

Here's its chef, Matt Fuller, on the inspiration behind his restaurant. It's a charming little story...

Matt had stints at various top Dublin restos in the 1990s including L'Ecrivain and Peacock Alley, then worked for eight years in Valencia. He came back from Spain to Ireland in 2010 and was head chef in Conrad Gallagher’s Salon des Saveurs on Aungier Street.

In 2012 he took charge of the kitchen at Citron in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. Last summer he opened his own place in Stoneybatter. Boqueria was born.

* * *

Boqueria does tapas. Not quite the conventional Spanish rustic snacks and nippy little "bar food" appetisers you might have in mind. They are a modern take, with bigger portions, clever twists, fresh Irish ingredients, precision presentation.

Many of the dishes are ideal for sharing, but where to start? Take a deep breath.

...their excellent Spanish wines (including a fine Tempranillo), the olives, the smoky roasted almonds, the various breads with flavoured butters and oils including a pinkish-hued tomato bread to die for, the gorgeous raspberry sorbets, a divine pig's cheek with vanilla spuds and caramelised pineapple, the cured Goatsbridge trout in fennel soup, the cured duck breast, the ossobuco tortellini with truffle cream and gremolata, the perfectly seared scallops with a rosti and passion fruit and an almond brittle (at Boqueria they love their brittles), the manchego cheese croquettes, the confit chicken with avocado and a walnut honey crunch and blue cheese mousse, the duck leg "bikini" with asparagus and parmesan (basically a duck toastie), various luminous green pea risottos, and - my favourite - the leek and escabeche quail...

And their chips. Oh yes, did I forget to mention the chips, Colley? The finest "chips" in Dublin they are; a far cry from a single in Burdocks or the Sorrento. They are almost a meal in themselves.

The menu calls them "barrel chips", a sort of take on patatas bravas: golden cubes of triple-cooked potatoes capped with a dollop of roast garlic aioli, arranged in military rows on a slate, between thick streaks of spicy red sauce.

Here's how John Healy (no relation) handles the chips in his review for Taste Of Ireland last October, and he doesn't even mention the desserts...

* * *

The desserts. Boqueria's desserts range from a chocolate mousse to basil and strawberry soup and various ice creams. But most talked about are its dainty "burger and chips". They are a legend.

As I recall - and correct me if I'm wrong - the burger "buns" are white chocolate macarons, the "lettuce" is a lime jelly, the "chips" are teeny shortbreads in a neat little paper bag, and the "tomato ketchup" is a raspberry sauce.

Cleverest of all is the twist on a "fried egg": the oozy yolk is a passion fruit or mango coulis, and the egg white is a coconut-milk jellied concoction of some sort.

* * *

Boqueria's décor may be a tad basic, but the place more than makes up for that with its relaxed atmosphere, friendly and very helpful staff, the playful dishes, and fine ingredients cooked to perfection.

As they'd say in crime fiction, it's grub to die for. And as Colley might tell you now, it's a destination restaurant.

Boqueria Tapas Restaurant
3 Prussia Street
Dublin 7
Mondays to Saturdays, 5pm to late
Telephone (01) 868 3575
On the Twitter: @boqueriadublin

(NB no tyres were used in the writing of this blog post)

POSTSCRIPT, 06/09/2016: after 15 months in Stoneybatter, Boqueria have announced that they are moving. To Howth. But it's not all bad news...