Traversing the dining scene during COVID-19 times is tricky; you want to go to a venue which has an upbeat atmosphere, but still feel safe in the knowledge that they’re following all the proper pandemic guidelines.
Stepping into always-popular Mediterranean haunt Boca, which has had a subtle rebranding with the spotlight placed onto its Spanish-style tapas offering La Taperia, fits the bill perfectly.
There’s a beautiful outdoor terrace for those who want to dine al fresco and are eschewing indoor spaces, but even the main restaurant has tables well spaced out with all social distancing measures adhered to. It was buzzing on a Tuesday night but alternate tables were in use so you never felt close to your neighbours. As you enter your temperature is taken and a pump of hand sanitiser offered – another pump sits on your table and you’re handed sealed antibacterial hand wipes, too.
PITTED MANZANILLA OLIVES
You might need help navigating the menu as there is so much on offer, from straight-up Spanish specialties like charred Padron peppers (served intriguingly with a rich blue cheese dip), fried calamari and grilled garlicky tiger prawns served alongside beef chorizo to more European mini-pizzas, porcini risotto, short rib gnocchi and wasabi-chopped yellowfin tuna bites on a herb gazpacho. But the dish regulars rave about – and rightly so – are the Manzanilla olives, carefully pitted and filled with lemon, dusted with citrus zest and served chilled on ice. They are a revelation.
There’s a strong emphasis on local sourcing, sustainability and zero waste which the restaurant is also justifiably proud of.
Another signature item is the paella – we recommend the seafood black rice option, but there’s even a vegan version (and, in fact, a full vegan menu) featuring mixed local vegetables. In fact, even though the restaurant draws inspiration from authentic plates, there’s often a reworking of the dishes that puts a distinctive stamp on them. Even patatas bravas are Boca-fied and served as chunky potato chips with aioli and their signature red sauce.
You’ll want to end on a sweet note – we sampled the homemade white chocolate almond ice cream perched on a merengue with caramel and chocolate shavings – or else there’s the option to finish with a selection of carefully curated cheeses.