We have been eating at Boqueria, intermittently, since its' opening in Acre Lane a few years ago,and, until our last meal there, have been huge and supportive fans,recommending the restaurants to many friends, so we were hugely disappointed with what we experienced during our recent visit for Sunday dinner. We should have suspected that something was amiss when we arrived to find not the buzzing atmosphere of previous visits but an almost empty restaurant.
Despite being one of only three occupied tables, we were ignored by the wait staff who chose to clear another table before finally asking if we would like to order a drink; two sherries and some olives requested, our waitress proceeded to remove our wine glasses and the drinks menu, apparently deciding on our behalf that we would not be drinking wine with dinner! To be fair the drinks came quickly and we moved onto the food ordering. We asked about the 'Carpaccio de Tomate' : were these lovely Spanish tomatoes, or the tasteless English variety? The waitress was honest about their provenance i.e. not Spanish, but assured us they were lovely tomatoes, not 'Tesco tomatoes' - she could not have been more wrong! What's more, for the grand sum of £4.80 we got not a plate of dressed tomatoes (tasteless or otherwise) but six thin slices of anaemic beefsteak with an under-seasoned dressing - an astonishing rip-off!
Seasoning continued to be an issue, which in an authentic Spanish restaurant would be heresy...the Peppers de Padron lacked the crunch of coarse salt, the 'special' of the day was a version of Bacalao al pil pil that was covered with a sickly, lurid, lime-coloured mayonnaise in place of the traditional delicate(but tricky to prepare) emulsion and, the worst dish of the day, the 'supposed' Iberian Pork Shoulder was stone cold and had to be sent back twice. When the third (unrequested but 'on the house') attempt appeared we were presented with six small paper-thin slices of grey meat draped over three under-cooked chips with a tasteless sauce - it takes a particular type of chutzpah or a few Michelin stars (which they most emphatically do not have) to charge £8.60 for three chips and a couple of mouthfuls of badly-cooked meat; thank goodness we were not asked to pay for it!
It is difficult to believe this is the same restaurant where we have enjoyed lively and delicious meals, where the rice dishes have been exemplary, the Festival of Calchots authentically immersive and the atmosphere as Iberian as it comes. I can't think what has happened here( though apparently a new chef started a month ago) other than to surmise that they have moved their care and attention to the new branch in Queenstown Road and think they will retain a loyal following in Acre Lane despite serving up over-priced tat. As someone who has lived in Madrid, we feel embarrassed by what was served to us parading as Spanish food last night. What a shame, but we will definitely not be going back.