Review: Boceto, Hackney


If you’re looking for a hip Hackney hangout where the cocktails are as tasty as the sharing plates, then you have to try Boceto, a delightful little tapas bar smack bang in the middle of the bustling metropolis of Mare Street.

I stumbled across Boceto while browsing eateries on Google Maps (I often can’t find what I want on review websites), as I was in the Hackney area and wanted somewhere new to try on a date night.

When we arrived the place was dead, which wasn’t a reassuring sign, but we were hungry and the idea of £5 cocktails appealed.

Because of how quiet it was we could choose where we wanted to sit, which gets a big thumbs up from me. I’ve been to restaurants of a similar size and with the same lack of punters in the past, where the waiting staff have been pernickety about where we could and couldn’t sit. Puts me right off, that does.

The decor

The decor is industrial chic with a DIY twist: exposed brick walls, green hanging plants, big bags of coffee and limited edition Estrella on display, spirits hanging from chains at the back of the bar. There’s loads going on in a relatively small space.

A really interesting detail that I only noticed later on in the night was that two pence pieces had been stuck all over the bar front, giving a really stylish, brassy look. I also appreciated the selection of light-up globes towards the back of the restaurant. A nice touch, hinting on the imported feel and cuisine.

The cocktails

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We ordered cocktails to start us off, of course.

I went for a cherry and coconut crush, a rich and decadent mix of cherry brandy, Koko Kanu coconut rum (a more refined Malibu), Wray and Nephew rum, coconut milk and lime. It was served in a coconut, with a lime on top that had a flaming sugar cube inside (the lime in de coconut). Unfortunately I didn’t get a snap before the fire had gone out, but it was fun while it lasted.

We were brought and hydrated with complimentary mint-infused water, which was a nice touch.

NB: apologies for the ghostly hue of the photos.

The tapas

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I was pleasantly surprised at how veggie-friendly the menu was. My other half, Dom, is vegetarian; unlike myself, I’m a fishy fraud.

Half of the options on the menu were vegetarian, which meant we had loads of choice. I’ve been for tapas in the past where the only meat-free options were potatoes and bread, which makes for a rather beige spread, so we were really pleased with this selection.

Six dishes were recommended between two. We opted for:

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Toasted sourdough topped with chopped tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The tomatoes were well-seasoned and lusciously slathered in garlic, and the sourdough soaked up the oil beautifully.
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Croquetta. Up there as one of my favourite plates. Homemade breaded croquettes filled with creamy chopped shiitake and chestnut mushrooms. Divine.

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Padron peppers; a classic. Though they were big and juicy and covered in crisp rock salt, they were a little underdone for my liking. I like my padron peppers well-cooked and shrivelled.

Spanish tortilla. Another staple choice. Cheesy, potatoey, eggy. Ticked all the boxes but wasn’t a knockout.

Orange-stuffed olives. Huge green olives, filled with dainty orange slices and rolled in oregano. I’ve never come across this flavour combination before, but it works really well. The tarte taste of the olives and oregano were offset by the citrusy sweet orange slices. Definitely order these.

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Patatas bravas. Crisp potatoes topped with a rich and spicy tomato sauce and the satisfyingly creamy and garlicky aioli. You can’t not order patatas bravas when having tapas.

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And of course, there was room for dessert. We shared a plate of cinnamon-doused churros with a warm chocolate dipping sauce. A delicious end to a top meal.

The staff were friendly, unpretentious (it is in Hackney after all) and chatty. The only thing missing was more people. Having opened up in after Christmas 2015, the place was very quiet. I hope it remains as it’s a fantastic spot.

Check it out: Boceto Hackney, 171 Mare Street.

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Top 5: food and drink to try in Lisbon

Oh Lisbon Lisbon Lisbon, what a pretty city. I’ve just got back from a long weekend in the beautiful Portuguese capital and what a treat it was.

With temperatures of between 21° and 23°, for early November, the weather was such a welcome relief from the dark and drizzly depths of London.

Lisbon cityscape

Lisbon’s steep streets are lined with picturesque buildings; many painted in pastel colours while others are decorated with the city’s signature ceramic tiles, azulejos, in an array of striking patterns. Quaint old trams chug along the roads passing dozens of bakeries selling delicious breads and pastries. Stroll along the waterfront in the sunshine and stop for a cerveja or two to cool down.

There is a real sense of romance about the place. I found myself walking around for hours weaving in and out of hidden back streets, looking up at all of the beautiful buildings, often seeing elderly women hanging their washing out to dry from their flats a couple of storeys up. The people are really relaxed and leave tourists to themselves. It’s a great place to explore without any hassle.

And if the wonderful atmosphere, architecture and weather wasn’t enough, the food and drink is delicious. I ate like a queen while I was away (as should always be done when on holiday).

If you’re thinking of going to Lisbon and want to know what must-try food and drinks to look out for, then have a look at the list below:

5. Tapas

Padron peppers

Padron peppers

In at number 5 is tapas, Spanish-style eating where you order many small sharing plates for the table to try. It’s a great way of sampling many different foods in one meal.

We stumbled across Tapas Bar 52 in Bairro Alto close to where we were staying, a relaxed sports bar with a laid-back atmosphere and helpful staff. It was really busy when we got there, which is always a good sign, and neither the food nor the sangria disappointed.

We ordered mostly veggie dishes, including manchego cheese, salted padron peppers (pictured above), patatas bravas, breaded goats cheese with tomato jam, asparagus tortilla and some calamari for good measure.

It’s safe to say we ordered way too much food, and ended up taking home a doggy bag. I’d definitely recommend the peppers and asparagus tortilla.

4. Cheap and tasty vegetarian food

Mystical kebab with rice and vegetables

If you’re only going to try one vegan/vegetarian restaurant while in Lisbon, let Jardim dos Sentidos website be it. The atmosphere is tranquil and unobtrusive, the food is tasty and filling and it’s really good value. Two of us had a jug of sangria, 2 courses each and coffee for 38 euros.

The menu isn’t particularly Portuguese, but it’s innovative for vegetarian cuisine.I opted for the ‘mystical kebab’ for my main, mainly because I was intrigued by the name. It was a skewer of smoked tofu, marinated seitan, pineapple and peppers, served with rice and boiled vegetables, as shown above. The tofu was lovely and firm and held the smoky flavour really well.

You can book online in advance which is great, as the place did start to fill out soon after we arrived.

3. Lemon, rosemary and honey sorbet

If you’re making your way up the long and winding roads to the castle, definitely stop by Gelato Therapy, a super chic little ice cream parlour on a corner close to the cathedral.

The decore is lovely. Above the counter, colourful fabric ice creams hang down, and the walls are painted with monochrome fruits.

On holiday, I usually play it safe with ice cream; I’ll opt for a creamy vanilla or perhaps pistachio if I’m feeling adventurous. But in the heat and in the middle of a long walk, I really fancied something refreshing. I opted for lemon, rosemary and honey sorbet, which was so delicious and fresh and almost tasted like it could be good for me? Who am I kidding.

Definitely give this place a visit and try a flavour of ice cream you never thought even existed.

2. White sangria

What a revelation. This fruity summer punch has a white wine base in place of the original recipe’s red wine, and can be mixed with light fruit juices such as peach and apple.

Finished with lemons, limes and mint, it’s so moreish. It’s similar to a bellini, but without the fizz. You’ll be able to find it in most bars and restaurants. Try something different and give it a go.

1. Pastel de nata

Pastel de nata

At the top of the charts is Pastel de nata; a custard cream tart like no other. If you’re only going to try one traditional food stuff in Lisbon, then let this be it. It will knock your socks off. I’ve tried a few egg custard tarts in my time in good old blighty, but oh my, they ain’t nothing on these Portuguese bad boys. The custard is so creamy and smooth and the pastry is flaky and crisp and oh-so-satisfying.

The lady whose apartment we stayed in was lovely enough to leave us some as a welcoming gift, but the go-to place for them is Pastéis de Belém which is a 20 minute tram ride from Lisbon’s train station. Though if you can’t make it over there, I think a lot of the bakeries in the centre of the city will be just as delicious.