From my first visit to Spain many years ago to work as a flutist in an orchestra in northwest Spain I was hooked – the food, the culture, the language – everything about Spain worked for me. I met my husband in a Spanish language class, we cook and eat out at as many Spanish restaurants as we can find and we talk of living in Spain at some point in the future. And so when Boqueria invited me to sample their new seasonal menu with wine matches it took all of a nanosecond for me to accept.
I’ve been to Boqueria a few times since moving to Hong Kong in 2013. It was one of the first restaurants I visited, but it seemed to lack a certain something that put me in my happy place and transported me back to Spain – that is, until now and the arrival of the talented Chef Robert Petzold and his team …
A new menu matched with wine will see me rounding up successive groups of friends in the coming year to work my way through the Taste of Spain which will change seasonally as different produce becomes available.
We started with a glass of Spanish bubbles. The Jaume Serra Cava Brut showed aromas of green fruit, almond blossom and a touch of yeast on the nose. A crisp and refreshing Cava with good follow through on the palate and a touch of chalk to the finish. Things were looking good…
Next up was Jamón Ibérico de Bellota and Manchego cheese with Tío Pepe Manzanilla Sherry – the perfect introduction to tapas. Interesting fact; the word tapa comes from the Spanish word tapar meaning to cover, a reference to the traditional practise of covering the weary traveller’s drink with a small piece of bread to keep out the dust and insects as he or she stopped by for refreshments.
The pairing of the rich, salty ham with creamy cheese and the Manzanilla worked perfectly. Manzanilla is a Sherry that is developed under a flor, or layer of yeast, and this imparts distinctive sourdough notes to the fortified wine, which sit alongside iodine and citrus flavours, particularly lemon. Sherry is also high in acidity and so with the richness of the ham and creaminess of the cheese it was the perfect partner.
Tapa number two was one of my dishes of the night. Crudo de Vieiras, or Scallops, Zucchini, Pistachios, Lemon and Piment d’Espelette matched with a 2013 Deusa Nai Albariño. This was divine – the sweetness of the scallops and pistachios was perfectly offset by the zinging citrus notes in the wine. The kick of flavour from the Piment or chilli powder (think tasty rather than chilli hot), the salt on the pistachios and the little pieces of lemon which burst in your mouth all wrapped in thin slices of sweet scallops was heavenly. Follow that with the crisp white wine from northwest Spain and its saline notes and I was one happy customer!
Following on were two little toasts, one piled high with goat’s cheese, grilled vegetables, egg and piquillo pepper and the other with white anchovies, roasted tomatoes and spicy olive tapanade. To match these we were served the Barón de Ley “3 Viñas” Reserva 2009 which is a white blend of Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. Interesting fact; Viura as it is known in the Rioja region is also known as Macabeo in Catalunya and is one of the three principle grapes used to make Cava.
My personal preference was for the vegetarian toast and the wine. The richness lent to the wine by the Viura and Malvasia worked really well with the egg and the goat’s cheese and brought the buttery, creamy character of the wine to the fore.
Melocotón Ibérico Pork was next up and this was served with the Barón de Ley Rosado 2013 which is made from a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes. The pork was succulent and super tasty and the saltiness of the pork highlighted the strawberry and cream notes in the wine, which also had a touch of bitter almonds on the finish to balance those sweet fruit notes.
I also tried the pork with the previous wine, the 3 Viñas. The vegetables that came with the pork were in a burnt butter sauce and I wanted to see how that went with those buttery notes I remembered from the white wine – it definitely worked for me and was a good example of the wine complementing the food by highlighting the common link of rich butter notes. But having said that I like the freshness the rosado offered by contrasting with the richness of the pork – and despite keeping both glasses and going between the two I still couldn’t decide on my favourite match!
The last savoury tapa of the evening was my other dish of the night. This was a squid ink paella with cuttlefish, fennel and sea urchin or Paella Negra de Sepia y Erizo. My note, perhaps inelegant, gets straight to the point … “god damn this is good, can’t stop eating it”. Yes, if you serve me a good dish and would like some feedback you will have to wait until I’m done eating … all of it!
The paella was rich, salty and filled with the flavours of the sea together with the all important crust on the bottom. Interestingly it was matched with a 2008 Marqués de Murrieta Reserva Rioja which is not perhaps the most traditional of matches but it absolutely worked. The wine showed the typical characters of a Rioja – the savoury Tempranillo notes and the red and black fruit notes of the Garnacha. The tannins were fine and well integrated and this was key to the successful pairing with the paella. (Photo kindly provided by Boqueria Hong Kong.)
To end the tasting we were served Empanada de Manzana with a Molino Real 2009 Moscatel. The pastry of the empanada was perfect – a pillow of light buttery layers filled with spiced apples and served with prunes and almond ice cream. The Moscatel worked well with these flavours, there was enough acidity to keep the palate fresh and the quince, green fruit and blossom notes of the wine worked well with the fruit and nuts flavours of the dish.
This tasting menu will be changed seasonally and is offered to groups of six or more people Monday – Wednesday. The idea is to share the dishes as diners sit around a large table and have each course and wine introduced to them by the knowledgeable staff at Boqueria.
Finally, to cap off the evening I may have mentioned gin … why? Well I am rather partial to a good G&T but Spain is also the home of excellent “gintonic” and is one of the biggest markets for this spirit.
On offer were a selection of gins that have been infused in-house with ingredients such as red berries, saffron, cucumber and pineapple to name but a few. I tasted the red berry gin and the saffron gin, both were super tasty but it was the saffron infused gin that will see me back at Boqueria of an evening – garnished with a sprig of rosemary and you really are transported to Spain!
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