I have driven past Boqueria countless times and said 'I love tapas, can we go' to Mr D until I was blue in the face. Finally an evening of catching up with the wonderful Johnson's and Holdstock brothers meant sharing food was ideal so, I booked the Acre Lane eatery and we went full force into the menu... 

Starting with two mixed platters of their selection of cured meats...
A Spanish classic - Pan con tomate, crisp bread with chopped tomato, garlic and olive oil
I went rogue and ordered an 'un-discussed dish' which proved to be a winner... Paprika octopus served on potatoes. 
One that photographs a little like dogs dinner but, tasted the complete opposite was the spinach with cheese, raisins and pine nuts - we ordered a second of these it was that good! 
The have a huge board towards the back of the restaurant showcasing daily specials I jumped at one which (luckily) proved to be a favourite amongst us all. Aubergine chips with honey. Insanely hot but once cooled these were one of my favourites. Coated in polenta then fried until golden these were incredibly crisp and totally irresistible. 
'Albondigas' or meatballs to us English folk are always done exceptionally well in Spain and Boqueria's were pretty much a triumph amongst the boys. A mixture of pork, beef and chicken they were incredibly succulent and tasty. Served in a rich tomato sauce - de-lish.
A staple order when on any menu for Mr D and I and therefore had to be tried and tested was the calamari. Their version did not disappoint... served with a punchy ali-oli and a good ol' slice of lemon - simple - perfect!
Patatas bravas had pretty mixed views amongst the eight of us. The potatoes were crisp (tick) the sauce spicy (tick) but, it wasn't as tomato heavy as we would have liked or, in that matter thought it should have been traditionally. It was more of a thin mayo consistency, perfectly nice just not what any of us were expecting.
Onto some slightly main style dishes and the last few of our meal...seabass with wheat risotto on parmesan and scallop cream was utterly delicious although I didn't feel like it was in anyway particularly 'Spanish'.
Pork shoulder in garlic and cumin, 'pont-neuf' chips (why would you have French style chips in a Spanish restaurant?!) and goat's cheese sauce was just 'ok'. 
A star of the meal however came in last with the suckling pig served with sweet potato chips. apple sauce and a lemon sorbet. Usually despising the mix of freezing cold with warm food this actually worked really quite well. The suckling pig was sweet and cooked till perfectly tender and coupled with crisp crackling - di-vine!

There's actually a couple of locations Brixton market, Battersea and Acre Lane. All serving up the same menu's with the exception of their blackboard specials. If you love tapas or, having a night out with friends there is nothing better than sharing plates of wonderful food, delicious wine and good company. Boqueria ticks all the boxes with a wonderful atmosphere to match. 

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Boqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Blanchette - Soho

It was way back on Bank holiday Monday evening when I finally managed to catch up with two of my lovelies whom were proving hard to pin down. Exhausted of all my ideas I asked F to book and Blanchette in Soho was her (excellent) choice, a place on my hit list to tick off!

We arrived at the cutesy French bistro just after 6:30pm to find it already pretty full and dimly lit by candle light, hence my photos being rather terrible! Immediately ordering some ginger ales after our boozy weekends and settled into choosing our sharing plates and nibbles. 

We practically wanted everything and 2-3 plates per person, as suggested, is just right. 

Order the Cheese beignets the minute you sit down! Served with onion confit these little morsels are like savoury doughnuts. Incredibly light, irresistibly tasty I could have had bowls of them.

Once ordered, food started to arrive sharpish and the waitress staggered our order with the lighter of the plates coming out first... 
A refreshing green bean salad with Comte cheese, shallots and walnut dressing - one I would eat over and over again. It had crunch, sourness and a good amount of sweetness, one to recreate at home. Savour some of this to have with the meatier dishes to come... 
Rare grilled tuna, avocado, orange and endive salad. Not a huge fan of the accompanying 'bits' it was all too many sweet flavours for me. Still, the tuna was cooked to a perfect pink. 
Grilled duck breast with peach and beetroot remoularde was served very rare and sadly I found it just 'ok'. The duck sadly, seemed tough and stringy. 
Grilled pork belly with Palourde clams, Brittany sea blades and vermouth was perfectly cooked with a crisp crackling, decent charring and incredibly juicy meat.
Braised lamb shoulder with anchovy, rosemary and soubise (onion) sauce was my favourite of the evening. Tender succulent lamb sat atop generous amount of plate lickable soubise - what's not to love?
Sea bass with crab bisque, peas and samphire. Was another exceptionally good dish. That crab bisque was packed with shellfish yumminess so much so, we found ourselves mopping it up with everything else on our table. The fish cooked with a brilliantly crisp skin and flaky flesh. 
Courgette and aubergine tart with goats cheese and basil. Not the prettiest to picture - in fact half this meal looks dismal but,this was utterly more-ish and they managed to keep the pastry crunch-crisp even with such an array of vegetables piled on top- bravo!
Puddings were a little of a mixed bag we shared two between the three of us. Passion fruit vacherin was full of that irresistible sourness you can't get enough of. Whilst the hot chocolate fondant, sadly, was a little dry. 
If you want a little bit of French romance without the heavy French food then Blanchette is your ideal place to cosy up and have some grub... a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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Bistro Blanchette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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My Venice...part two

Brace yourself for a long one... Venice is one of those places you get lost in days are long and you find yourself incredibly two saw us (me) up at the crack of dawn through sheer excitement of my actual birthday finally coming round (I'm still a child at heart). Grumbles and a 'go back to bed' eventually were pushed aside and we were up and out into the gorgeous Venetian sun at the beautiful Piazza San Marco. Huge queues were already forming to head into the Basilica so we decided to go up the Campanile where you will have the most stunning view over Venice's terracotta roofs and the busy canal.
Afterwards we meandered along the canal past the Ponte dei Sospiri (the bridge of sighs) which is where prisoners were taken from the dungeons, across the bridge, to the courtroom to be sentenced to death. It is therefore said that they let out big sighs as they took their last look at beautiful Venice... Make sure the moment you see a break in the crowds to nestle through otherwise you'll miss the opportunity for a decent snap.

We then made our way towards the hub of Venice, the Rialto market where restaurateurs and locals gather to buy what they wish to serve that day to their guests. In 2011 there was a threat from the Venetian city officals to close it to make way for more cruise ships this was overthrown by locals, thankfully, and now the gold winged Lion of St Mark holding a tablet guards the area Stating 'Rialto No Se Toca' (don't mess with the Rialto). The fish here is some of the freshest I have ever seen and the market kept exceptionally clean - i.e. not in the slightest bit smelly!

More meandering towards lunch and more exploring down tiny back alleys and within what felt like our own personal city... no tourists, completely tranquil and utterly peaceful - heavenly... 
We ended up doing a full 360 and came to what is known as a bit of a Venetian legendary pit stop 'Cantina do Mori' 5 minutes from the Rialto and is thought to be the oldest Bacari in Venice. It is packed at peak times with a lively atmosphere, lowly lit, has huge copper polenta pans hanging from the ceiling and a bar full of wonderful wines, sandwiches and snacks... what's not to love? 6 Cicchetti and a glass each was astonishingly around the €9! This quickly became a twice daily pit stop over the next few days...

Here we tasted delicious artichoke hearts soaked in olive oil, veal arancini, prawn and courgette cicchetti, salt cod cicchetti and a simple aubergine and sun dried tomato 'on a stick'...all absolutely divine, especially washed down with a 'prosecco extra' and all under €3 each. 
Meandering round and past a highly recommended restaurant 'Osteria Enoteca ai Artisti' which was sadly fully booked and came across a charming rustic restaurant that seated probably no more than 14 at a push called Al Vecio Marangon which served up a daily changing menu full of fresh seafood and pastas, Mr D's sea food pasta and my octopus salad went down exceptionally well. 

Round the corner from here is the Gallerie dell'Academia which is well worth a visit to lose yourself for a couple of hours, see some stunning Venetian paintings, some familiar household names and walk off the previous lunch as the place is VAST. 
Home, snooze and out early doors to head to the infamous Harry's Bar 'the home of (eye-wateringly expensive) delicious Bellini's' which were created in 1948...the likes of Hemmingway, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles have signed the guest book, some several times. The old school charm is quite unexpected for me, it is a Venice must (even if an expensive must).  

After Harry's called for a couple of birthday Spritz's (naturally) before heading towards supper at Alle Testiere which is now firmly within my top ten best meals ever. Set in a gorgeous (tiny) room with an open kitchen and tables so close we were sat almost on top of the people next to us (apologies if you're reading this Georgia). It's wonderful, unassuming and served up incredible wines, mind blowing simple seafood dishes, faultless service and endless amount of limoncello 'for the birthday girl'... bliss... 

The wine cellar stocks some impressive names and we asked our charming waiter to suggest something local which he loved...He brought over a sulphite free wine which was around the €40 mark slightly salty in tasting but completely delicious...
We then feasted and shared starters of simple garlic and parsley razor clams (a must when here) one which I was reluctant to share...cooked to perfection, sweet, garlicy and covered in a really gorgeous olive oil - save your bread and mop the sauce up, you'll regret it if you don't!
A huge plates of mussels...

We decided on a secondi middle course and had to have a plate of the raved about home made pasta dishes. We (of course) chose the vongole with chilli and garlic...divine, full of these tiny sweet Caparosoli clams which are local to Venice...

And finally the most incredible plate of mixed grilled fish (for two, my portion below) prawns, baby octopus, bream, monkfish... it goes on. The menu changes here daily as they get whatever is freshest that morning from the market. I loved this dish, the simplicity of it was well and truly delicious!
(Another) glass of wine was ordered followed by a 'sod it let's have the whole bottle' due to it being incredibly drinkable and slipping down rather too well (whilst we finished an incredibly light hazelnut semifreddo pudding). An evening to put on my 'incredible memories' list and one to highly recommend to you all... 

Restaurants visited:

Alle Testiere - MUST book!

Address: Calle del Mondo Novo, 5801, 30122 Venezia, Italy
Cantina Do Mori - no bookings - no tables!
  1. Address: Sestiere San Polo, 429, 30125 Venezia, Italy

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