Joburg's new mega eatery takes you on a culinary trip around the world
A whopper of a restaurant with seating for 200 - and a staff complement of 65 - La Boqueria is split over two levels with a large outdoor area.
The space, on a busy intersection in Parktown North, Joburg - both in terms of traffic and the number of restaurants - was the home of Wombles restaurant for years.
The hallowed ground now hosts a surprisingly big, open, welcoming, light and airy restaurant with wooden furniture, a bar, beautiful tiles, macramé plant holders (and here we thought these were passé) and the pièce de résistance, an odd, out-of-place, very pink, cutey-pie, doll-style mural. The 6m-high painting of a torera, or female bullfighter, is called Lady Boqueria.
La Boqueria, Spanish for 'market', is an all-day restaurant that features an eclectic menu of flavours from around the globe. Take your tastebuds on a culinary journey from Spain to Italy, drop in on the Middle East and move on to Thailand and Japan. Take a hop over to South America, Hawaii and even fit in a sweet stopover in the US. Quite some mix of flavours.
At La Boqueria the cooking is done on 'live-fires and wood ovens to bring you a real food experience'.
We started off in Italy with fire-roasted market bruschetta - salty anchovy fillets on garlic-rubbed toast, red pepper piperade and olive oil (R55) and, on recommendation, a raw and cured salmon with ponzu dressing, mange tout, chilli, coconut and poppadoms. (R98). Most delicious.
Our curiosity led us to the east and we ordered the baingan fries - zucchini and aubergine fingers with whipped feta and agave nectar, (R65). A little chewy, especially the aubergine, but tasty.
Soul bowls were tempting and different with four to choose from. The buddha bowl of promised goodness included chickpeas, falafel and a selection of roasted vegetables with a tahini dressing (R105). Very wholesome but the vegetables lacked a good roasting - more wood on that fire, Chef.
On a busy Friday lunchtime many settled for the paella - three different flavours described as 'slow cooked in a traditional hearth oven for a lovely smoky finish'. We chose the seafood version, for one, with prawns, white fish, mussels and octopus (big chewy pieces) in a saffron Bomba rice (R220). It looked great, but the flavour did not quite match the eye appeal.
La Boqueria 'celebrates winemakers from South Africa and showcases small batches of wines by the glass weekly', featuring some popular and lesser-known estates. Prices start at R210 a bottle and stretch to R860 for a 2012 Luddite shiraz.
We skipped an aperitif - a pity, because we coveted the table next door's Miss Demeanours of tequila, lime, soda, honey, grilled grapefruit juice and pineapple salt, (R65). Good stuff.
Visit: 17 3rd Avenue, Parktown North, Johannesburg, 011-325-0011, laboqueria.co.za