I went to: La Boca, 6 Fountain Street Belfast
On the: 3 October
For: Lunch with Little Miss Manuel
I gorged on: Well let's not over state things. I ordered Wild boar sausages, champ, red onion gravy and the Little Miss ordered Beer-battered cod, chunky chips, mushy peas, sauce tartar. There was little or no gorging.
And it was: The sausages were nice. Eh um what else can I say? I'm struggling. The mash was very over seasoned and the bottled water was warm! Little Miss Manuel was not a happy diner either. Her lunch was small, very small, the fish was over done and lacking in any discernible flavour and substance. If I had to say something positive I would say the food was hot, which was nice I suppose. But that's the only positive thing I can say.
The service was: Probably worse than the food. LMM was offered ketchup with her chips which she indicated that she wanted. We are still waiting for it. Now this happens from time to time I know. We would have asked the waiter for it again but we just couldn't catch his eye. Well how could you when he had his back to the main body of the restaurant most of the time?! The service was surly at best. The waiters never asked us how our food was at any point, there was a lack of effort and care. They offered us no personality or anything that suggested they gave a damn. When he brought my Wild Boar sausages he said "Are you the Boar sir?" Whilst cheeky, I laughed into myself as it's something I would say.
It cost me: £20.00 including tip. Yes yes I know, but it's like an illness with me. I just have to tip. The lunch menu is very well priced. Well it will be when they get the service and things like the seasoning sorted out. The dinner menu is priced from about £12 to £16.00 with appetisers ranging from £4.00 to just under £6.00.
I'll be going back: In about 6 to 8 months. La Boca is still new. I normally don't visit new restaurants within the first 6 months for the simple fact that things are rarely great from the off. It takes time for a new restaurant to bed in and for little problems to get ironed out. Clearly it's a rule I shouldn't be breaking. The guy that owns La Boca, Pedro Donald, has a good record of running successful businesses having being the manager of the hugely popular John Hewitt bar. And I would expect La Boca to be another success for him.
And so it gets: 2 out of 5. That's not good eh. A lack of love, lack of personality, and a lack of flavour.
Other words: The "About" blurb on La Boca's website reads "
Named after the vibrant, Bohemian dockside district of Buenos Aires, La Boca is a new restaurant in the heart of Belfast city centre. Located on Fountain Street it is a 3 minute walk from the front of the City Hall past the Linenhall Library. Its high ceiling and solid beech wood furniture create a stunning fifty seater diningroom." Now from reading that you would expect the menu to reflect food from, if not Argentina, then South America in general. That's what I had been expecting. But that ain't what I got. There is lasagne, fish and chips, sausage and mash and all the usual lunchtime food that you can get in any bar/restaurant in Belfast. I was disappointed. There is tapas available in the afternoon but even the dinner menu is devoid of any South American influence. Which is all a bit odd. Why give your restaurant a very specific name and then not carry it through to the menu. There are South American beers and wines though.
Like I say, Pedro has a good reputation and I wish him every success with La Boca, but he needs to define his offering better and gives us some of that famous Latin Spirit, not grumpy waiters from Belfast. It gives me no pleasure to write that by the way...
Oh and on the way home LMM stopped to get a bar of chocolate she was still hungry, and she's only tiny......