A selection of tapas at Boceto
Traditional and contemporary tapas at Boceto

Boceto, a café and brunch place by day and cocktail and tapas bar by night, has opened on Mare Street at the former site of quirky French bistro Bouchon Fourchette.

A little too far south of Hackney Central and too far east of London Fields to be located in a high density trendy eatery zone, Boceto nevertheless stands in good company next to infamous and hallowed institution The Dolphin (which might explain why the bottomless Prosecco brunch is not loudly advertised at street level).

A sister venue to two other restaurants in the revamped Brixton market, Boceto, like its siblings, focuses on signature cocktails and small plates.

The interior invites customers to linger: with the front shutter up, one can sit al fresco at a g-plan coffee table and observe the delights of Well Street junction.

Further inside the long and narrow space, the decor is simple and intimate, dusky and candlelit after dark: a fitting ambience for perusing a drinks menu.

Smashed avocado with fresh chillies and sunflower seeds on pan de coca
Smashed avocado with fresh chillies and sunflower seeds on pan de coca

Whilst its south-of-the-river counterpart Three Eight Four has an eccentric, almost humorous menu, Boceto sticks to the classics.

The offerings don’t stray from traditional tapas fare, so chorizo, patatas bravas, gambas, croquetas, padron peppers and calamari are all there.

But the servings were generous and all the dishes were good. The chuletas (grilled lamb chops) stood out, served pink with pungent herbs and pockets of succulent fat, as did the shiitake and chestnut mushroom croquetas.

True to the version served in Spanish churrerías, churros were served with a hot chocolate pudding rather than molten chocolate sauce. The service throughout was warm, knowledgeable and helpful.

What the food menu lacked in range was more than made up for by the kooky cocktail list, where institutional confidence shone through. Helpless to resist any cocktail that has chilli in it, I chose the Abuela, which contained mezcal, chilli, raspberries, chocolate bitters and ginger ale.

My dining companion wistfully opted for the Bouchon Fourchette, in tribute to the closed restaurant and the steak tartare it took with it.

This was a fluffy pink concoction made of gin, creme de rose, egg white, lemon cream and lavender, and served with a macaroon.

With other enticing combinations like the ale-smoked Old Fashioned and the Gunpowder Negroni, I would recommend taking advantage of the £5 special introductory price for cocktails during May and June.

171 Mare St, E8 3RH

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