It’s nova and it’s in London. Nick checks out Chef Alberto Landgraf’s outpost of Rio de Janeiro’s two Michelin-starred, Oteque
From the outside Bossa looks like it once served as a high street bank. Which is apt because you need a bit of money to eat in here.
That’s not putting many people off though because when we go in, even on a Wednesday evening, the place seems full, although to be fair it is not a large space. Dark and moody, (sorry about my photos) immaculately groomed and rather masculine, although perfect for impressing a first date, it speaks of international money and people who have plenty of it.
It’s not snooty however, staff are friendly and efficient, offering us the option of sitting up at the pass facing into the open kitchen with its roaring charcoal grill. A bit of close up culinary theatre is always a treat.
Everything here is Brazilian ++, the cocktail list has all the right feels with a Caipirinha made with Weber Haus Cachaca Branca, a brilliant glass of lime loveliness.
Choosing our dishes is difficult, which is a good sign. So we watch dishes go out over the pass trying to evaluate by eye. This doesn’t really work too well as they all look mesmerizingly good and unusual, especially the langoustines and a mysterious dish of roasted bone marrow, tapioca and cashews.
I end up picking yellowtail tuna with bottarga, dried berries and kombu. Brazil and Japan have a long culinary relationship and I have a soft spot for bottarga (the roe of grey mullet). It was a good choice, the tuna is absolutely top grade, soft and melting and the sharp, almost sour, berries work well against it with the salty bottarga adding extra umami oomph.
Ps buff scallops are a real triumph. Lightly kissed and caramelised by the grill, they come with leeks, buckwheat and a tucupi sauce. I looked the latter up and it’s a yellow sauce extracted from wild manioc root from the Amazon jungle. Manioc is better known as cassava in the UK. It can be deadly poisonous, our waiter cheerfully informs us, but of course it has been prepared skilfully. It’s delicious, a quite unique flavour that embraces the superb quality scallops.
Small Chefs scurry about while Big Chef personally leans over the pass to talk his food through, it’s all very engaging, relaxed and fun.
Feeling the need for something light and healthy I grudgingly pass over the octopus mains, as well as the pork belly, and instead go for ‘Steamed Turbot, Courgettes, Yellow Bean Vinaigrette, Brazil Nut Milk’. I know that ‘steamed’ never gets the gastric juices going the way ‘fried’ or ‘grilled’ does, but with a meaty fish like turbot it pays to keep it simple to get all of its flavour.
Another fine dish, the fish superbly sourced (and sauced), the yellow courgettes have seen the fire and thus had their moisture driven fast and fiercely off to bring out their true flavour, and not one inserted by olive oil and garlic. The ‘milk’ was creamy enough to cling to the fish and I liked the yellow bean vinaigrette for its earthy sharpness. Some Shiso leaf (I think) completed the flavour mix.
P rather foolishly ordered the lamb rump, foolishly because it was never going to be a small portion, Brazilians don’t do small portions of meat, so her ‘Rump of Lamb, Aubergine, Creamy Borlotti Beans, Parsley Oil’ was daunting.
Again the grill had done sterling work and the lamb was smoky seared, but still just about pink inside. Aubergine and lamb always have a strong affinity and when the aubergine has been charred over coals in its skin, it becomes a particularly welcome partner. The beans were mealy in a good way.
We shared my surprise favourite dish, a Manioc Purée, yes it’s that veg again. It was delicious and I soon found out why, butter and lots of it. I do love butter.
The sommelier has been keeping us topped up with thoughtful by the glass choices. I particularly liked the Chilean Santa Cruz de Coya, made from 200 year old vineyards. It’s light at 11.5% but deliciously spicy.
Desserts come around and ‘Egg and Coconut Custard’ is jolly gelatinous and now makes me pine for a Bounty Bar, while Tonka Bean Flan, Cupuaçu Jam, Cacao Nibs is a kind of chocolate symphony as Cupuaçu is related to chocolate.
Most affecting is the Tonka bean, a peculiar legume that you ‘taste’ in your nose, rather than in your mouth, and which adds vanilla notes. Interestingly, the Tonka bean is illegal in the USA. Look it up.
It’s been a blast at Bossa. Get a reservation while you can.
Bossa 4 Vere Street, W1G 0DG