Brasil. The second most populace country in the western hemisphere. It has a massively diverse population, the confluence of Portuguese, Africans, indigenous peoples, more Europeans, and the largest community of Japanese outside Japan. And all of these people attempting to cook the familiar with local ingredients, discovering and sharing new ways and combinations.
Unsurprisingly, the resulting food is fascinating, quirky, and delicious.
Alberto Landgraf first moved to London 22 years ago, a young graduate wanting to learn English. To help make ends meet he worked for Tom Aitken and Gordon Ramsay, where his love affair with the world of hospitality began. Upon his return, he made it his focus, culminating in his hugely successful restaurant in Rio, ‘Oteque’, which earned him 2* Michelin. Bossa is his first foray into international expansion, bringing carefully picked members of his home team to set up shop here in London.
Located below the Brazilian consulate, Bossa has taken over from what was formally the flagship Maroush. The fluttering Brazilian flag of their upstairs neighbours sets the scene perfectly as you approach the front door. Blessed with voluminous ceilings, the design is smart, organised and simple, with a good acoustic. There’s a private dining room, a large and attractive bar, stool seating to the open kitchen, and a variety of banquette seating. It’s a large enough venue to work well without becoming impersonal.
Everyone we met from the team was focused, engaging and knew their stuff, which is no idle brag in London these days, and head chef Nilson Chaves talked us through each dish with an evident passion for his country and his craft.
We came to try out their new lunch menu, which is a reassuringly tight selection including vegan options for an enticing price (2 courses £40, three for £45).
Upon arrival at the bar, we tried a bottle of ‘Futtle’, a very nice Scottish session lager, which was accompanied by ‘pão de queijo’ (cheese bread), a ubiquitous Brazilian appetiser, warm and delicious.
We were recommended a Napa Valley chardonnay with none of the heavyweight oak of the past and a touch of skin contact arriving at a dry, complex wine that worked perfectly. (Arnot Roberts, Napa Valley Vare Ribolla Gialla,2021). The list is composed by one of Brazil’s most celebrated sommeliers, confident and unusual, featuring some wines unseen here in Britain.
For our starters, we shared steak tartare prepared with bavette, served with dried yeast, black truffle, slow-cooked shiitake and lemon mayo. As the barman had informed us, the beef mostly comes from the southern region of Brazil, where the lush plains of grass afford easy grazing and the most tender of meat. Though not immediately appetizing to the eye, the textures and combination of flavours were a delight.
Our other choice was octopus braised and charred on the grill, served with fresh pea shoots, snap peas (lightly seared). The octopus had been slow-cooked for hours before arriving at the grill – it was tender and delicious, and the freshness of the peas and sprouts gave great balance.
We tried all three mains: the Seafood Moqueca was extraordinary. King prawn, mussels, monkfish and squid in a sauce with the appearance of saffron but the taste of bisque crossed with coconut. Subtle sweet and warm, and accompanied by the trio from Rio: Black-eyed peas, farofa with dried bananas and fried rice. Apparently, no Brazilian meal is complete without it, and I’m inclined to agree.
Crackling pork belly, cooked long and slow, remains one of those indulgences that are hard to repeat at home, and this was as good as it gets. Placed beside finely sliced chard, the garnish of pimentos biquinhos (pickled Brazilian peppers the shape of birds’ beaks) and lime cut through the fat of the pork.
For vegans, there was mushrooms on a tortilla made from tapioca, with cashew cream. Nice textures though glad we had the non-vegetarian options.
Now for the puds: first up, the chocolate tarte, using homemade chocolate softened with coconut oil on a vegan base made from cane molasses, almond flour and cashews. This is extremely rich, but do try it even though you may wish to share! It’s amazing.
We also shared an egg and coconut custard, a dish of Portuguese origin known locally as ‘quindim’.
Made from egg yolk, sugar and coconut, we were informed that the use of egg white for starching clothes led to the development numerous dishes to make good use of the yolks.
Finishing the meal, our espresso was accompanied by a part-frozen chocolate truffle – it’s these details of texture, temperature and surprise that build a meal that is far more entertaining than most. We will certainly be returning to this exciting new venue for an exploration of their à la carte menu, which no doubt will be full of intrigue and delight.
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