Boqueria will officially open for dinner service in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square on Oct. 16, 2023.
By Ronni Newton
Boqueria is all about the complete experience – the food, the drink, the music, and the overall energy – and West Hartford’s newest restaurant is serving up all that, and more, with their elevated tapas bar concept.
“From our perspective, what makes Boqueria different is our attention to detail when it comes to style, maintaining those visual and sensory notes of the tapas bars of Barcelona, but in an elevated space – a very modern interpretation of tapas,” said Rachel Kornafel, the company’s director of marketing. The open kitchen, the sounds, the smells immediately create a transformative experience the moment a guest enters the completely renovated space at 46 South Main Street.
The West Hartford restaurant, which hosted several family and friends dinners in preparation for the official opening on Oct. 16, is the 10th location for Boqueria, which opened its first restaurant in New York City in 2006. It’s the first location outside a major city.
“We have been looking into suburban locations for a very long time,” said Kornafel. With changes in population demographics, she said the suburbs are where their audience lives.
“There’s just something about West Hartford,” Kornafel said, where there’s no need for education and people about what tapas are and are interesting in trying different cuisines. “You have a thriving culinary scene. … We wanted to join a place where there’s a thriving food scene.”
Boqueria founder and CEO Yann de Rochefort worked in partnership with Mancini Duffy Architecture on the design of the expansive space that was previously Balos, and prior to that Besito. He said they’re excited about the opening. “We’re grateful to all our neighbors who have already made us feel like part of the local community,” de Rochefort said in a statement.
They’re excited not only about being part of Blue Back Square, but also about the prominent site facing South Main Street.
And while Boqueria is based in New York, the staff – including Chef du Cuisine Jonathan Navarro and General Manager Julian Garcia – are all local. Boqueria made its first foray into the West Hartford dining scene a few weeks ago, when the team created the judge’s choice-winning Hamburguesa as an entry in the Blue Back Burger Bash. “The Burger Bash was really energizing for the whole team,” Kornafel said.
A large mural along one wall contains the names, in Spanish, of many ingredients, separated by the month they are at their peak freshness. Many will be featured on Boqueria’s tapas-focused menu, which is designed for sharing.
While the tapas portions are generous, they’re far from your standard meat-potato-vegetable entree fare. Each unique tapas dish combines multiple ingredients artfully combined in complex layers, bursting with flavor.
Prices range from $5 for a selection of marinated olives to $21 for pulpo a la plancha (seared octopus with manzanilla olivada and olive oil crusted potatoes), with most tapas in the range of $9-$14.
Tortilla Española is a traditional Spanish frittata (eggs, confit potatoes, and onions), and the Bruselas con chorizo combines Brussels sprouts with crispy chorizo, lemon, and chives.
Guests can begin their experience with slices of the exclusive Jamón Ibérico de Bellota – hand-carved, acorn-fed Ibérico ham that has been aged for 36 months, or choose to share a tabla de quesos y embutidos (manchego, caña de Cabra, Jamón serrano, chorizo Ibérico, served with olives and pan con tomate).
Among the larger sharing dishes is carne a la parrilla – hanger steak with black garlic almond romesco, lime cream, charred onions, and eggplant, as well as pollo rustido – a Catalan-style roasted chicken available in half or whole portions.
Paella is a cornerstone of any Spanish menu, and Boqueria’s signature paella de mariscos is described as “saffron-laced bomba rice, a generous topping of fresh seafood (including squid, head-on shrimp, clams mussels, and more), and salsa verde, with a perfect layer of socarrat – the savory, sticky grains of rice at the bottom to be scraped up with a spoon.”
For lunch and brunch, salads and bowls are added to the menu. Brunch, Garcia said, is traditional “but with a Spanish flair.”
Signature cocktails are modern and creative, and seasonal, with a selection of classic favorites featured as well. There’s a “fall gin tonic” garnished with apple and star anise, the piña ahumada (banner mezcal, aperol, pineapple, blood orange, and ginger), and a beautiful violet-hued “peacock” mocktail made with butterfly pea flower, thyme, honey, lime, and ginger beer.
Four different varieties of sangria are all available by the pitcher, and brim with fresh fruits.
The wine list is exclusively Spanish.
There’s also dessert – including cinnamon sugar-sprinkled churros with a choice of rich hot chocolate dipping sauce, dulce de leche, or nutella – and tarta vasca de queso (Basque cheesecake with apple compote).
“It’s a high-energy experience,” Garcia said. Upscale, but not quiet dining. He said the concept evokes a market in Barcelona.
“You’re meant to share, converse, and have a good time,” Garcia said, to lose yourself in the moment and not realize how much time has passed.
Boqueria is a large space, but artfully separated into nooks that bely its expansiveness and allow for more intimate dining experiences. There is seating at the bar, in front of the open kitchen, and at booths as well as tables.
Included in the 5,600-square-foot interior space is a private dining area that holds 60 people – perfect for business meetings or celebrations. The space – which features dramatic customized pendant fixtures – is separated by glass doors, and can be further closed off with a motorized, textured curtain.
Garcia said they will also use the space for events like cooking classes, cocktail making, and wine pairing classes – “experiences for people,” said Kornafel. “We’re really excited for people to experience that room.”
Overall the interior of Boqueria seats 150 people.
The patio, which will provide seats for 50 additional guests, will open next spring.
The restaurant will open officially on Oct. 16, with brunch beginning Oct. 21, and lunch service beginning Oct. 23. Hours will be:
- Monday-Thursday: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.)
- Friday: 11:30 a.m.-midnight (bar menu available 11 p.m.-midnight)
- Saturday: 11 a.m.-midnight (bar menu available 11 p.m.-midnight)
- Sunday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Lunch will be served weekdays from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and weekend brunch will be served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
The bar menu will be available for happy hour, weekdays from 3-6 p.m., as well as of late night Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. until midnight.
Boqueria is located at 46 South Main Street, West Hartford, CT, and can be reached at 860-222-9922.
For more information visit the website, or follow on Instagram @boqueria.
Boqueria’s first location opened in 2006. in New York City, and with the opening of West Hartford there are 10 locations including four in New York City, two in Washington, DC, one in Nashville, one in Chicago, and a recently-opened location in Boston. Additional restaurants are planned for Philadelphia and Atlanta in 2024.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.