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Boca, a Mediterranean restaurant and bar, serves a fusion of cuisine from the coastlines of Spain, France and Italy. The menu, served as larger portioned tapas, is heavily influenced by the cities of Barcelona and Nice.
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The social concept is meant to be an easy and relaxed place which introduces a light-hearted aspect to the dining scene in DIFC. However, it is still “DIFC casual”, so keeping its fine dining neighbours in mind, Boca still meets quality and service standards at a significantly lower price tag.
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“We opened in a location that has the who’s who of the city, affluent people that have been around, traveled around and dined in the top restaurants. They know their stuff and you can’t joke around with that,” says Omar Shihab, General Manager of Boca.
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According to Shihab, the average lunch bill does not go over AED150 ($41) per head, while a dining out spend can go up to AED300 ($82), which is quite reasonable in comparison to DIFC’s standard price tags.
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Everything is about fresh ingredients. It’s not molecular cuisine, or a super gastronomic experience, but they do serve up a memorable rendition of Arròs Negre. The name “Boca” in Spanish means mouth. It was chosen because it has a catchy ring to it, its short and translates well in Italian. The “O” in Boca represents the olive oil which is featured heavily in the menu, hence the green colour.
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Signature dishes: Fried green Padron peppers sprinkled with salt and rosemary. Their black rice, which is cooked risotto style, served with scallops and local clams. The 12 hour braise lamb is another must-try, served over a bed of Toscanelli beans and with tempura sage leaves.
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“There was no concept in mind. There was no name and no design. I’m not a designer or a chef, but I’m a guy who has a lot of passion for food and a lot of respect for raw ingredients and F&B in general. We had access to this amazing location and we said DIFC needs something more casual. So we started working with consultants to create the name,” says Shihab.
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The interior was done by Bishop Design, who recently did Clé, La Serre and KOI in Abu Dhabi. The design is influenced by Tapas restaurants in Barcelona, mixed with an industrial and functional décor. Concrete. Parquet. Brick walls. Bare oak table tops and a quaint olive garden. The fusion of textures translates the origins of the concept in a unique and inspiring way.
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Downstairs sits a huge oak wood table behind Fer forgé doors. This Sommelier table serves as a private dining area for more private functions.
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Dressed in sneakers and semi-casual uniforms, Boca’s staff comes from Spain, Italy and South Africa. “In the restaurant business, the less it feels like you are in Dubai, the better it is,” says Shihab.
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“We’re trying to change that mind frame by adopting the local ingredients. Why are we so obsessed with franchises and imported brands? I think we can come up with our own brands and concepts. But introducing new fresh faces and things that remind you of this Mediterranean feel is essential. There’s just something about an authentic Spanish accent that can’t be replicated,” he adds.