Rio de Janeiro’s Oteque is known for being one of the best restaurants in all of Latin America, and now top chef Alberto Landgraf is bringing his unique take on contemporary Brazilian cuisine to London in the form of Bossa. From signature scallops with tangy tucupi to seafood moqueca and potent caipirinhas, the dishes and drinks here are a riot of flavours and textures. Here’s why Bossa is our restaurant of the week.
Bossa is an excellent name for a Brazilian restaurant. In one word, it conveys the country’s energy, its vitality, its vibe. Not that there’s actually bossa nova playing at Bossa, the new London restaurant from Brazilian chef Alberto Landgraf of Oteque in Rio de Janeiro. Instead, we get an eclectic soundtrack compiled by Landgraf himself that might segue from The Human League to Madonna to ACDC; not what you might expect of the slick, sophisticated dining room.
Now you may think that one of South America’s hottest chefs, a GQ Man of the Year (twice) would delegate his Spotify playlists, but it’s testament to his commitment to this project that he cares. He’s not the only one. For the opening, his head chef Nilson Chaves and head sommelier Laís Aoki (recently voted Brazil’s best sommelier) both uprooted their lives to move to London. Nobody involved is faxing it in from a lounger on Copacabana Beach.
What Bossa is not is a carbon copy of two Michelin star Oteque, currently at no.12 on Latin America’s 50 Best. It’s less experimental, more familiar; and as befits its location beneath the Brazilian consulate on Vere Street, it serves contemporary Brazilian cuisine, as appealing to Brazilian transplants as it is to Brits and cachaça-curious international diners. Landgraf eschews the formality of tasting menus in favour of a mix of small and large plates.
The first words out of your mouth should be a request for a caipirinha – easily London’s best – followed by an order of crab pasteís – big, bubbly, deep-fried parcels of crabmeat, known as pasteís de vento or ‘wind pastels’ after the pocket of air inside. They come with a tart purple ketchup, made of açai, the sharp Amazonian berry and one of the 200kg of speciality ingredients Bossa imports from Brazil each month.
Next up comes Bossa’s signature scallops with leeks, toasted buckwheat and tucupi, the tangy, fermented juice of the manioc root, an elegant, beautifully balanced dish that tells you a little about Brazil and a lot about Landgraf’s fine-dining training under Tom Aikens and Gordon Ramsay in the aughts. Aoki pairs it with a well-structured Loire Sauvignon from a cellar as eclectic as the playlist.
Things start to get even more interesting with the arrival of a split roasted marrow bone, for stuffing with fresh cashew cream into tapioca ‘tacos’ with a texture like mochi skin. I can’t think of where else on this planet you’d find such a creation. And matched with a classical Chablis too!
At Oteque, Landgraf throws open the definition of ‘Brazilian food’. He doesn’t go in for feijoada or moqueca there, two of Brazil’s best-known dishes, though does so at Bossa. As a predictable Brit, I appreciate the gesture, as I really do want to try his take on Brazil’s national dishes. The moqueca fish stew is packed full of seafood, with traditional-ish accompaniments of banana farofa, black-eyed bean salad, and rice.
Even better is the feijoada of sorts, which distils the essence of the dish in a purée of the black bean and pork stew, served with some of the best crackling pork I can ever remember having. Desserts include a tonka bean flan with cupuaçu (a fruit related to cacao) and açai sorbet with sugar cane crumble and spiced chocolate. Whether such intense flavours would register similarly with a Brazilian diner, I can’t say, but to me they’re extraordinary. I’m trying new flavours, new textures, which as a food writer, is what I long for. I’m happy to find them at Bossa.