It’s Paella Week in the UAE!
Celebrate Spanish culture at BOCA and a variety of locations across the country
WE NEVER REQUIRE much of an excuse for a fiesta, but when word came through International Paella Day on September 20 was being marked with a whole week of UAE celebrations dedicated to this magnificent traditional Iberian dish, no sooner did we have our Flamenco shoes on, they were tapping away en route to the festival’s epicentre: BOCA in DIFC. Kicking-off this year’s carnival of flavour, the Spanish Tourism Office based in Abu Dhabi put on an inauguration ceremony where Spain’s Ambassador to the UAE, Antonio Álvarez Barthe, talked about paella’s prominence in his nation’s culinary landscape before the fine Mediterranean restaurant’s head cook, accompanied by chefs from other Paella Week participating outlets, demonstrated their expertise in creating a typical Valencian variety complete with free-range rabbit and chicken.
Venues taking part until September 26 include Bebemos, Casa de Tapas, Diablito in the capital and Seville’s though at BOCA you can choose from one of seven paella variations such as fresh seafood, vegan with mixed local vegetables, local herbs, black garlic aioli; or braised lamb shoulder and labneh aioli, which all arrive with a jug of virgin sangria or four cold hops, or a bottle of house grape for Dh310.
The ‘Valenciana’ delivered to our table affected us thus: the exquisitely put together organic bomba rice, rabbit, chicken, lima beans, paprika and saffron recipe was one of the most refreshing yet hearty plates to which we had sat down in months and, therefore, provoked a gushing of pigeon-spanish superlatives we’re sure not only embarrassed us, but must have at best raised a smile from the surrounding native speakers. “Deliciosa”, “maravillosa”, “mas, por favor” were all involuntary reactions between bites. In particular the chicken’s tenderness combined with a multi-seasoned vivacity will have us returning before the festival is up. If you have room, a side order of patatas bravas that arrive in chunky chip form and grilled octopus with truffle mash will also never be an unwelcome addition.