HCX Treasures: El Bocado

It is the mark of a true explorer when an Exeter University student ventures down South Street, past The Vintage Store. After all, is there anything a student could need which cannot be found near John Lewis?

What many students do not know is that, nestled just a stone’s throw from the manic High Street, is a stunning tapas bar and restaurant, El Bocado.

El Bocado is the epitome of Exeter's finest local business, and has been open for 6 years under the expert management of Don, the charismatic and knowledgeable owner who has been in catering for over 28 years. Don previously managed El Bocado, as well as setting up a few other restaurants, and has worked in a variety of catering areas such as cruises and pizzerias, giving him the finely honed array of skills needed to maintain such a fantastic restaurant.

At the kind invitation of Don, my friends and I walked down to El Bocado for dinner from the university, which was the perfect end to a stressful week of deadlines. The warm reception given by the staff in the gentle glow of the restaurant made it clear that we would have a great evening, and we were not disappointed.

Don’s passion for authentic Spanish tapas is evident, from the deep burgundy walls and soft lighting, to dishes which had been found by the chefs on their yearly trips to Spain. One such example is the Aubergine and Honey dish, brought back from Barcelona.

El Bocado offers a seasonal menu, with dishes being added and adjusted according to customer taste. As women account for seventy five percent of their clientele, Don and his team ensure that the menu is tailored to suit this proportion, for example with less red meat than other restaurants.

One of the best features of El Bocado is the fact that ninety seven percent of their food is naturally gluten free, and they offer many more vegetarian and vegan dishes than most establishments in Exeter. Don’s commitment to good quality, healthy food means that an evening out at El Bocado is relatively guilt-free – even if you do indulge in the sinfully delicious deserts.

The suppliers of the restaurant are either local, no further than Newton Abbot, or Spanish for authenticity. This means that the wide variety of foods, from the olives marinated in-house, to the delicious sorbets, are promoting local businesses and traditional Spanish cuisine. The three of us chose four tapas each, and shared each dish between the group. Everything is reasonably priced, at an average of four pounds per tapas, and for the quality you enjoy this is an absolute bargain.

El Bocado’s staff all have a passion to provide their customers with an amazing dining experience, and they do not disappoint. From personalized service to genuine, kind waiting staff and smiling chefs, every part of El Bocado makes you feel like you’ve been invited into a Spanish home in Granada. I cannot wait to return and enjoy their Spanish Guitar Nights, or a Flamenco evening.

Overall, if anyone is looking for one of the most charming evenings out in Exeter, it cannot be contested that El Bocado is at the top of the list. Take a walk down to the calm South Street area, sip a glass of wine, and enjoy the authentic taste of Spain.

Photos Credits: Luanna de Abreu Coelho