Last night saw the opening of Lobos in its second venue. The original, a dimly lit den hidden in the underbelly of London Bridge, was opened in January 2015 by the four lobos: Roberto, Joel, Cortés and Ruben and is an excellent setting for sinking your teeth into some of their meat and tapas.
The Soho version looks to follow in the wolfish tracks but upon stepping through the door it immediately feels much more…Soho. By which I mean 2016 Soho, not the ruinous, seedy streets of days gone by. It’s still pretty cramped – not least because the whole staff was on hand for opening night – but ceilings are higher, the proportions are more regular and the bare wooden tables and cutlery in jam jars could have been swiped from anywhere along Frith Street and beyond.
Unfortunately the Lobos email signature doesn’t yet acknowledge the new address so after forwarding the reservation confirmation to my friend, they turned up at London Bridge certain I was hiding in amongst the arches somewhere. Unfortunately not. I was already seated comfortably in Soho with a potent glass of Juan Gil in hand. At £4.75 for 125ml, this 2013 Monastrell (15% abv) is a bold starting point for wines by the glass. It says: we know what we’re doing but you’re going to have to pay for it. A message which, after my lengthy perusal of the menu, I noticed continues throughout.
On the meat front, Lobos certainly do know what they’re doing. Their speciality is Iberico pork that studs the menu in mouthwatering iterations; from stained glass shavings of charcuterie, to greasy morsels of pig topped with a crispy fried egg, to a beautiful platter of rosy pork fillet. We also ate gorgeously tender Castilian lamb, crusted with a salty lick of herbs and a short rib that collapsed off the bone, as it should at £16 a go.
But the moment you veer off the meaty scent, the wolves seem to lose a bit of interest. A side salad is hardly enticing at £6.25 and the grilled vegetables even less so at almost £8. Whilst a charred, meaty octopus leg at the next table looked like the one that got away, our squid with citrus aioli and the patatas bravas weren’t remarkable. And when the bill adds up so quickly, every dish should be strong.
Being a soft launch, we had 50% off our bill so we ploughed through to pudding. The waitress heartily recommended the dark chocolate croquetas so we followed her advice. Unfortunately, the gelatinous dark chocolate interior didn’t taste of much, nor did the oily, translucent croqueta crust. Three of these sad looking balls sat in a puddle of something like white chocolate petit filous, scattered with morsels of frozen raspberries. Not strictly a disaster but not for discerning grown ups either.
Given it was their first run of things, Lobos did a decent job. The dozens of waiters and waitresses on hand were keen and friendly and the pace of the meal played out well. My only problem is that I’m unlikely to be enticed back to the Soho digs at full price. If I have to fork out for the carefully curated wine list and the drool-inducing meat, I’d much rather do it in the shadows of the London Bridge lair, with the filament lightbulbs shaking as the trains rumble dangerously overhead.