Lobos Meat & Tapas is exactly the kind of place that is responsible for my recurrent idle fantasy of moving house to be in close proximity to Borough, Maltby Street and Bermondsey Markets and all the fabulous food and drink places this area of London affords.
Of course, this fantasy is hugely unrealistic, not least because I’m such a dyed-in-the-wool hoarder that I’d never manage to squeeze the ‘stuff’ I’ve amassed over the decades into the minimal-storage space in the clean, modern, uncluttered and tiny city pads that we might just about be able to buy if we sold our house up in the ‘burbs! And of course, I wouldn’t actually want to give up a back garden (or our allotment plot nearby) in exchange for a shared public garden that no one ever actually relaxes properly in (if they use it at all) or a single pot of tomatoes grown on the ledge that’s rather generously described as a balcony.
But still… to have so much of London’s constantly evolving, constantly improving, constantly surprising and constantly exciting food scene right on the door step must be a thing of wonder.
If you live near Borough Market, or even if you don’t quite frankly, I recommend you make your way to Lobos for some very delicious treats. Lobos is folded origami-like into an arched, two-storey space carved out under the railway bridge, right next to the modern glass-fronted Market Hall that went up a year or two back and just a stone’s throw from Southwark Cathedral. Downstairs is the bar space with a couple of high tables; upstairs is the restaurant space with a handful of small tables and cosy leather-padded booths.
Lobos – which means wolves in Spanish, so I’m told – was launched last month by three friends who met while working at Tapas Brindisa – chef Roberto Castro, Joel Placeres and Ruben Maza.
Let me be clear, this isn’t a place for vegetarians or pescetarians – pretty evident from the restaurant’s name, but it never hurts to spell it out. Meat is the name of the game and the menu focuses on prime cuts of Iberico pig, Castillan lamb and beef sourced from The Ginger Pig. It’s classic tapas, beautifully cooked, served in a very cosy space by friendly and helpful staff. And of course, being a tapas bar, you can pop in for a drink and some small nibbles or make a proper meal of it, as we did.
We settled in for an early weeknight dinner. Even in summer, with August sun keeping the sky light until late, inside was dark and cosy with bare-filament lights casting a very orange glow.
Wine is available by the glass, carafe or bottle and there is a short cocktail menu as well as regular soft drinks. I’d love to see a little more thought put into the soft drinks, but then I’m one of those rare non wine drinkers. Pete was appreciative of the choice of wines by carafe and enjoyed a Tempranillo from Rioja (£6.25/ £17.75/ £34 per glass/ carafe/ bottle).
The flavour of this Iberico Bellota Ham (£14.50) – that’s the acorn fed stuff – was terrific and somehow it disappeared from the board awfully quickly. That said, I would have liked it to be better streaked with silky white fat; the fat is always so good!
We ordered Baked Tetilla Cheese (£ 9) on our waiter’s recommendation, not least because he described it arriving to the table as a flaming spectacle. Any brandy had already burned off before it reached us but the dish was still a big hit. Thin, super-crunchy fried toasts were served alongside this hot pan of melted cheese adorned with soft and sweet roasted vegetables.
I always consider Croquetas (£ 7) a great test of a tapas kitchen, and subconsciously hold them up to José Pizarro’s offering – José was chef-partner in Brindisa before he launched his own restaurant in 2011, and his croquetas are to die for. Well now I can confirm that chef Roberto’s are equally fantastic – filled with ham, chorizo and bacon studded into rich, soft bechamel and served piping hot.
With a name that translates as secret, of course secreto Iberico is still referred to as the hidden cut of Iberico pork, its natural fattiness giving fantastic flavour. Secreto Iberico, Mojo Chips (£ 9.50) pairs strips of secreto simply grilled and served with paper-thin freshly-fried crisps dressed with a herby green mojo (sauce). Super, super tasty and I liked the choice of crisps over a more mundane side.
It’s a rare skill to be able to cook ribeye steak so it’s properly pink inside but the fat has had enough time to render down to melty goo in places and lightly charred and crisp in others but that’s how it was in the Ribeye and foiegras (£ 14.95), and same goes for the foie gras; beautifully caramelised and almost liquid inside. No sides, just adorned with slivers of soft and sweet cooked onion. Amazing.
Yes I was just being greedy when I ordered the Double Chocolate and Pistachio Cake (£ 5) but oh, it was worth it. On a layer of dense chocolate cake sits a huge pile of chocolate mousse, equally rich and made with decent dark chocolate. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s dressed not just with a tiny sprinkle of crushed-to-death pistachios, as is so often the reality of ‘pistachio’ desserts, but a fistful of quality green nuts that are perfect against the chocolate. Dessert, doce puntos!
Pete enjoyed the Dulce de leche Cheesecake (£ 5.00) just as much, appreciative of the restrained sugar levels; much more appealing than the sickly sweetness that so often equates to dulce de leche desserts.
We’ve been fortunate to experience some wonderful meals out recently (and one much less satisfying one which I won’t be sharing with you here). Lobos provides yet another great choice in the area and has been added straight to the shortlist for places to visit when we head down to the food markets. We’ll definitely be returning for more of their tasty tapas menu.
Kavey Eats dined as guests of Lobos Meat & Tapas.