If you already know the Lobos kitchen from their first restaurant in Borough, their second venue should hit familiar, smoky notes. The group of former Brindisa employees have set up in Soho, trailing some of their collective tapas history in the form of an obsession with Iberico pork, and a fondness for grilling meat and seafood into richly-flavoured sharing plates.
Lobos number one you’ll find hidden away in a railway arch and feeling extremely pop-up, despite being permanent – everything looking like it could be broken down and shifted into a new space at a second’s notice.
Less so Lobos the sequel, feeling far more established despite being far newer. The new site’s on Frith Street, all buffed wood and clean-cut in comparison to their dim, tin tunnel of a restaurant in Borough.
Lobos Borough feels obscurely not-safe-for-work. Lobos Soho feels totally safe for work. Not bad for a work dinner, actually, as in the no-booking heartland of Soho they take bookings.
So some of the Borough site’s rougher edges have been filed down – maybe taking some of the atmosphere with them – but in their place is something just as friendly, a bit more brightly lit and just as enthusiastic about meat.
Describing themselves as ‘a real carnivores’ paradise’, and with the pork-heavy menu to prove it, the second Lobos does some great things with carefully-sourced meat. Stand-out dishes are the Iberico pork fillet, served rare in the centre with trintxat potatoes – the latter from the Pyrenees, mashed with cabbage and fried with bacon – and the octopus leg, charred and served with chorizo and sweet potato.
Flavours range from robust to a salty, meaty smack in the face. The only dishes on the subdued side are the vegetarian ones. These guys are pitching to a clearly carnivorous audience, and maybe it’s cruel to expect a grilled vegetable dish to stand up to the competition of all that smoky octopus or bacon-rich potatoes. But there are places in London making vegetarian dishes the most memorable thing on a really good menu – Berber and Q cauliflower, or the grilled mustard broccoli at Gunpowder among them.
Despite that, it’s hard as a carnivore to get too hung up on the low-impact vegetables when there are the croquetas. Piping-hot and rich, the duck, beef and chicken versions are so good that even despite that octopus leg and the pork fillet, you’d be tempted to come for just tapas – code for just more duck, beef and chicken bullets – and tumblers of cold draft lager.
The road to carnivores’ paradise is paved with these croquetas.
Lobos Meat and Tapas Soho, 48, Frith Street, W1D 4SF. 0203 0195082. For more information, visit www.lobostapas.co.uk.