I walk past Lola Rojo quite frequently – it’s just by my house. I also saw it on Gordon Ramsey’s Best Restaurant and kept thinking, I really should go there. So when a friend and I were looking for a quick nibble with wine on Friday night, I finally got to try the tapas restaurant just down the road! First thing, Lola Roja is tiny. We were greeted by a flustered manager telling us he had absolutely no space inside and we would just have to sit outside. While I completely accept this – particularly for places that have amazing wine and food – when I went to the bathroom halfway through our meal, there were 4 tables of two empty and reset so perhaps a waiting list or a lesson in turning over tables might be a good investment. That said, I did enjoy sitting on our bottle of wine and not being forced to move on as you sometimes get in popular restaurants.
Our waiter was amazing and I really want to give a huge shout out to him for his friendly attitude and his knowledge of both the food and wine menu. I knew a rioja on the menu that was quite warming (it was cold outside) however, he suggested if I enjoyed that wine I might also like a different one that was £7 cheaper. He was right. His suggested Hacienda Lopez de Haro was amazing.
The food also didn’t fail to disappoint. The first thing to say is this isn’t the type of tapas that you find in every tourist trap in Spain (or central London). These dishes are full of flavour and presented beautifully.
I love carbs (no Atkins for me) so we did go for Brava Potato. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and fluffy and soft in the middle. The middle of the potato had been scooped out and a very light, bravas sauce that was spicy and creamy but still light, almost like a foam had been poured into the middle. It was the best interpretation of Bravas that I have ever had.
The salt cod “buñuelos” with chive mayo is not something that I would have normally chosen. Salt cod reminds me of the horrible smell in Italian supermarkets that my Nonna use to drag me to as a child. However, the buñuelos were my favourite dish of the night. They were wonderfully smooth on the inside but crispy and golden on the outside. They didn’t have any of the fishy flavour that I usually associate with salt cod and the chive mayo give a nice little kick without being over powered by the onion flavour.
The sautéed fresh prawns al ajillo with oloroso xerry were also mind-blowing. They were fresh prawns still in their shell sauteed with chilli and garlic oil mixed with coriander. The prawns were wonderfully tender and the oil was so deliciously that I found myself liking my hands so not to waste any.
We also went for the comfit of suckling pig with vanilla apple pureé and crispy vegetables. The suckling pig was gorgeous. It was rich and melted and pulled apart as I stuck my fork into it. I couldn’t really taste the vanilla in the apple puree but the apple sauce was still nice with the suckling pig and the crispy parsnip chips were lovely by themselves. All in all, I was a very happy girl.
Even after all this food, our sweet tooth won out and we decided to go for dessert. Our lovely waiter came to our aid suggesting the Crema Catalan – a dish I wouldn’t normally chose. But hats off again, he was right. The crema catalan was the lightest cream that I had ever had and there was a strawberry and raspberry compote at the moment, which cut through any richness from the cream. Absolutely beautiful.
There is a reason why this tiny restaurant has a queue to get in and no tables available inside. The food was wonderful and the staff were friendly and clearly passionate about what they do. If you need a nice tapas place in Clapham Junction, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend stopping past Lola Roja.
78 Northcote Road
London SW11 6QL
T: +44 20 7350 2262