What is the most misunderstood animal? If nature programmes are anything to go by, I am reliably informed that it is the wolf. Victimised and scandalised, it turned up late on the day jobs were handed out and got “moon howler/sheep harasser”, narrowly missing out on “man’s best friend” to a rag tag bunch of drooling dogs.
Like its namesake, Lobos Soho has the potential to be overlooked. Arriving at Frith Street it is a slightly worrisome sign that the queue I have to push through to get inside is actually for Hoppers, which is next door. Neither is it immediately clear that whilst this is a tapas bar, the restaurant’s primary focus is on its meat. But don’t be fooled. The thing worth talking about here is undoubtedly the meat.
I tend to stay away from a lot of pork on menus in London unless it’s been slow cooked. Even from the highest quality animals, it is a desperately unforgiving meat that goes from raw and chewy to dry and stringy in the blink of an eye.
The Iberico is a whole other story. Like listening to Born to Run on Vinyl, putting on a tailor made suit or watching Avatar in HD, Iberico is the upgrade you wondered how you’d ever done without. So if you are not averse to the possibilities of pork that has been little more than lightly seared and seasoned, then read on.
The Iberico Pork Selection arrives piled with Loin, Presa and Secreto, each with their own unique texture and flavour. Almost entirely raw, the loin’s appearance is so striking that it has you wondering if you’ve accidentally been brought the tuna carpaccio. I glance at my companion and tell him I’m not sure we’ll get through the whole plate. One bite in we realise it’s a non-issue. It is all exemplary.
This is not to say that there aren’t other high points along the way. A Grilled Octopus Leg is gelatinous and rich, falling just the right side of fishy, with mouthfuls alternating between hits of squid and crab, the whole thing lifted by small pieces of fried chorizo. And Croqueta with sweet red pepper are a great balance between fatty and meaty.
If there is a criticism of Lobos it would have to be the various potato elements dotted about the dishes. The fried ones are nearly all overly greasy and the potato puree that comes with Mushrooms and Fried Quails Egg is somewhat gluey and under seasoned. Mostly they’re simply superfluous. This is tapas: if you want a potato dish you’ll order one, no need for the token gesture of putting one on my meat platter. Just serve the lip-puckeringly flavoursome and piquant garlic salsa verde-style sauce that accompanies the plates instead, as a foil to cut through all the pork’s quite marvellous natural fattiness.
These are just about the only negatives, though. You could eat here well without drinks for £30 a head; but for only a little more, try the wonderful Manzanilla sherry to start with some thinly sliced Iberico ham and salted almonds.