Wednesday 13 April 2011

Lola Roja, Northcote Road, South London

A classy, contemporary tapas bar in the heart of a prosperous London suburb, Lola Roja can get uncomfortably crowded with young professionals on a Saturday night. Diners are packed in and you should try to avoid sitting at the table right next to the toilet. Still, Lola Roja has a sense of style, with deep red crockery and striking modern art framed by whitewashed walls and tables. Moreover, many of the dishes on the mainly Catalan menu contain a combination of finely-judged flavours. The delicious chorizo "lollypops", with quince in a garlic mayonnaise (£4.40), are suitably spicy and have real impact, while the excellent, well-seasoned seafood paella (£11.80 per person) features chunky, fresh prawns and other shellfish. The cheese croquettes (5.50) are very moreish, as are the Iberian ham croquettes with piquillo peppers sauce. Another good dish is the succulent and very fresh baby squid, served with sobrasada, honey and spinach, but the comfit of suckling pig (£8.25), with apple puree and excessively crispy vegetables, is disappointingly fatty and overly-dominated by the meat. As the portions tend to be small, you might want to get some Catalan bread with tomato, which is generous at £2.60 a round. There is a broad selection of Spanish wines, but choose carefully - the Rioja Pinturas is a bit innocuous for £20 a bottle. You may prefer the reliable Estrella Damm beer at £3.75 for 33cl. Lola Roja levies a service charge of 13.5%, but the Iberian waitresses can be a bit brusque at busy times. 7/10