There was a time when I bemoaned Clapham, quite significantly, for being, the exact phrase is a bit more fruity and flippant and was definitely spoken in a mid-rioja rant, a bit anithetised, a bit dull, a bit like every high-street across Britain.
I do think parts of Clapham seem to be solely occupied by ladies wearing polo shirts and men with jumpers delicately hanging off their backs and tied around their necks.
You see an odd amount of men walking around with golf bags in Clapham, considering, it's in zone 2, not a Highlands golf park.
Food wise, there are a few exciting culinary adventures between Clapham South and Clapham North but by and large it's full of gastro pub fare to fill your face with when you've had one too many sherries, as I'm sure the locals do.
Clapham Junction on the other hand is proving to have an abundance of exciting new independent restaurants and after recently visiting the incredible Ben's Canteen (will review them soon but I had one too many Sherries that evening to remember my thoughts on the food, apart from just yum) I'm back again to Northcote road and Lola Rojo.
As someone who regularly cooks tapas at home I relished the opportunity, when this restaurant was recommended to me, to see how the pro's do it. Till now, I'd only really tasted the type of tapas in restaurants that even I could master in the kitchen. Your obligatory fried chorizo, patatas bravas, meats, olives....all delicious but a little predictable and homely but not impressive.
You wouldn't want to stray too far from those familiar and delicious tastes but for the seasoned tapas eater, you need a little variety.
Lola Rojo has got the mix of contemporary and traditional completely and deliciously right.
This small restaurant bursts with the much-loved Catalan flavours but it's alice-in-wonderland-esque presentation means it feels like a completely new eating experience.
The menu boasts tapas and the longest list of paellas I've ever seen, as well as a carefully chosen wine list at a refreshingly affordable price.
We ordered the El Bon Homme, cabernet sauvignon, monastrel which was £20 and the best wine I've had in months.
We raced through the Catalan bread with tomato, Iberian Chorizo, Salt cod “buñuelos” with chive mayo, Sautéed fresh prawns al ajillo with oloroso xerry, Crispy chestnut mushroom stuffed with Menorcan sobrasada and flower honey which, being a selection of hot and cold tapas were brought at different times, almost like unexpected little gifts.
The 'Spicy Chorizo Lollipops with Quince Allioli had a magical kind of mystique thanks to their appearance which meant, like all lollipops, you couldn't eat them without feeling a childlike wonder.
All were delicious, the Catalan bread whilst extremely simple was authentic, buñuelos, surely the best way invented to enjoy salt cod. The mushrooms were meaty and delicate with the oozing of honey from underneath a bread crumb. But the star of the show was undoubtedly the broken duck eggs, potatoes, ham and wild mushrooms. It looked like a golden crown with jewelled egg-yolk seeping within the potato and tasted just as devine, something earthy, luxurious yet, with the homeliness of an English breakfast.
Service was ok, the restaurant is quite small so often you might be hunched up in the corner. If they are busy they might not fawn over you but will greet with you a smile and were helpful when we asked for advice on our choices.
Tapas ranges from £4-15.50 and so without noticing and due to the heavenly choices on offer, you can get a little carried away.
This isn't complicated food, it's comfort food that you can eat endlessly and whilst every mouthful might not blow you away (some of the food was a little under seasoned for me) it's soul food, warm and comforting. All those security-blanket foods are never too complicated, mash, pies etc are easy to get a handle on, as is Lola Rojo's tapas but that shouldn't take away from their brilliance.
Make sure you book, even during the week it's VERY busy and although we were allowed in before the booked table arrived, it would have been even more enjoyable not to be against the clock!