Barcelona, 9.30pm. The sun just set, abandoning its heat to the baked metal and stone which make up the city; the breeze gentle, welcome as it wraps itself around limbs kissed from a day spent in the sun; the light soft and slowly fading, inviting diners to head inside for food and drinks, to browse menus and discuss their days.
A stroll through the quiet, residential streets of Poble Sec might not immediately appear the most promising of starts to a gourmet evening out, but find yourself on the unassuming Carrer de Tamarit and I promise you’re in for a treat. Not only is it home to Ferran and Albert Adrià’s incomporable temple to tapas, Tickets, go back one block and you’ll discover Lolita. If Tickets is an established act – polished, professional and bonkers in the brilliant way that only a restaurant owned by the El Bulli chef could be – Lolita is its cheeky younger sister: bright, loud, inexpensive and lots and lots of fun.
It’s been a while since I wrote a review for this blog – most London restaurants are reviewed so quickly and in such quantity that any additional input feels somewhat redundant – but having just got back from Barcelona to grey skies and gloomy days, this post felt fitting; both as an injection of sunshine into everyday life, and as a way of reliving my incredible trip, if only for a few paragraphs.
If you’re in need of a serotonin boost, Lolita Taperia will provide it in spades. If you love Spain at its loud, bright, bustling, no nonsense best, this bar is for you. And if you’re simply searching for some amazing food and delicious drink without busting the budget, I can’t recommend Lolita any more highly.
Entering from the street under a neon sign decorated with Lolita’s trademark lipstick kiss, you’ll be confronted by immediate sensory overload. The colours are bright, the music loud and the crowds dense. Running down the left hand side is a strip of open kitchen, populated with busy chefs going about their business, to the right the dining room, made up of one large table for communal eating or large parties plus stools dotted at the bar, down the walls and in front of the kitchen. Waiters flit around the tiny space proferring menus, setting down dishes, opening bottles of local wine.
The menu is fantastic; I could have eaten pretty much anything on it. A page long section dedicated to anchovies and olives in another restaurant it could feel intimidating, but with prices starting at just over a euro, Lolita encourages diners to dive right in and try new things. Wine is equally affordably priced – Carnivorous Boyfriend enjoyed a good glass of Fino for just over two euros and a very drinkable Mas Amor rosé came in at fourteen.
Moving onto the food, it’s hard to pick out highlights amongst so much deliciousness, but some did stick in my memory more than others. Incredible grassy green olives, some infused or possibly even smoked (we couldn’t decide) with garlic; lace thin pan con tomate bejeweled with sweet tomato; a salad of tiny broad beans, avocado and quails’ eggs dressed with black truffle vinaigrette. Creamy burrata may not be a typical tapas dish but served with salty black olive tapenade and a sweet semi-dried tomato paste, it was the perfect contrast to so much fish and fried food, while delicate slices of tuna loin with a sweet soy dressing and tomato pulp had me literally squealing with delight.
Of the heartier dishes, grilled rabbit shoulder was meltingly tender while La Bomba de l’Eixample – a giant round potato croqueta filled with herby mince and topped with spicy salsa and a slick of mayonnaise – was the perfect example of simple Spanish tapas done well. Our only regret on ordering the Mini Burger in a black sesame seed bun was that we hadn’t asked for more – the meat came juicy and rare, tasting of steak and salt and blood in a way that burgers made from standard ground mince never could.
Normally after this kind of meal I’m more than happy to venture into the streets to find an ice cream cone to lick as we wander home, but we’d seen some of the sweets emerging from the kitchen and fallen under their spell. Cheesecake came cloaked in a white chocolate shell, the base light and salty sweet, the cake itself tasting strongly of cheese but in a carefully balanced way that made it so much more delicious for a slightly savoury slant. Chocolate truffles arrived rich with the flavours of cocoa and honey and interspersed with sweet, fresh strawberries, and to round it all off we each ate a pair of chocolate lips, a Lolita trademark and the perfect end to an unforgettable meal.
If you’re planning to go to Barcelona anytime soon, please pay a visit to Lolita Taperia. It’s not fine dining – no molecular gastronomy or crisp white tablecloths here – but it’s fun, busy and bustling in an unmistakably Spanish way. The ingredients are incredible, sourced by someone who clearly cares about them and cooked in a way to showcase their every delicate nuance, the wine reasonably priced and the atmosphere next to none.
C/ Tamarit 104