New & Noted: Loco

What: Spanish gastropub from Lola

Where: Unit 1F-02 Muqi Court, 205 Wulumuqi Nan Lu, near Zhaojiabang Lu. Tel: 150 0063 6841

Why: You’re crazy for gin


The owners of Lola have yet to slap up a sign announcing the arrival of Loco, their new tapas restaurant cum gin bar, but that hasn’t stopped the club’s regulars, who like to see and be seen, from propping up the bar in front of the street window at Muqi Court. We headed down to sample the back dining room’s Spanish fare twice - once on a slammed weekend night and another midweek dinner where we had the restaurant to ourselves. If our experience is anything to go by, expect over-the-top attentive service when the waiters have nothing else to do, but if it’s crowded, you’ll come to acutely understand why it takes the Spanish several hours to finish a meal of small plates. 

First up on the menu are pintxos, or small Spanish snacks designed for bar eating. A simple Spanish Omelette (RMB 30) packed several inches high with cubed potatoes and fluffy eggs served with creamy warm aioli, started things off on the right track. Eggs don’t fare as well in the tapas section. Broken eggs mixed with raw foie gras and salty Iberian ham clock in at a cool RMB 120, but the cubed fried potatoes that were unmentioned on the menu were the real meat of this dish.

We get that starchy spuds provide a great foundation for sopping up all that gin, but the excessive use of potatoes across the menu feels lazy and cheap. Boiled Tender Octopus Rubbed With Smoky Paprika (RMB 95) comes on a bed of thick-cut sautéed waxy Chinese potatoes with lingering oil residue. Deep-fried cubed potatoes returned in the “Chef ’s Special” (RMB 135), mingling with mushy prawns and gamey diced pig trotters. 

The only dishes we sampled that weren’t overwhelmingly potato-based were the Argentinian Beef Carpaccio (RMB 95) and Goat Cheese Salad (RMB 85). The former serves raw, metallic-tasting meat drizzled with a syrupy balsamic reduction and topped with a dusting of grated manchego and pungent arugula. The salad was in its own right delicious with its leafy lettuce, deep-fried croutons, toasted pinenuts and a slab of salty goat cheese. But the menu promised that the goat cheese would be stuffed with Iberico ham, and despite the fact we ordered it at both sit-downs, we didn’t see or taste a speck of jamon.

Better value are the gin cocktails. Served in glasses that could double as fish bowls, the drinks, featuring 40 varietals of the juniper-flavored liquor with creative mixers such as coconut water and cucumber spice a la The Botanist Unusual (RMB 80), spiced up the typical G&T. Occasionally, when they can source it, that T will even stand for real tonic with actual quinine in it, a rarity in China. Just around the corner from Lola, Loco will undoubtedly serve as a public pregame space for the club scene. And who knows? Maybe all those potatoes will go a long way to soaking up the booze that fuels the late night dance parties. 


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