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Loco

Jul 5, 2013
by Nick Taylor


Area: That new development at the far end of Wulumuqi Lu, Muqi Court. Already there is The Thirsty Seahorse, a dimly lit, decent neighborhood bar, and those dessert people, Pantry. There’s room for another couple of F&B options or shops, and offices are going in around the back. Up the street, there’s a couple of nice-looking French places with some outside bar seating, and around the corner you’re on Jianguo Lu, not far from the Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, or Cotton’s (Anting Lu) if you go the other way. One more block up, you’re on Yongjia, spitting distance from Surpass Court and all its associated lollygagging.

What it is: New Spanish restaurant and bar from some of the people behind Lola. These are the guys who opened Pepito a couple of years ago. That was meant to be a small Spanish cafe in a space behind Lola but it was only open for about two months before they hit standard Shanghai Snafus. First they had to close for a little bit for their fire license. When they returned, the landlord had built a wall through the middle of the place. Walled off the kitchen. Walled off the bathroom. Mental. Anyway, onward and upward. The developers who are working this Muqi Lu space are the same group who did Surpass Court, so there’s good guanxi here already.

The concept for Loco is to have a large bar in the front serving mainly gin and tonics, then a dining room in the back. The owners are Xavi and Toni from Lola, and a couple of friends of theirs from back home, including the chef Daniel Alonso. He was cooking many years in his home Spanish province of Asturias, and came to Shanghai originally to cook at Pepito. In the interim he’s been at Malabar.

In the front they will have more than 40 types of gin, from Martin Millers to London No. 1, to gin from Islay in Scotland, plus sloe gin, Gilbey’s Gin, Hayman’s, handpicked Blackwoods from the Shetlands Isles, Geranium Gin, Bitter Truth pink gin… Oh, so much gin. And Loco will be the only bar in Shanghai not mixing their gin with Schweppes or Watsons tonic water. They have Fever-Tree Tonic.

(Quick tonic lesson: in the rest of the world, tonic water is made with quinine, a naturally occurring alkaloid that has antimalarial and painkilling properties, and gives tonic water its bitter taste. However, the Chinese government don’t like the sound of all that, so the tonic sold here has only a fraction of the amount of quinine as that in the West. The rest of the flavor is added artificially. Boo…)

But this Fever Tree stuff is the real deal. And Loco’s people have bought every bottle of it they could find in China. They won’t always have it, but when they can get it, that will be the standard pour. The menu has 40 different G&Ts, some of which include stuff like peach nectar, egg white and grapes, kiwi juice, rosehip, sherry, freshly cracked nutmeg, all with hand-chipped ice and served in balloon glasses. They’ve had the help of Rene Gonzalez, one of Spain’s experts on gin, to build that menu.

The food menu splits into three parts: pintxos, which are like a type of tapas, mainly bread with fish or meat or vegetables on top. Those will be sold in the bar at the front. A more extensive tapas menu featuring barbecue prawn lollipops, rolled pork loin stuffed with Iberian ham and piquillo peppers, and pulpo afeira (Galician-style octopus), will be served both in the front bar area and in the dining room out back, where there's also a menu of fine-dining options, Spanish-style meat and fish, plus rice and paellas. On the opening menu there’s a smoked salmon, avocado and mango salad, Iberico ham with goat cheese, Iberian pork cheek with porchini and prunes, and a mille-feuille of beef tenderloin with duck foie gras and straw potatoes. Oh, and paella, of course. Expect that menu to grow, organically, as the kitchen and its staff bed in.

Across all three menus, there’s lots of Iberian ham. Looks like its good stuff, but affordable. Nothing too twatty. No mention of blonde haired pigs raised on a bouncy castle, fed on a diet of acorns, craft beer and gabba techno. None of that.

Atmosphere: The bar at the front is roomy and well lit with stools along a polished marble bar where tapas and pintxos will be served. There’s loads of room behind the bar — a good thing because some of the drinks they’re going to be making are elaborate and will need space for quite a few staff. The art on the walls is modern without being intrusive, while the designs on the menus are Victorian-style illustrations of crazy things. Fish on bicycles. Women with octopus legs. That’s picking up on the Loco branding. It’s not a bit like Lola. The music is going to be in the background. No DJs for now. This is very definitely a place to come and socialize with the lights on. Have some gin and tonics before dinner and then slip into the back for mid/high-end Spanish food.

Damage: Pintxos (those small plates served in the bar) are all 30-50rmb. Tapas is 40-100rmb per plate and, in the back, the fine dining menu has mains for around 150-250rmb. For drinks, gin and tonics start at 65rmb and go up to 120rmb for something with Monkey 47 or another really nice gin. The rest of the cocktail menu’s not done, but I’d hazard 65rmb and up for mixed drinks. They have a couple of beers on tap, Asahi, something else. I’m thinking 50rmb for a pint or 35rmb for a small glass. Maybe a bit more.

Who's going: No one, yet. Friday night it’s the soft opening. Expect Shanghai’s Spanish fraternity (always good people), plus anyone who really, really likes gin. Pre-gamers heading later to Lola. Fine diners plumping for paella. Certainly, the bar will be popular with pre- and postprandials awaiting, or recently vacating, a table in the back.

Opened:
July 5, 2013

Address:
205 Wulumuqi Nan Lu, 
near Zhaojiabang Lu

Map&Details

Reservations:
150 0063 6841

Hours:
Daily, 6pm-1am

Prices:

Pintxos 30-50rmb

Tapas 40-100rmb

Mains in the dining room 150-250rmb

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