Ph: (03) 9818 8321
Open: Monday to Friday, midday to 3.30pm and 4.30pm to late. Saturdays 5.30pm to late. Sundays closed.
HAWTHORN’S Glenferrie Rd has always had a diverse multicultural restaurant scene. For Chinese, Panda is nothing less than an institution, as is Santorini for those with a hankering for Greek (although I’ve had a much better gyros at Richmond’s Agapi). VietStar is always full and The Base Camp does a brilliant Nepalese goat curry. But until now Hawthorn locals have had to head to Johnston Street for Spanish - not any longer.
The new bloke on the trendy street’s restaurant scene is Lulo Restaurante, a Spanish tapas bar that after eight months has clearly found its niche: on a slightly chilly Wednesday night the restaurant wasn’t full but it wasn’t far off.
Owner and head chef Matt Waldron clearly knows funky food is best complemented by a funky fit out. All eyes lead to the main bar, which stretches down the length of the restaurant and is perfect for those who prefer their tapas perched on a stool, in true Spanish style.
As with most Spanish eateries, the best way to enjoy the selection is to share. Lulo’s offers tapas (small plates) and raicon (shared plates). From the tapas menu we had lamb cutlets encrusted with paprika and chorizo ($6 each) and zucchini flowers filled with manchego cheese and truffle ($4.50 each, above). The cutlets were succulent and tasty but even though I’m a massive fan of zucchini flowers I found them lacking zing and I really couldn't taste any trace of the alleged truffle. But perhaps that was just me.
My party of three shared three of the larger dishes including roasted duck with pomegranate and peppery leaves ($20, above), twice-cooked free-range pork belly with apple and fig ($20, below) and Carribbean-style chicken wrapped in banana leaf and mango and lime ($20).
Each was exceptional: the duck was juicy and piled high with actual pomegranate seeds as well as what seemed to be a pomegranate molasses; the pork had simply the best crackling I’ve ever had (sorry mum) and the chicken was an explosion of flavour. The only problem…each serve was tiny. We could have easily had at least another two dishes but at $20 for each price we opted to give our stomachs a sugar hit and finish with a serve of the traditional Spanish dessert churros ($12).The sugary donuts were crunchy and flavoured with plenty of cinnamon and the chocolate dipping sauce was thick, rich and possibly the best I’ve had.
Overall the food at Lulos is brilliant but I’ve got to say the service leaves a lot to be desired. And frankly, while the quality of the food is exceptional, I still feel the menu is overpriced. Given our bill for three (including a bottle of Spanish red, $39) came to a sizable $140, Lulo isn’t really suited to a casual midweek dinner. But for a special occasion or a Friday night glass of vino with something to nibble, it’s locked in.7/10