Saturday, 7 January 2012

Jose Pizarro

Jose and Pizarro, Bermondsey Street

Jose Pizarro. A chef? A sherry bar? A restaurant? Actually it is all three. Jose and Pizarro are the two latest Spanish additions to Bermondsey Street. The ex-chef partner at Brindisa in Borough Market has opened two self-named eateries this year - Jose is a sherry and tapas bar with limited seating, and Pizarro is a proper restaurant that does a more conventional three course menu.

My first impression of Jose was that it was small. There were only a few seats along the windows and near the kitchen, the rest was standing only. We arrived before seven o’clock on a Wednesday, and it was already packed. A friendly waiter introduced himself, and then led us to a space next to a table which was about to become vacant. We opened a bottle of sherry to share during the wait, making the ‘queueing’ a lot more bearable. But looking at the specials written on the blackboard and the pretty looking dishes flying out from the pass, we could not wait any longer to try out the food...

Chorizo Ibérico Manuel Maldonado

Razor clams, chorizo, mint

Ham croquetas

Baby chicken, potato, Romesco sauce

Razor clams were taken out from a glass box next to the bar and straight on to the grill. The chorizo and mint sauce worked beautifully with them. I always think the best style of cooking shellfish is the Chinese way, but these juicy clams exceeded my expectations. The melt in the mouth croquetas were another must-order item on the menu. I can eat these little creamy crispy balls all day.

From top left clockwise: Squid and runner beans, Clams and jamon, Tortilla and Ibérico pork fillet

The chefs at Jose know their seafood, order any seafood item from the menu and you will not be disappointed. Both the squid and clams were incredibly fresh, they must have the best supplier in town. The pork fillet spoke for itself - rich, tender with a subtle sweetness. It was highly enjoyable, although the Ibérico pork at The Corner Room is still the best I have had.

We were standing the whole time during our meal, I did not mind that at all as the food and the buzzing atmosphere made it all worthwhile. Jose is not a destination for a big group nor a fine dining experience, it is best to come in a group of less than 4 to share a few plates of tapas and drinks. I can see that this would be a good place for single diners as well, I always find it hard not to stand out when eating alone in London restaurants.

If you feel uncomfortable about enjoying your meal while standing up, don’t worry, Mr Pizarro has it covered. A few doors down the road is the newly opened sit-down restaurant Pizarro. We went there to take advantage of the soft opening (last December), where everything on the menu was half price. Behind the wooden door is a L-shape dining area, decorated with dark wood furniture and red brick walls. There was a long table along one side of the room, and a few tables and bar seats on the other side facing the open plan kitchen.

The menu consisted of nine starters, six mains and four desserts, and with prices ranging from £6 to £16 per dish, seemed very reasonable even without the discount. We went for three courses each, although there is nothing to stop you ordering a few starter plates to share instead.

Ham croquetas

Duck livers, red onions, fino

And yes I ordered the croquetas again. The crust was so thin that only a small bite was needed to expose the creamy filling. Generous pieces of liver were slightly pink in the middle, just how I like it. Both capers and liver have a very strong flavour, but the chef had got the balance just right so they accompanied each other nicely.

Lamb, lentils, Radicchio

Secreto Ibérico, olive oil mash, Piquillo pepper

The lamb was cooked medium rare with a hint of salt and pepper. It was simple but my better half said it was one of the best lamb dishes he had ever had. The waiter said the cut they used for the pork was near the shoulder. I particularly enjoyed the fatty bits connecting the lean meat, together with the rustic olive oil mash and paprika, it was absolutely delicious.

Cava, pear sorbet

Chocolate, toast, caramel ice cream

Desserts were winners as well. The sorbet tasted almost like frozen pear, it was so fresh, and at the same time I got the tingling sensation from the Cava. I literally could not stop slurping after the first mouthful. The ball of chocolate mousse on toast with caramel ice cream was a sweet-savoury joy. The sea salt sprinkled on top of the chocolate was a nice touch which brought the dish together.

It was the first week of opening so service was a bit rough at the edges, but it was the food that really delivered. Pizarro is a treasure of Spanish comfort food, made using the best local produce. I am already looking forward to going back to try some new dishes very soon!

Jose Pizarro

José on Urbanspoon
Pizarro  on Urbanspoon


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