Friday, 2 December 2011


Sauntered down Bermondsey Street to get stuck in to the soft launch of José Pizarro’s new restaurant – Pizarro. José is the chef who set up José (see a theme here?) on the same street, but was also involved in setting up the Brindisa tapas places. In short, we owe him a lot.

He’s extremely passionate about Spanish food, and this was ever true when I visited, as he was in the open kitchen cheffing away, but also taking time out to meet and greet people. Encouraging to see such a work ethic, as I believe these things are contagious and cascade down.

It’s a full service restaurant, serving classic and modern Spanish dishes rather than tapas, which I think is relatively rare in London. Spanish food is usually synonymous with tapas, so it’s great to see perceptions being changed and something a little different on offer.

Of course the Spanish are great carnivores and know how to cook meat exquisitely, and rumours on Twitter abound of José’s pig cheeks braised in cava, so I was salivating on the walk down. And did I mention this is London’s first cava bar? ¡Me gusta!

It was hugely busy, and after a wait (no reservations of course, it’s 2011!) we had a seat at the bar and a flute of cava. The front of house staff were fantastic; very well organised, friendly (and attractive), managing the crowd of hopeful arrivals with ease. Bill Granger could do worse than talk to José about his hiring policy.

My one concession to tapas was a portion of José’s famous ham croquettes, but they’d run out! I guess they’re pre-made in the afternoon or something. One glitch to watch out for, as they’ll be hugely popular. Also my pig cheeks in cava were missing from the menu.

I heard they’ll be doing charcuterie which is a good idea especially if one is waiting at the bar (maximise revenue from the queue!) but hopefully won't cannibalise José or distract from the goal of taking Spanish food beyond platters of ham and cheese.

Smoked salmon with beetroot salad and egg yolk was an interesting dish. Very fresh tasting and the yolk provided a luxurious richness to the salmon.

The butternut squash was stuffed with blue cheese and pomegranate seeds. Good dish, but the accompaniments provided more of the flavour than the squash itself. Once they ran out, it was a little hard going and dense. So this squash could do with some more friends.

pic doesn't do it justice but the squash was a big boy...

The quail with romesco sauce was fiddly, but extremely tasty. The quail was well cooked, and the romesco was nutty and crunchy (not smooth) with hints of garlic not overpowering the pine nuts. A bowl of that sauce and a loaf of bread would make me a happy man. Delicious.

Lamb with lentils was an ambiguous description of the first main. But we needn’t have worried about a solitary, starved lollipop: the dish was plentiful slices of tender, rare lamb, charred very nicely indeed. The lentils? Barely noticed them I'm afraid as the lamb was so damn good.

The pork (iberica speciale?) with olive oil mash and piquillo peppers was another strong dish. The pork was cooked medium rare (so London 2011) but in small strips so it wouldn’t be a problem for anyone of a nervous disposition, and tasted great. It reminded me of a more grown up, gastronomic version of my beloved pork escalope dish from holidays in Spain – usually with peppercorn sauce and chips!

The peppers were amazing, full of bold Spanish flavour. The mash and the pork itself were a tiny bit too oily however.

Desserts were a rice pudding with some sort of stewed fruits (rich but very good) and two scoops of the freshest, sweetest pear sorbet, swimming in a tumbler of cava. Amazing.

not for sharing!
I had a great time at Pizarro and I’m sure it’ll be hugely popular. Décor is modern, with a cool wooden ceiling, discreetly Iberian tiling and simple, modernist furniture. Toilets have Aesop products.Wine list is good but punchy (scant under £20), with plenty of carafes available. The crowd will no doubt be the usual luvvies and hipsters of Bermondsey Street.

With Zucca next door, it is in very esteemed company but will have no problems holding its own. The simplicity, value and freshness make it like a Spanish equivalent of Zucca, almost.

As with José up the street, Pizarro will no doubt be a great addition to what is already one of London’s most dynamic urban villages.

Food – 8/10 (weighty yet simple - could do with some salads or sides though)
Drink – 8/10
Service - 8/10
Value – 8/10 (ignoring the great 50% soft launch, starters are £6-8 and mains £13-16)
Tap water tales – 10/10 (filtered still and sparkling carafes brought for free!)  
Staff Hotness - 9/10
Pizarro  on Urbanspoon 
Square Meal

No comments:

Post a Comment