On typing 'Jose, Bermonsey Street' into Google a long list of glowing reviews appeared, so to say expectations were high is an understatement. Having visited London Bridge the previous night I began to understand the area better and was excited to explore the foodie scene here.
I love corner shops and have always desired one myself, so the tiny detail of Jose being located on a Bermondsey Street corner delighted me. Everyone natters away in Spanish, the atmosphere is truly lovely and echoes the casual eating style of Spain and the Med. A tiny place, stools cover every inch of floor and there are always diners hovering eyeing up the tempting array of fresh fish and meat presented on the front counter.
Jose Pizarro is unlike the chef stereotype: he is gentle, friendly and relaxed, he cooks and tours around his restaurant chatting. He was a Chef Partner at the hugely popular Tapas Brindisa in London's Borough Market and in 2008 opened two tapas restaurants, in Soho and South Kensington, both to critical acclaim.
Lucky for me, Jose was in the kitchen when I visited on a Tuesday lunchtime and he took time out to talk about and explain the food to me, personally choosing a menu of his best dishes for me to try. The knowledgeable waitress then paired the plates with exemplary wine choices, including sherry to start and dessert wine to finish. It is a very genuine environment, with an authentic Spanish tapas bar feel, a simple concept which Jose Pizarro mentioned had always been his dream to create, and boy, has he succeeded.
While waiting for my friend, I was treated to some spiced broad beans, dangerously moreish and served in a cute jar. The food that followed was exceptional, absolutely delicious and made with care and devotion. Jose chose everything for us, explaining the dish's origin, the region of Spain it hails from and his personal take on the flavours and style of traditional tapas. We were treated first to finely sliced deep red Iberico ham, oily and rich in flavour it matched the accompanying dry wine perfectly.
Specials are written daily on the board featuring the freshest seasonal produce and unique recipes. We were treated to the delectable Scottish razor clams with chorizo, so fresh and beautifully presented that I couldn't help but try a tiny mouthful despite my serious fish dislike.
Then came juicy prawns with chilli and garlic followed by pork meatballs served in a sweet tomato sauce and a rich, spicy chorizo and lentils dish. The Iberico pork fillet was the finest meat with a smoky taste and a little kick of spice. For the heavier main dishes we tasted the Iberico pork cheeks with sweet potato mash, and intense and delicious beef fillet and onion cheese on toast.
The array of wines is impressive, the selection chosen for us was expert. The 2006 Cal Pla red worked well with the red meat dishes, while the light fruity white 2010 Castel de Bouza Albarino matched the delicate seafood. After an absolute feast, we gorged on the simple Chocolate mousse, smooth and airy, creamy but not too rich, and were made thankfully strong lattes.
Bermondsey Street is a hidden gem. A nearby antiques market is temptingly signposted and many nice pubs and shops surround the restaurant, among my favourite finds were a couture collar shop for your precious pets, and a best of British gift shop. Irritatingly the new White Cube Gallery round the corner was closed when I visited Jose, so I couldn't tick that off my blogging to do list just yet.
In a thriving city where lovely restaurants are plentiful, I am always on the look out for those rarer independent eateries that go above and beyond, Jose is one such restaurant... undeniably exceptional food, and unforgettable character, it is a memorable outing especially if you meet the great chef himself.
Visit the Jose website here for more information.