I have already experienced Jose Pizarro's culinary expertise at his lovely little tapas bar ‘Jose’ on Bermondsey Street . A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to return to his magical world of Spanish food to try his newest venture, ‘Pizarro’, just down the road from his first restaurant. It is named not after him, but after his grandfather who had a bar called Pizarro in Talaván, Jose dedicates the restaurant to his memory.
With this sit-down establishment, the chef intends to offer the same style of authentic, delicious Spanish food but in a more formal setting. Much like ‘Jose’ the cuisine still encourages sharing but with larger more substantial dishes to share. Long communal tables, and picturesque window spaces seat forty, it is rustic yet a stylish place to dine.
Jose adores sherries and cavas, the wine list is made up of only the best, carefully sourced and selected. I had a glass of delicious crisp white wine which complemented the meal perfectly.
The menu is short and sweet as it should be, a variety of Spanish recipes using the freshest seasonal ingredients. As ever Jose's dishes are composed perfectly, without too much bread or carbohydrate; his food is substantial and hearty without being too filling. We were first given bite-size pieces of hard cauliflower dressed in simple but delicious olive oil and crunchy sea salt.
To start we ordered a few of the smaller tapas sized portions. A plate of Jamon Iberico Manuel Maldonado, the most special and extravagant Spanish meat you could ever hope to try; Quail which was absolutely divine, a lovely little bird cooked so it was crispy on the outside and soft and fleshy inside. It was served with Romesco, a classic Spanish sauce, a sort of thick orange paste with a vibrant flavour, made from roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic and tomatoes. I wasn’t as keen on the Duck livers with capers and fino (the driest and palest traditional variety of sherry); although the flavour was rich and sensual I found the meat too slippery, and visually the dish wasn’t very attractive.
Iberico pork cheeks with olive oil mash was the most luxurious dish: the meat was rich and melted in the mouth from lengthy cooking in heavenly wine and juices. Paired with magically unique mash, it was irresistible. The lamb with lentils and radicchio was my favourite though, intensely flavoured meat still slightly pink in the middle with a caramelised crispy edge, the addition of fresh chicory-like radicchio and lentils made it the perfect dish.
The desserts are inventive and creative, we chose the pear sorbet with cava and the chocolate toast with hazelnut ice cream. The glass of floating sorbet in fizzy liquid looked like a quizzical experiment, it was refreshing, if a little bizarre, a sweet soup with fun straws poking out the top. It would be a lovely light summer pudding. The crunchy and smooth, sweet and salty chocolate ensemble was a treat: soft dark chocolate mousse served on toast, a dollop of ice-cream with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of rock salt, it was an interesting mix of tastes and textures.
When I asked the modest chef what was next he replied, "nothing, I have all I ever imagined and wanted", now he deserves some time just to stand back and enjoy his two exceptional restaurants. Jose Pizarro brings better Spanish food to London than any other, he should be very proud.
Restaurant: Mon-Fri 12 – 3 for lunch, 6 – 11 for dinner. Sat 12-11. Sun 12-10.
Bar open all day.
194 Bermondsey Street
No reservations, except for the private room. Visit the Jose Pizarro website here.