104 Bermondsey Street, London United Kingdom SE1 3UB - 020 7403 4902      

I am a big fan of tapas. Ten minutes stumble away from Las Ramblas there is a fabulous spot crammed with more people than there are wine glasses, they stand and some of the lucky ones perch at the bar and all gobble up freshly hacked octopus flash fried with garlic and chilli whilst others lose themselves in the slithers of acorn fed cured pig legs of which decorate the corners of the bar. On side streets of Valencia I fondly remember a refuge we found from too many sun kissed days at a beachside music festival, we nursed ourselves back to better versions of ourselves with every delicious thing you could imagine on a tail of bread. Every mouthful revived our senses, pickled fish speared through a red pepper pillow, fat laced ham and irregular triangles of bold cheese. In my opinion remarkable yet seemingly simple food paves the way  for a great tapas joint, with service and ambience that should be efficient but relaxed. José Pizarro does just that. With his latest venture he channels his food through pure passion and captures the bustling traditional tapas bar atmosphere perfectly bringing something special to a little corner in Bermondsey.

Instinctively when entering any bar, restaurant or even the tube I scan for a free seat, I admit this is a very lazy force of habit. Anyway at José’s, this primal London instinct is futile. Come by anytime after six and be prepared to stand for the entirety of your stay, honestly said without a grumble. As although we managed to nab one seat we discarded it after fifteen minutes. Excuse being we were getting too far into the delicious plates and losing ourselves in conversation and ahem aptly chosen wine.

Although the menu is succinct the problem lies in every option being described so seductively making narrowing down the options impossible. Instead we turned to our barman/waiter and with a smile he navigated us through the menu and wine list. Some staggered moments later we chowed into the following, kicking off with...

Caramelized chicory, walnuts, Picos blue cheese

Pisto and crispy duck egg

One of my favourite leaves; chicory.  Elegantly shaped but robust in flavour, good at every stage between raw and almost cooked, it's got a lot going for it. Especially when muddled with Picos blue, sweet pomegrante beads and competing with the crunch of the caramelised wlanuts.  The second dish to arrive was the fried duck egg with a perfect molten vermillion middle, which also proved to be a versatile dipping sauce.

Lightly battered hake with aioli
The hake arrived just in time for a glorious first dunk into the rich yolk, the coating balanced the flavours and eased the palette into the sweet segmented flesh. Double dunked in it's alioli companion worked like a gluttons condiment dream. All this indulging was nothing compared to the simple pleasure yet to come.

Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado

A plate of cured meats completes any tapas selection, we went with Jamon Iberico which was melt in your mouth perfection!

Ready and raring for a quick sear and season...
Delectable cut of beef slithers

I fear in-between the excitement of ordering and sporadically eating, I shamefully forgot to note the part of the beast to which I owe the pleasure. Whatever cut it was it was explained to us that it was so delectable it needed nothing but the punctual sizzle of the griddle and a sprinkling of sea salt before it hits the plate. Barely sealed on the outside but it was truly all it needed, simple preparation to tease out the wholesome natural flavour of the meat. So savoury, so satisfying.

I was charmed by José's. For a couple of hours I was spoilt with the best of Spain right infront of me; tapas and wine as I remember fondly from holidays gone by but with much better service. With news of another fresh addition but this time paired with some upmarket bubbles, it seems there is no stopping the Pizarro magic. I can't wait to prop myself up at the bar once more.

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