Pizarro Wows Again on Bermondsey Street

I seldom make it to soft-openings, too unorganised to secure a booking, and that’s assuming I’ve even managed to remember the dates.

But José Pizarro‘s new restaurant doesn’t take bookings. So my plan to be there just before its noon opening time for Friday lunch pays off.

Pizarro is just a few hundred metres down from the hugely popular sherry and tapas bar José opened earlier this year. The simple, delicious dishes there wowed my taste buds but I found the stools awkward with my bad back and hips, and standing equally uncomfortable.

Pizarro is not only a lot more spacious, it has a range of comfortable seating options from bar stools to banquettes, from long tables with benches to tables and chairs.

Arriving so early means we have the pick of the place, and José leads us towards a table for two right by the kitchen pass. Throughout our meal we enjoy watching José and his team assemble our dishes, before elegant staff dressed all in black whip them away to the diners.

Menus in hand, we’re served crunchy salted radishes in a peppery olive oil with a slice of bread each to dip into the oil.

There is much to appeal and we have plenty of time, so we start by ordering ham croquetas (£6) and prawns, serrano ham, chilli, garlic (£7).

It’s hard to convey just how good these hot balls are; crisp coating surrounds a shockingly creamy cheese filling with tiny chunks of ham, so soft that they melt away in the mouth. My only niggle here is that I’d like just a tiny bit more ham… the pieces in these are few and far between, though they still don’t last long!

As I’m a chilli wuss, I’m very happy that the prawns pack more of a garlic hit than a chilli one. The tails are partially peeled, meaning I can simply pull of the head (and have a good suck, oh yes!), and then use the tail as a handle to eat the prawn. Perfectly cooked with lots of flavour. I confess I’m bemused by the menu pairing of prawns and ham until I try it; the salty ham is a wonderful balance to the sweet garlicky prawns.

The description of butternut squash, goat’s blue cheese, almonds (£6.50) doesn’t do this beautiful warm salad justice. What arrives is half a partially-hollowed baby squash which is used as a bowl for a salad of chunks of squash, leaves, cheese, and almonds with a simple tasty dressing and pomegranate seeds for both beauty and sweet tart bursts of flavour. I think it’s fair to say I’m surprised by how much we both love this dish.

After three shared starters, we’re ready to order mains.

Manchego canelones, silver chard, pine nuts £12) needs our waitress’ input to inform us that canelones is pasta. It’s not until the dish comes that I twig it’s the Spanish version of Italian cannelloni – large pasta tubes. These are filled with silver chard and pine nuts in a creamy cheesy sauce. A simple, comforting and filling dish.

Our other main is the secreto Ibérico, olive oil mash, piquillo peppers (£15.50). The presentation of this dish verges much farther towards the rustic than the rest of what we’ve been served; it’s not the most attractive plate, visually. But the pork has a great depth of flavour and the lightly browned fat gives it some extra texture. To my surprise, the flavour is very bacon-like, though I don’t think the meat has been cured at all. The mash does little for me, personally. The peppers give a little sweetness and colour to the dish.

Click to open Bellota Importers secreto fact sheet

Incidentally, whilst the waitress advises that secreto is a cut of pork, it’s not until I get home and Google that I’m able to find out about the actual cut – and as is often the case, it doesn’t translate to how the British butcher their pigs. I think it’s similar to what we call skirt in beef, and is described by Bellota Importers as hidden between the shoulder, ribs and fatback.

Ibérico pork, if you’ve not come across it before, comes from the famous black pigs of the Ibérian peninsula. The pigs live freely in wooded pastureland that has four different varieties of oak trees, providing lots of acorns for the pigs to eat. These, and the breed’s natural propensity to accumulate fat under its skin, give the meat it’s distinctive taste.

After three starters and two mains, we’re slowing down! We order just one dessert to share, the chocolate, toast, caramel ice cream (£6). Soft rich chocolate mousse is served on crunchy toast with a light caramel ice cream on the side. Sea salt lifts the mousse and caramelised sugar lifts the ice cream. I love the texture of the toast against the soft mousse and ice cream, though a knife would have made it easier to cut through the hard crust.

Another thing I should mention, though I’m not a big drinker, is the reasonably priced drinks menu. Between us we enjoy a glass of Cava and one of Pedro Ximinez (can you guess which one is mine?), both very reasonably priced at £4.50. Often it’s the drinks that ratchet up the prices but you can certainly stick to a budget here, should you choose.

A small carafe of still water, left on the table for our convenience, is regularly and unobtrusively topped up by friendly waiters.

José Pizarro serves up food that is simple yet delicious, allowing the flavours of very good quality ingredients to speak for themselves, in a way that only the best chefs have the confidence to do.

Personally, I’m wowed more by the starters and dessert than the mains, and next time I visit I’ll likely order a larger selection of those to share, skipping the mains entirely.

As well as watching the kitchen team at work, we sit and linger as other guests arrive and leave again. There’s a huge buzz to the place that’s very uplifting.

Go, eat well, relax and enjoy!

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12 Comments to "Pizarro Wows Again on Bermondsey Street"

  1. Craig

    Haven't been to either of Jose's places yet and loving the sound of them.

    The secreto Iberico and piquillo peppers sounds just my sort of thing and the dessert looks delicious.

    Where would you place it amongst Spanish restaurants in London?



  2. Kavey

    Wen, yeah we really enjoyed it… even on a weekday lunchtime, it was buzzing. Some of that was soft-opening offer/ excitement but I'd bet it remains like that now soft-opening is over!

    Laura, wish Bermondsey Street wasn't such a trek from nearest two tube stations, or I'd certainly visit more often… lots of great places there.

    Craig, I can't claim lots of experience. I used to be a regular at El Parador in Mornington Crescent area for several years. I liked it a lot but find Jose and Pizarro both a little braver and better showcase of truly excellent ingredients.

  3. karohemd

    Right, something else I need to put on my list. I love Iberican food and the tapas offers in Cambridge are rather boring.

  4. Ren Behan

    Ooh, all of it looks delicious. I do love Spanish food and am so pleased it is starting to hold its own on the London restaurant scene. Great pics too 🙂

  5. The Grubworm

    Oooh, nice looking place. I'm particularly taken with that salad, it looks ace and is giving me ideas for a veggie alternative to Xmas dinner.

    I really like the sound of the pork too. I tend to head towards rustic dishes anyway, and I'm not sure I've ever eaten cooked Iberico pork before.

  6. Kavey

    Karohemd, do let me know how it compares to your Cambridge places…

    Ren, it's fabulous food, my pics are awful, best to check out photos on Paul Winch-Furness' website, much better and show the food and restaurant off properly…

    Kay, hope you enjoy!

    Aaron, yes very beautiful salad, looked so festive too. The pork tasted great, though I'd have liked more pink in it, I think.

    Nick, yes the orange chunks are soft roasted pieces of squash…

  7. muskrat

    Mmmm! Your hamper has started my mouth watering! It looks delicious. And I found the write up very interesting. I am a lover of Mediterranean food – especially Spanish! I think we need more Spanish restaurants in Britain, too! Thanks for a great giveaway!


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