Sunday 4 December 2011

Pizarro, Bermondsey Street

I fell completely in love with the informal tapas bar, Jose, that Jose Pizarro first opened. Small and bustling, it was sweaty and uncomfortable at high summer, standing at the bar nibbling on things and necking sherry. It was busy and frantic but they served the best goddamn prawns I've eaten.

Mere months later, Pizarro has opened on the same street. Same man, but actual tables and chairs for you to eat at. We visited on the last day of the soft opening, and 5 minutes before opening time there was already a small crowd of people formed.

The menu was split off into starters and mains, but we're greedy so we ordered a selection to share. The boquerones with black olives and roasted red peppers came with an unadvertised vivid soft boiled egg - my opening picture has not been doctored - perched upon a slice of toast. This was oustanding, the richness of the egg binding the slightly vinagered anchovy with the red pepper. It was a classic example of a simple dish made great by well sourced ingredients.

Ham croquetas were just as they are at Jose - SEXY. How does he make them? The slightest suggestion of pressure reduced them to a creamy puddle in your mouth / plate, while still retaining crunch on the outside. The man is a genius.

Quail with Romesco sauce arrived with its legs crossed looking like it was dying for a wee. It could have benefited from a crisper skin, but nevertheless the tiny bird was juicy and well seasoned. The Romesco sauce was nutty and suitably chunky.

I don't often see cauliflower as a main ingredient on menus, which is what prompted us to order this. I think the florets were lightly pickled and it worked well with sprigs of thyme, chard and a goaty soft cheese. The walnuts were intensely flavoured and brought a richness to the dish. I imagine this would work just as well with beetroot.

These prawns were the best I'd had when I was at Jose, and this time round they were fancified with a few slivers of Serrano ham. I'd have preferred the prawns a little more drenched in garlic butter or oil but then that thought was banished as the fatty ham also brought out the sweetness of the prawns. Dark reddish brown head juices oozed out and were sucked greedily out for extra intensity. Thus ended our procession of starters.

The Secreto Iberico (pork fillet) was mildly disappointing when it was brought out. Strips of pork cooked through were splayed on a mound of olive oil mash. While it was certainly enjoyable, especially the fatty bits, I was expecting swathes of meat cooked to medium like the pluma Iberico is served at Jose. Perhaps I've been spoilt but had I paid full price at £15.50 I'd have probably got a sulk on.

Hake with black cabbage and clams was also disappointing as only three clams, one of which was closed, were in the dish. The fish could have done with less cooking but the new potatoes that came in the sauce were sweet and flavoursome.

Onto desserts, our pear sorbet in Cava had us in raptures. A single thread of saffron bobbed about in the liquid and as we slurped up the contents, flavours ranged from apricot to peach and finally turned into a pear slush puppy.

Chocolate with caramel ice cream and toast was similarly gorgeous and we amused ourselves with making ice cream sandwiches. The olive oil drizzled about the plate gave it an extra dimension, though we remarked that if the size of the smaller ice cream ball and the chocolate ball were to be switched it would be ideal; that chocolate is serious.

The room itself was packed to the brim with people waiting in the bar area when we left, though it never sounded noisy at any time. A nice bustle and warmth came from the open bar and Jose Pizarro himself, known for frequently being present at Jose, was there asking us if our food was ok. Though not everything was perfect, they were in soft opening and I am looking forward to visiting again when they reach their stride.


194 Bermondsey Street,
London, SE1 3TQ

Opening Times: Restaurant 12 – 3 p.m. then 6 – 11 p.m. Bar open all day

No reservations


Gavin said...

I was lucky enough to visit last Mon with DWDH. Enjoyed it a lot. Great addition to SE1.

Lizzie, are you a fan of the 'No reservations' policy. Can see why in the original bar but in a 'proper' restaurant? Not sure if I can see any advantages (apart from saving on admin).

Hollow Legs said...

Gavin - I'm sad I missed DWDH. I like the no reservations as it means if you decide to go for a dinner on the whim there are options. Not so good for special celebrations though.

tehbus said...

Sad that your iberico was cooked through as mine was definitely pink and extremely delicious. Never the biggest fan of Spanish food, but I love Pizarro.

Hollow Legs said...

Tehbus - I just saw yours! Goddammnit that looks tasty. Looks like I'll just have to go again... Interesting that Spanish isn't a favourite of yours, what with all that pork n' all ;)