Jose, the first of Jose Pizarro’s two Bermondsey restaurants, opened in May 2011 and is yet another small, no bookings place (groan). Since that is where so much of the exciting, best value food is to be had at the mo, I sighed and sucked it up. Or rather, I found a sneaky way to get round it, by going at midday on a Sunday – we were the first ones in the door. 40 minutes later it was full with a queue…
The venue itself is perfectly pitched to the after work, often creative crowd in the area: pretty pared down, only bar/counter/stool-based seating with some barrels serving as occasional tables. The lack of comfy seating doesn’t encourage lingering, which I suppose is fair enough given that it’s tapas, but given the quality of the cooking itself, some might prefer a cosier atmosphere in which to enjoy it. Having said that, service was very attentive, meaning that dishes were served in succession and potential plate pile-ups were avoided.
Now for the food. Moreish, indulgent plates ranged from elegant to in your face (in the best way possible). Braised lamb shoulder with white beans was gutsy and warming on a freezing day, ham and blue cheese croquetas melty and salty and well-balanced, charred squid with chilli, aioli and capers a punchy standout dish I would go back for again and again. Tortilla was squidgy perfection and an unusual chocolate tart finished with salt and olive oil rounded things off nicely.
Dishes are very well priced, and entry level wines and sherries by the glass equally affordable. Our bill came to about 70 for two, but that included a greedy seven or eight dishes and several sherries, you wouldn’t need to spend anything like that to eat and drink well. As for the ultimate test of whether I would spend my own money there? For sure. Another raging success story for Jose… but then you knew that, didn’t you?
by Jenny Goss