Bermondsey Street SE1
Well, the soft opening is over. Yes, I know I failed to alert you to it, but really the place has been packed. Such is José Pizarro's hospitality that the guy's been working flat out trying not to disappoint anyone in the lead up to the formal opening this week. I don't think I would have been doing him any favours by putting more pressure on the kitchen. Anyway, Pizarro is now formally open, so get down to Bermondsey Street asap. Informal and welcoming, the place looks a picture with much burnished wood, beautiful Spanish tiling and soft lighting. You can take your pick of seating from cosy booths which could take as many as six slim people, tables for two or four, a long communal table and and a long table against the window facing the street. At the back of the restaurant there's what I'd describe as a family table (pictured below) complete with shuttered window and lit by a chandelier. Then there's the long inviting cava bar, running from the entrance to the open kitchen. I'd say some 60 covers in all. There's a private room too.
Despite the fact there was little room for improvement with the meal, it was striking how focused Jose and his staff were on getting feedback so that they could do better. We left extremely well-fed and happy, but I've learned to eat at a restaurant at least twice before passing judgment so here is how my second visit went.
|Pizarro plating |
The daily-changing menu offers a plate of Manuel Maldonado Jamon Iberico, at £20 the most expensive dish on the menu (with reason). Small dishes priced between £5.50 and £7.50 include Artichoke soup with truffle oil, and a choice of either crispy ham or manchego cheese; Butternut squash, Cabrales cheese and almonds; Duck livers, capers and fino; Prawns, cecina, chilli and garlic. I have to check those Ham croquetas again - lovely flavoursome soft yielding inner and crunchy outer; and the marriage of Boquerones, red peppers and olives ticks the boxes of both delicious and virtuous. Mains are priced between £12-15 and are large. With our glasses of house red Jumilla (spicy and good), a Seabream dish comes as two beautifully cooked crispy-skinned fillets on a bed of fried potatoes. Any oiliness is cut by a hot, sweet Vizcaina sauce (of onions, choriceros peppers and fish stock which comes from the Spanish Basque country, I think) and a few capers. Pink-roasted Lamb comes on a bed of lentils and radicchio. The piquancy and looseness of the lentil mix is a nice twist on the dish served to me a week ago. We could have chosen Hake, black cabbage and clams; Secreto Iberico pork (a cut between the shoulder and loin), olive oil mash and piquillo peppers; or a dish of baked Manchego cheese canelones, silver chard and pine nuts.
Watching so many plates of Chocolate, toast and caramel ice cream being lovingly prepared, I think I know what to expect. We share one. A thin slice of crisply-toasted bread is topped with a scoop of chocolate mousse and another of caramel ice cream - a tiny pinch of salt on which is not forgotten. There's a a scattering of what looks like grated chocolate but turns out to be chocolate breadcrumbs. Lovely flavours and textures. A couple of good cafe cortados set us up for the walk home with a bill of less than £70 (excl service) for two.
Service is excellent from an attentive and already pretty cohesive team and, despite the pressures of the kitchen, the chefs are enthusiastic and communicative. The only problem now is choosing between Josẽ, just a few doors down, and Pizarro. Choices, choices.
194 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3TQ