Mike heads down Bermondsey way to check out how Pizarro is doing these days. Turns out it’s doing very well indeed.
Just south east of London Bridge station, Bermondsey enjoys a relaxed neighbourhood vibe. It’s date night with my wife Jayne and we walk almost the full length of Bermondsey street looking out for Pizarro restaurant.
The road is alive with laidback bars and eateries. Each trying to pull us in with their refreshment possibilities and almost succeeding, if we didn’t have a table booked.
We pass Jose’s, a tiny corner tapas bar with only twelve seats, all of them full and standing punters spilling out onto the street. This is where chef Jose Pizarro began to feed the grateful people of SE1 with Pinchos and Sherry. It’s clearly still popular but we must pass by in order to find his next venture a few steps down the street.
The name above the door, Pizarro, is in honour of his grandfather’s bar of the same name in TalavÃƒÂ¡n, western Spain. We wait by the long bar surveying the busy interior, Seated at the large front windows people socialize and sample the selection of sherries and spanish wines. We are led towards the darker rear of the restaurant with more formal hardwood seating and leather banquettes.
There’s a quality feel to everything as we take our seats at a small but solid table for two near the warm glare of the open kitchen lighting reflecting off stainless extract hoods. The cutlery is weighty and the linen thick. Big bowled thin walled wine glasses hint at a quality wines. All very promising.
Our waitress Katalin runs us through the menu which caters for all appetites from’Pica Pica’ tapas bites to the sharing challenge of Presa IbÃƒÂ©rica 100% acorn fed pork, but it’s the Negroni Espanol which catches my eye for now as we will need a drink while we choose.
Fifteen year old Glenfiddich mixes well with PX sherry, campari and pear and they mature it in an old sherry barrel on the bar, I love it and Jayne loves her impressively iced Cava Aperol spritz with Rimarts 18 cava, soda and orange.
Obviously we have to have Pan con tomate to give us that instant taste of Spain, the other staple Croquetas is a must too. Here they vary in recipe for variety; today’s being Cod, although the fish is barely discernable amid the delicious creamy mash.
I have to ask the manager, Wade, about the Bermondsey Bomba and he tells us it is inspired by the classic Catalan tapas: La Bomba de la Barceloneta, with Jose’s spin of a rich minced beef, more mashed potato and tomatoes, it’s marvellous with an incendiary kick of spice in the centre.
We order a bottle of powerful JosÃƒÂ© Pizarro Syrah CuvÃƒÂ©e to wash down the’Pica Pica’ as we worry about getting to full too quickly. We try to stop nibbling the bread as we wait for the starters but it’s not easy.
Jayne receives subtly smoked sardines with delicate ajo blanco almond cream and grapes while I can’t resist some pulpo, having been reassured by the quality of the tapas. My guess is that the octopus would be quality too Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not tough as is often served up to us in the uk.
It’s firm and yielding and not in the least bit chewy so I’m not wrong. The nice fat portion of tentacle sits on top of soft rich butifarra negra blood sausage bathed in squid ink sauce with confit garlic, unusual and quite a treat.
Jayne is a firm fish fan, so it’s the Monkfish a la plancha with sautÃƒÂ©ed courgette and squash blossom for her, but I face I dilemma. I want to try the Presa IbÃƒÂ©rica 100% acorn fed pork which is served rare, something rare indeed, but it’s part of the sharing dishes so I ask Katalin if she can arrange for a smaller portion.
She checks with chef and all is well, but upon arrival, it’s still a challengingly generous portion size but so tasty, salty and tender that I have to get my head down as I’m determined to finish – there’s no hurry.
Jayne has finished enjoying her Monkfish well before I carve up the last circular slice of pork, but I get there, even if slightly salt saturated. Sweetness is needed. We rest briefly, then select a couple of sumptuous desserts; My Leche Fritta with honey, cinnamon and pine nut ice cream is just right and Jayne is visibly excited by her Chocolate pot Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the dark brown contents drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and with a gin mare biscuit protruding from it.
I have to try it of course and it’s such a soft smooth but firm goo of chocolaty chocolate that I scrape the bowl clean after Jayne gives up on account of slight discomfort from her growing food baby.
Pizarro exudes quality throughout from dÃƒÂ©cor to plate but also manages to be friendly and relaxed. We’ve had a lovely date but it’s going to be such a long waddle back up Bermondsey Street to the station – I wish Uber did sedan chairs.