The Better Half (TBH) and I have some much needed time off and as we have been away for the last two Christmases, we have decided to stay in London this year. So what better way to spend this time than to eat our way through the restaurants on my bucket list that don't take reservations. As TBH and I both work full time, this will probably be the only time we'd be able to do this.
First stop, José. The first tapas and sherry bar from José Pizarro, formerly of Brindisa in Borough Market, once described as the best tapas bar in Britain by The Independent Newspaper.
The restaurant is located on a corner of Bermondsey Street and as soon as you step in, you forget that you're in South London. It is tiny, but perfectly formed. Authentic Spanish tiles line the walls, wine barrels used as tables and huge legs of Jamon hanging from the ceiling. I've heard that the restaurant gets really busy and there is often a queue to get in, so we arrived early and managed to bag a very cosy spot in a corner by the window.
We were offered complimentary still or sparkling water (nice touch!) and our very friendly waiter, Jack, took us through the different types of sherries on the menu. TBH wasn't brave enough to try any as his only experience of sherry is of the infamous South African brand 'Sedgwick Old Brown Sherry', that is more cough syrup than enjoyable drink! I went for a very nice Manzanilla Classica (£8). I don't know enough about sherry to comment too much, but it was light and went well with all the food we ate. I enjoyed my first foray into the world of sherries and will definitely be having it again.
The menu is chalked up on a blackboard above the bar. It is succinct, so easy to work our way through most of what was on there. We started off with Padron Peppers (£4). The fun in eating these is that you never know when you're going to bite into one that will blow your socks off with that chilli heat! Fortunately, ours were just nicely charred, nicely salted little green peppers.
We also had a very generous portion of Jamon Iberico (£9). Nutty from the acorns that the Iberico pigs are fed on, the fat melting in your mouth. Then, a Tortilla (£4). Lovely big chunks of potato and onions and eggs cooked just right.
Our next round consisted of Croquetas (£6) that were so good that we ordered them twice! They were golden and crunchy on the outside, but creamy and goo'ey on the inside with a hint of smokiness. I initially thought it had a smoked cheese inside, but one of the waiters told me it was made with a beschamel sauce and cod!
We also had Piri-Piri prawns (£7.50), a firm favourite for us if cooked well. And this was. Again, so delicious we ordered it twice! The waiter advised us to order some bread (£5 - expensive for 4 slices!) to mop up the sauce and that was probably the best advice we got all day! Garlic + Piri-piri + prawns = perfection! The Chorizo al vino (£6) was another winner for me, slow cooked and beautifully tender.
There were a couple of plates that weren't as successful though. Iberico pork cheeks (£9), well cooked but lacked seasoning and a little bland. Interestingly, both our waiters said this was their favourite dish, so maybe it was just an off day. Razor clams with chorizo (£7), for both TBH and I a dish that we've never tried and I'm not sure we'll have again. The sauce it came in was tasty, but it just wasn't for us.
In total the bill came to £87.10, which included 2 glasses of sherry and two beers. They don't accept service paid by card, but fortunately we had some cash with us and were able to give that straight to the waiters.
I've said before how much I love sharing food and this little tapas bar on a side street in South London is my idea of heaven!
Until we eat again!
104 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB