Before staying in Valencia this summer I had no idea how popular gin was in Spain. Served in copa glasses so big they were more like fishbowls, gin and tonics became a post-beach ritual alongside a long and lazy tapas dinner. Gin Mare Mediterranean gin means holiday memories can live on as they most certainly did when I was treated to a gastronomical gin and tapas pairing evening at Pizarro on bustly Bermondsey Street.
Knowing what I know now I am embarrassed to admit I hadn’t been to Jose or to their sister restaurant Pizarro before my Tuesday night visit. Bermondsey is a relatively new area of London for me but just a few days after a weekend outing to nearby Maltby Street Market my eyes were opened to the foodie haven tucked away in South London.
At owner and head chef Jose Pizzaro’s restaurant, modern Spanish interior meets trendy Bermondsey; think dark wood with painted blue and white tiles and a range of cosy booths, window seats and private dining at the back of the restaurant. Presented on arrival with ‘The Perfect G&T’ in the classic copa glass holiday memories came flooding back. The experts at Gin Mare have spent countless hours perfecting my favourite drink and have come to the conclusion that fresh mango and black pepper is the answer to compliment the savoury botanical flavours in the gin.
Our Spanish feast took place at a big round table in the private room. Attentively staffed we enjoyed endless plates of bruschetta, charcuterie and perfectly dressed green salads with culinary highlights like huge King prawns with Jamon dust and Pomada foam and the Bermondsey bomb; butifarra (sausage) heart, spiced tomato and rosemary allioli. Without a doubt my favourite dish was the Presa ibérica; perfectly rare acorn-fed pork, just charred on the outside. For this, Jose has gained himself a bit of a reputation, fondly described by Bloomberg’s chief food critic as more enjoyable than Wagyu beef. Praise indeed!
A great meal can only ever be great when washed down with the perfect accompaniments. The gin cocktails continued throughout, each one carefully matched up to Jose’s creations and when I saw red and white wine on the menu I knew it wouldn’t be exactly as it seemed; crème de cassis, tanic acid and darjeeling tea formed the perfect Spanish-tasting vino tinto.
Four drinks deep into the evening things were rounded off with their Gintónica – juniper sponge, olive powder, lemon and thyme sorbet and basil syrup and of course there is no food without gin so it was washed down with a creamy gin Alexander – the perfect end to a long and lively Spanish evening.
Although the pairing dinner was a one-off, the Gintónica and Gin Mare’s ‘Perfect G&T’ are now permanent fixtures on the menu.