What: Desayuna mucho, come más, cena poco y vivirás – no, The Handbook hasn’t turned Spanish, but has instead visited Pizarro, a restaurant by the man, the myth, the legend José Pizarro, and now we can’t get all things España out of our minds. The restaurant opened in 2011, and has since become a Bermondsey staple, named after José’s grandpops and is now one of three, sitting snug between first venture José Tapas Bar and a 2015 opening in Broadgate Circle.
That intro phrase translates, roughly: eat a big breakfast, have a bigger lunch, have a light dinner and you will live a long life! However, sometimes a big dinner is much needed too and a trip to Pizarro is definitely that week-day one off.
The Setting: Neatly positioned in Bermondsey amongst various post-work watering holes and a wander across the road from St Mary Magdalen church and a block away from sherry and tapas bar (and big sister) José. It actually had a quaint feel to it, like a rural escape despite being submerged in the happenings of the city.
The Look: Rustic, with wood stretching throughout the restaurant. There’s a real glow adorning the restaurant with staple wall hangings that ooze colours that conjure up images of cosy Spanish homes and sleepy rural villages. Cabinets clad with wine bottles red, white and rose sit wholesomely across the space, and tiles synonymous to Spain line private dining room areas and wrap around cosily lit seating areas. The jovial banter of an open kitchen can be heard in whispers over sizzling and chopping and exposed brickwork pulls together the main seating area.
Credit Photo: Paul Winch-Furness / www.paulwf.co.uk
On the Menu: A simple Spanish menu, easy-on-the-eye, and not too obtrusive with dish choices. The menu features a series of small plates for sharing in sections ‘pica pica’ – the foodie aperitifs – then starters, mains and sides. The intricate selection doesn’t take away from the quality of the choices; there’s tapas for sharing, meat options, cold cuts, cheese, fish options and bits ‘n bobs synonymous to Spain. It’s eclectic and exciting.
What We Ate: I let our waitress take the helm and she kindly talked us through the menu, her mouth curling into a smile when she touched on certain dishes (so I knew these would be the ones to order). We began with the Pica Pica section and went for Padrón peppers with sea salt and the Croquetas, which I’d heard on the Spanish cuisine grapevine to be a big hit. The Padrón peppers and their smatterings of sea salt worked wonders on the palette, and the croquetas burst with creamy potato.
For the starter, we tried Salmorejo which is a cold tomato soup with strawberry, anchovy and pickled onion. The combo of tomato soup and strawberry was a slight confusion to the taste buds and whilst my friend adored the flavour fusion, I feel it’s an acquired taste. I would highly suggest trying it though as it’s a bit of a marmite style opinion divider. We also had Red Camarón – prawns and English peas – it was so delicious. The peas were fresh and, as our waitress informed us, were popped out of their pods every morning with staff one and all mucking in and lending a hand. I liked this image of communal cooking, and additionally I really do think Pizarro boasts a family vibe between smiley staff members.
On to the star of the show – the Presa Ibérica to share, which is 100% acorn fed Ibérico pork. Deservedly served to us on a platter showcasing the dish in all its glory, we crunched on carrots and enjoyed seasoned potatoes. For the lesser informed the pork comes from the Iberian pig, native to the Iberian Peninsula. The cut was delivered to us medium rare which I enjoyed, succulent and salty in flavour and cooked oh, so well. To compliment the dish we enjoyed a cauliflower Russian salad mixed up with pimentón de piquillo and gordal olives, taking the appearance of a classy potato salad and exuding an eclectic taste that wasn’t intense on the cream.
Patting our bellies and doing the old chair lean back, it was without question that we were full to the brim. However, what with the tremendous nature of my job, I knew it was dessert time. I’ve been struggling with my sweet tooth as of late, so I opted for a small option of blood orange sorbet which was sweet, slightly bitty but in a nice way and very, very refreshing. Other desserts which, in hindsight, I wish I’d have tried, include a chocolate pot with olive oil, salt and a gin mare biscuit, a Pizarro cheese selection and cream cheese ice cream.
What We Drank: We didn’t go crazy, you know sometimes you just get those evenings where a glass of wine will suffice. My friend enjoyed a refreshing lemonade in a balloon glass, as recommended by our waitress and I opted for a 125ml glass of 2017 Las Fincas Chivite, Navarra, Garnacha, Tempranillo rose (or Rosado, if you will). To accompany the pork, I let Katalin surprise me with a red Majorcan wine accompaniment. Boy, did she hit the nail on the head.
Go With: Someone who likes to feast, or a group of friends – the larger dining area is full of personality.
Credit Photo: Paul Winch-Furness / www.paulwf.co.uk
Where: 194 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ, www.josepizarro.com
Final Word: ¡Salud! to our smiley and attentive waitress Katalin, who, despite having a wholesome section of tables under her thumb, managed to give us her undivided attention and suggestion when it came to the cuisine and drinks. She was a delight, as were all the staff.