Each of José Pizarro’s restaurants has a distinct personality. For José, the bustling tapas bar on Bermondsey Street, it’s an informal one – people knock elbows as they scan chalk boards of always delicious, carefully presented dishes. At Pizarro, down the road, a slightly quieter, more refined character is revealed through elegant tasting menus that change frequently. And, finally, at the newest of the chef’s restaurants in Broadgate Circle, both dispositions combine.
We visited on a Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t busy – the location is perhaps suited more to city workers and so, come the weekend, it’s bound to be slightly less populated. It has both a traditional-looking tapas counter and a selection of tables, so the dining experience is really in your hands. We sat down, opting for a more formal ambiance.
The menu is split into tapas and larger dishes, which can either be shared or ordered as individual mains. Some old favourites, fondly remembered from the Bermondsey restaurants, remain on the menu – Ibérico presa, chorizo meatballs and chicken livers among them.
We began with fritters which were liberally stuffed with sweet, miniature shrimp and peppers. They came with aioli but, honestly, worked just as well alone. Then there were the crab croquetas – we were lucky enough to secure the last portion of these to be served that day – and the exceptional rose-red and milk-white jamon Ibérico, which came simply and invitingly fanned.
The octopus too stood out; the generous slices were drenched in the restaurant’s rich olive oil and, in line with tradition, dusted with paprika. The potatoes on the side of this dish didn’t add much, except to our impending fullness, which we were trying to stave off for fear of losing our appetite before the lamb main arrived.
We ordered only one of these (two being far too ambitious after the tapas) but we’d happily return to sample more of the large plates, this one dish being such a good ambassador. Four generously sized, perfectly crisp chops sat atop feather-thin slices of meat-soaked potato. It was the highlight of a meal of highlights, with delicate additions of bravas sauce that only served to elevate an already high-sitting meal.
The restaurant does dessert too. The chocolate offering is destined to be a universal favourite; a pot of ganache-soft, darkest chocolate comes decorated with curlicues of olive oil and sprinklings of salt. Little pieces of crisp toast come on the side, but we couldn’t help but eat it straight from a spoon.
Consider José next time you’re in the city; it’s a new jewel in the area’s culinary crown.
by Becky Zanker
José Pizarro Broadgate, 36 Broadgate Circle, London EC2M 1QS
Monday to Sunday, first and last orders: 12pm – 22:15pm*