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11 January 2012

194 Bermondsey Street,
020 7378 9455

Oliver Pugh

It’s probably a bit controversial, but I was relieved when Christmas was over.

Don’t get me wrong I’m no Scrooge (I love the Muppets’ Christmas Carol) but the best bit is always after the official festivities – the bit between Christmas Day and New Year.

There’s no work to do, the distant relatives are back to being distant and hopefully you’ve got some new socks, whiskey, and a bit of cheese to get part-the-way through and then leave in the fridge until it gets a bit whiffy.

And crucially it’s before all the lecturing of January. New year, new you is the adage, but I doubt it. I’ve already rebelled against the first lecture from the government telling me to take two days off from alcohol each week. Thanks for the advice, but with all due respect...

So it was in this happy period of irresponsible and annual indulgence that my girlfriend Daphne and I took a stroll down Bermondsey Street and headed for what I knew would be a treat.

Pizarro is the second restaurant to take the name of the chef Jose Pizarro. He’s already got one at the top of the same street called Jose, which was fantastic when I went last year.

But not content with one excellent eatery in the area (he’s also involved in Brindisa at Borough Market) he’s opened another one just a few metres down the road.

Ensconced in the former Bermondsey Kitchen, opposite St Mary Magdalen, Pizzarro is a proper sit-down restaurant – there are tables and chairs and everything!

Normally we take chairs for granted in restaurants, but seats are sometimes hard to come by at Jose’s tapas bar up the road.

And normally, when we do think of Spanish food we do think of tapas. That or paella. Of course we do, we’ve taken the informal style to our culinary hearts – so much so there’s even an Indian tapas restaurant in Soho.
So it’s great now to see somewhere like Pizarro offering a starter, main and a pudd if you feel like it, or you can just share the lot.

As we arrived we were seated in the window with a decent view of the church when we went on a chilly December 30 and drank a crisp glass of fizz to toast the end of the year.

The room itself felt candle-lit, even if it wasn’t, which kept the atmosphere feeling cosy despite the large window looking out to the church, the long shared tables, and the open kitchen.

Free bread, mineral water and some surprisingly tasty baby radishes in a simple dressing were brought to the table while we poured over the menu and picked a few tapas style starters.

The artichoke was deliciously sharp, the croquetas light and crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle, and the duck livers were surprisingly good. I wouldn’t normally eat liver, but the place engendered such trust that whatever I ordered (at the moment I hear that tongue is on the menu) I knew it would be cooked to perfection.

Our waitress explained that we were more than welcome to share the mains, but they were definitely main-sized and definitely not more tapas. My partridge didn’t disappoint. The beautifully browned bird came nestled in a bean, olive and chorizo stew, which I knew no one would thank me for later but which was packed with flavour. My partner in crime, Daphne, went for the pork cheeks, which looked excellent.

We fancied some white wine with the meal and the waitress had encouraged us to try a couple before we chose, which was a nice touch. The one we went for in the end was a really delicious number from the Spanish Atlantic coast that was suitably rich and yet dry to go with everything.

Pudding for me was an intense little ball of chocolate mousse with caramel ice cream and a wafer thin piece of toast. It sounds a bit odd, but it was very good.

The food, wine, and service were all faultless really, but in the end, there is no higher praise than to say that Daphne decided it was her new favourite restaurant.

So well done Jose, you’ve done it again, and I hope everyone else screws their new year’s resolutions as well and ventures in for a bit of indulgence.

The Damage
Bread and radish Free
Still mineral water Free
2 x 125ml glass
Torre del Gall fizz £11.50
1 x Artichoke  £5.50
1 x Croquetas   £6.00
1 x Duck livers  £6.50
1 x Pork cheeks  £15.50
1 x partridge   £15.00
250ml white wine £9.50
125ml white wine  £4.75
1 x ice cream  £5.50
1 x chocolate  £6.00
Total:    £85.25

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