The buzz around Jose is already extensive and given Jose Pizarro's background as Chef Partner at Brandisa, our expectations are that this should be good, for we loved Tierra Brindisa in Soho. Not least, we expect that sourcing of ingredients, especially the Iberico ham, should be first class, and it was, more of which later.
Jose the venue, as is also well known, has no reservation policy and having got there at an early enough hour on a Monday night (their quietest time), we were lucky enough to bag the only real table/counter that can seat a party of four in a normal fashion. Elsewhere, it's seating along the bars, walls and windows better suited to parties of two. Many will see the small scale of the venue as part of its intrinsic charm.
At Jose, we are meeting Russell Brown (@siennadorset) who himself had collected James Tanner (@jamestanner01) along the way. Despite them arriving a little later than anticipated (and therefore our growing anxiety that we were occupying prime seats in a tiny bar and holding two empty seats also), staff were so good and went out of their way to make us feel less uncomfortable.
Indeed, staff throughout the night were exemplary in looking after us and when later, we also met Jose, he too with his passion and charm made us love the place even more. That said, it's an easy place to love.
The place is easy to love because the food is so good. The Iberico ham is just perfect and we think you'd be pushed to find better being sold elsewhere in a London restaurant. Cut expertly into relatively large rectangles, perfectly fatty, it was so beautifully moist that your mouth is awash with salivation, or is that salvation? Our tally here totalled three plates in the end.
We didn't obviously stop there. Indeed, between four, our exploration of the menu choices was too numerous to fully detail here so just enjoy the picture below but there were highlights. The absolute star of the night was chalked on the board as a day's special: Pluma ham. Jose brings it to the table for us to inspect before cooking, it's dark, beef like, and Jose indicates lifting his arm that it is the cut in the body below the main joint. What's more incredible, when it comes back, cooked and sliced, it's essentially rare, like an amazing and perfectly cooked steak, angry red in the middle. On tasting, you could also be forgiven for thinking it's steak but it is heavenly and James and Russell, both leading chefs are as blown away by this as we are. It's to be seen and tasted to be believed and a 'must order' plate if it's on when you visit.
Everything is good, the chorizo, the Morcilla Iberico (a black pudding sausage) and the mackerel, again, one of the very best of its kind, and only £6.50. Nothing here really breaks the bank which is also nice. The chicken livers were perhaps the only underwhelming dish, under seasoned in our view, but even here it was still okay. So many great things though, it's easily passed over.
Jose's name is above the door and even on a Monday night, he's also to be found in the kitchen. Recognising James, he came over for a chat and we discussed both the tapas bar and his new venture. His enthusiasm for great Spanish food is infectious and with Jose living just metres off Bermondsey Street, he seems genuinely thrilled to bring this taste of Spain to SE1; we're equally thrilled to enjoy it.
Jose is the real deal. We joke we're too old for many things, queuing being one of them but Jose's is one of the very few places that we would be prepared to queue to eat at. In bringing the taste and the flavours of Spain to London, surely this can't be bettered?
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