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José Pizarro (Broadgate)

José Pizarro (Broadgate) review

by Gemma Harrison 14 July 2015

Spanish chef José Pizarro has just opened his third restaurant in London. With early diners claiming the tapas was even better than in Spain, Gemma Harrison went to find out if it lived up to expectations.

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Gemma is Marketing Manager at Great British Chefs. She can usually be found in a restaurant, at a food festival or cooking at home.

José Pizarro left Extremadura, Spain ,15 years ago, and has worked in some of London’s most prestigious Spanish restaurants, including being an influential part of the Brindisa group. In 2011, he opened José (tapas bar) and Pizarro (restaurant), both in Bermondsey, and makes regular appearances on food programmes, such as Saturday Kitchen. When he announced the opening of his third restaurant just stone’s throw from Liverpool Street Station, I couldn’t wait to try it – I’m a big fan of Spanish food, and having taken a trip to Barcelona earlier this year, I’ve been eating it more than ever.

The new Broadgate Circle development includes a variety of restaurants and bars, with the top level completely occupied by Yauatcha. On a sweltering summer’s evening, the whole area was packed with people eating and drinking al fresco – book a table early if you want to guarantee yourself a space, as the restaurants fill up as the evening goes on. What really struck me from the moment I walked in was the front of house – warm, friendly, and always there when you needed them (something many restaurants don’t get right), and it was one of the best service experiences I’ve had for some time. The wine list is also well-priced (a surprise for this area of London) and has a range of interesting bottles from around Spain, and Catalunya in particular. There’s also a range of Estrella Damm beers and excellent sherries that would be a perfect match for a few plates of bread, cheese and ham.

To start, we chose a few snacks from the Pica Pica section of the menu – pan con tomate and prawn fritters with saffron aioli and Pizarro’s pimentón. I order pan con tomate in every tapas restaurant I go to (I just love the combination of tomatoes, olive oil, salt and bread), and have had the full spectrum: from bread being merely ‘kissed’ by tomatoes in Barcelona, to something practically bruschetta-like here in London (piled high with tomatoes and lots of raw garlic which didn’t have a pleasant after-taste). Pizarro’s pan con tomate gets the full Goldilocks ‘just right’ score – just enough tomatoes, with just enough salt (and definitely no raw garlic) – I can honestly say it’s the best version I’ve ever eaten, and I would come back purely for this dish alone. The fritters were packed full of prawns and the saffron aioli was a great match – I could easily have eaten another bowl, but there was so much else to try.

Pan con tomate
Pan con tomate
Prawn fritters
Prawn fritters

Next up was the broad bean, peas, poached egg, chorizo and ‘pan frito’, which was a good use of in-season ingredients. The chorizo gave punchy flavour to the peas and broad beans, whilst the perfectly poached egg brought everything together. Along with this we ordered the Ibérico pork meatballs in tomato and orange sauce, which yielded easily to the touch of a fork. Ibérico pork seems to be everywhere in London at the moment (much like wagyu beef) and it can have a hefty price tag but it’s refreshing to see it used in such a humble dish. The orange in the tomato sauce really lifted the dish – I wouldn’t have thought the combination would work so well.

 
 
Broad bean, peas, poached egg, chorizo and 'pan frito' (photo courtesy of Kris Kirkham)
Broad bean, peas, poached egg, chorizo and 'pan frito' (photo courtesy of Kris Kirkham)
Ibérico pork meatballs in tomato and orange sauce
Ibérico pork meatballs in tomato and orange sauce
image
Bacalao (photo courtesy of Kris Kirkham)

Our last two savoury dishes were the traditional bacalao a la Riojana and a grilled baby gem salad with anchovies, Picos de Europa cheese, piquillo peppers and a PX honey dressing. The bacalao (salt cod) was cooked beautifully, and the delicate fish was served with a light tomato sauce and some slices of fried garlic. Alongside this, the baby gem salad was full of flavour from the salty anchovies and blue cheese balanced with the sweet piquillo peppers and PX (a rich, sweet sherry) and honey dressing.

The one dish I was keen to try was the presa Ibérico with fried peppers and roasted Jersey Royals. Priced by weight, our waitress told us that there was a 600g minimum order – and having filled up on lots of small plates, we didn’t think we could tackle such a large piece of meat between two. But that just gives me another excuse to come back!

For dessert, we opted to share a beautiful crema Catalana with baked plums and the intriguing sounding chocolate with olive oil and salt on toast. The crema Catalana is a variant of crème brûlée – but this was much softer and creamier than its French counterpart, and had the very important burnt sugar topping down to a tee. Our second dessert revealed itself to be a chocolate ganache with olive oil and salt, served with slithers of toasted bread. Extremely well made, it was a grown-up chocolate spread that capitalised on the current trend of salty and sweet.

The word I keep returning to describe the food at José Pizarro is ‘perfect’ – and I don’t use that word lightly. José Pizarro has really excelled himself with this restaurant, and I will definitely be booking another table soon – as well as exploring his restaurant and tapas bar in Bermondsey.

 
Crema Catalana with baked plums
Crema Catalana with baked plums
Chocolate ganache with olive oil and salt
Chocolate ganache with olive oil and salt
 

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