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.