Thursday, 15 December 2011

Pizarro Pizazz...

Now I'm not what you'd call a forward thinker. Once at university I was told that I'm so far inside the box, I might as well live in it. This goes hand in hand with my ability to pick up a trend once everyone else stops wearing it and getting to restaurants long after the buzz has worn off.

Which is why I’m quite beside myself with smugness that I am, for once, if not ahead of the pack, then at least with it. Pizarro (the newest restaurant from José Pizarro of José and Brindisa fame) has been open for two weeks, and I’d been twice in the first four days. Once on launch night. To an actual trendy restaurant with hype.

Now I'm going to take most of the credit for being cool but it has to be said, that José sure can put together a plate of food. The food is closely followed by a rockin' interior (and by rockin' I mean marvellous marriage of wood, brick and tiles) and hum of good times being had by all. Service was great on both occasions, though admittedly it helps when those waiting on you possess equal measures of good looks and easy charm.

We had to wait (around an hour and a half both times) but as the atmosphere is so like his other tapas joints, the standing around felt more pleasure than chore. It does mean you're likely to sink a bottle of cava before you eat anything however (well I did on both occasions anyhow).

So to the eating. Not everything was perfect but soft launch with 50% off food and booze effectively forgave this. Plus it was opening night and the place was rammed...

I've only ever had over-cooked quail so the fact I could swallow without water was an excellent start. The sauce was really good, full of flavour (though could have done with a punch of chilli).

I bloody love artichoke so there was little chance of me hating this dish and it ended up being my second favourite of the night. The tastes going off in my mouth (toasted cumin, soft artichoke, sharp but creamy cheese) made me very happy indeed.

Bar calamari (deep frying anything in batter makes it good) squid is another of those foods that often gets over-zealously cooked. This was exceptional in that regard. My fussy friend and fellow blogger Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach confirmed this was cooked to perfection and “not bad at all.”


The lamb looked a touch past pink and, as a result, was a little chewy. However it was the lambiest lamb ever, each chomp releasing more flavour.

Only dud of the night. Served in a ceramic shallow dish, the dry bird sat on some watery beans in an under seasoned stock. Less roasting of the bird and more reducing of the jus and this could be impressive.

My mouth has been filling with saliva at random intervals at the memory of these rare strips of super pig. Keep describing it to friends as the sexiest tasting bacon I have ever been lucky enough to put in my mouth.

Chocolate Toast
Wasn't sure about this one at first, but ended up ordering this simple, but blindingly clever dessert on both visits. Combining a bit of the 'toast', butterscotch ice cream and nutella-like sauce felt like childhood.

Rice pudding
Cinammon-laced, creamy rice great. Sharp clementine too bitter.

By the time we ordered on Thursday, the Croquetas were sold out. To my delight, they were back on Sunday and soothing in a way that only ham and cheese based bites can be. We also tried the sweet potato starter with chunks of blue cheese (safe but nice combo), the hake with black cabbage which was a touch bland (silly as the stock, cabbage and potatoes on which it sat sang with salty flavour) and an extremely good vanilla ice cream, draped in booze laden grapes.

I've met José a couple of times and he's probably one of the nicest chefs in the business. This is evident at Pizarro which oozes comfort, warmth and a total lack of pretention (much like his brilliant croquetas). There are many restaurants that buzz, there are many restaurants with cool, but there are very few that personify the loveable charm of their creator so effectively.  

194 Bermondsey Street

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