Crazy about José

Today I have a special treat for you, a review of one of my favorite restaurants in London. I know I have many favorites, but José is a bit like Matkonsulatet in Stockholm, a place with many fond memories. We used to hang out at this place almost every week. It is actually one of the first places M took me out on a date. What a way to steal a girls heart, offer her some iberico pork and get her drunk on Cava. We are now married, so what else can I say than that it worked.

José is the small and simple cava and tapas bar from José Pizaro who also runs a more upscale (still rather casual) restaurant called Pizarro down the road on Bermondsey Street. He was also before opening these places head chef at Tapas Brindisa. It is almost always crowded but people do not tend sit for long so often the wait is not that bad. Even if you cannot get a table immediately you can stand around and drink a glass of sparkling. The wait goes much faster with a drink in your hand.

There are usually three or four good sparklings (Cavas) by the glass. Currently they serve the Gramona Allegro Brut Reserva and Mas Macià Brut Rose. The wines are decently priced but perhaps not cheap, around £5-7 per glass and £30-40 per bottle (the on-going gentrification of Bermondsey Street has meant that prices are moving up). There are also nine different whites, three rosados and twelve reds by the glass. Food is excellent! The menu is not fixed, it is written on two black boards behind the bar and as things run out they are crossed off. However a few things can almost always be found there: some excellent Spanish cheeses as well as Jamon Iberico and chorizo. The Patatas Bravas, Pan con Tomate and Padron peppers are also some of my usual choices. My favorite is however, without a doubt, the flavorful Pluma Iberico (or when that is not on the menu the Secreto Iberico). Mmm, I would almost kill for that dish. All in all, I dont think I have ever been disappointed with a ny dish at Josè’s.

Service is always friendly and considering that it is always packed things move along smoothly. I also do like the fact that they do not automatically include service on the bill – i am not a bad tipper, but I want to make the choice myself. A tip should be an incentive to provide extra good service, not a part of the normal salary. Thats just my opinion and I wish more places would do that.

After years of testing the quality of food at both José and Pizarro I can conclude that the food is excellent. I think it’s partly due to good quality produce, but also the skill of the chefs. It requires a special talent making simple dishes well. An important element for me is also the no-fuss quality wine list. They rotate the wines now and then so often I find new things to try. José Pizarro is also opening a third place in London this April that I cannot wait to try out the next time I am in London.

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