This summer, I spent a photography rich week in London. You probably noticed it either in Instagram or based on some of my previous posts this fall (Streets of London and Hackney on my Mind). As I have masses of great pictures from the trip which will hopefully be featured in the up and coming Tripsteri London travel guide, I thought I would write a little bit about my old hoods. It has been five years since I moved to Sweden, but London Bridge and Bermondsey are still dear to me. Every time we are in London, we are pulled back to the south for some great food, wine and just relaxed atmosphere.
The best restaurants are the hardest to write about. Especially when you have some personal memories of the place, like um.. first (and probably second and third) date with hubby, reunions with friends and, well, Thursdays. In London everybody goes out on Thursdays. I will never be objective about Joses. But I can try explaining what got me so attached and what it is that keeps calling me back. Joses is a wine and tapas bar on Bermondsay street in London, just blocks away from where I used to live (when I was still cool). Continue reading “The Return to Joses”
It is Thursday again, and the day of the week I have dedicated to cocktails. This week though I do not have a bar review, there have been enough of those for a week. Instead I thought about telling you about my favorite gin, Jensen’s.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning when we met, Jensen’s and I. We were taking a walk (M and I) through the Maltby St Market, as we did many weekend mornings while living in London. And as we were passing the railway arches occupied by familiar pastry and cheese stalls we spotted something new, a gin distillery. Curious as we are we ventured in and a nice lady invited us to have some gin-tasters, straight up 10am in the morning. Why not! Against all of my expectations, the gin tasted fresh and earthy with no bitterness whatsoever. So this is what good gin tastes like!
Jensen’s is owned by Danish Christian Jensen, who has drawn his inspiration from his collection of (900) old style vintage Gins. Through his research into the golden era of London gin-making, Christian discovered the legacy of the trade in his (our) neighborhood of Bermondsey. To celebrate this he named his first gin Bermondsey Dry. The project was never supposed to go commercial, however, once the word got out London bartenders started asking for more and more, thus Bermondsey Gin Limited was born. Christians second project, inspired by an old gin-makers handbook resulted in Old Tom’s, a naturally sweet and rooty gin that has since become a cult amongst bartenders and gin-geeks (hipsters).The ambition was simply to make a gin in the lost style, as good as can be.
That sunny Saturday morning, we were contemplating whether to buy some gin to take home. Should we buy the Bermondsey Dry, the clean and botanical gin that could just be enjoyed straight up, or Old Tom’s, the 1840s legendary recipe that is excellent for cocktails (it makes a mean GT). M’s response was ‘why choose when you can buy both’. And that my friends is how two bottles of Jensen’s gin moved in with us and has provided us with quality cocktails for several years and years to come.
Now this is not at all a blog for food/drink recipes, but I really want to share this one with you, as it is a perfect pairing with Jensen’s Gin (Old Tom’s):
For a whole canister of cocktails: 8-10 drinks:
1 whole cucumber (200g)
1.5 dl fresh lemon juice (3 x lemon)
1.5 dl fresh lime juice (3-4 x lime)
2dl fresh Mint
2dl fresh Lemon balm
1dl honey or a pinch of Stevia (or a mix of both depending on the sweetness you desire)
Gin at your discretion
Throw the cucumber, mint, lemon balm and juices into a mixer and run it full speed to make a smoothie-like mash. Mix in the honey/Stevia carefully to acquire your optimal level of sweetness (I tend to use less and less). Mix the green smoothie with water, and add some sweeteners if needed. Bottle the juice (or pour directly into glasses) through a mesh. Voila! Mix with your discretion of Jensen’s Old Tom’s gin.
Jensen’s is unfortunately not sold in the Nordic countries, but if you are visiting the UK, it is available through a few different resellers. However, if in London, I warmly recommend to take that walk along the railway arches to the distillery (start either from London Bridge or Bermondsey tube station) it is open Saturdays for tastings and long drinks. On the way you can pick up some wonderful coffee and snacks from the different vendors that have set up shop in the railway arches of Bermondsey.
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.