Oh how I laughed when my friend asked whether I might fancy a “little lunch at Pizarro.” There’s just no such thing as a ‘little lunch’ in our book, let alone when the restaurant is in soft opening with 50% off. We were, quite tragically really, waiting outside the door at 12pm for the place to open. Half an hour later it was 3/4 full and by the time we left people were queueing. “We’re still in soft opening; we’re still learning!” pleaded the waitress before we’d even sat down, “we’re trying our best!” I didn’t care; I’ve had such a rotten week, they could have slapped me in the face with a hot croqueta and I’d have thanked them. I was here to spend time with my mate, self-medicating with Manzanilla, demolishing explicitly decadent, wobbly balls of bechamel.
Pizarro is supposed to be more of a sit-down restaurant than José’s other place, a tapas bar just up the road; the room still buzzed though and despite there being no seats at the bar (the best spot, atmosphere-wise), there are window seats facing out into the street, meaning our conversation was peppered with important, life-affirming observations like, “squeeee! look at those cute pugs” and “holy shit, what IS she wearing?”
We ordered too much because this is tapas and it always happens. A tousle of soft, lightly pickled boquerones (anchovies) with roasted red peppers and black olives came topped with a really good quality egg, which was very well cooked at one point but was cold. Maybe it was supposed to be cold, I dunno; no big deal anyway, the dish was near perfect, if rather difficult to divvy up.
Prawns and serrano ham was Spanish surf n turf, given a good kick up the backside with the might of chilli and garlic. I felt the prawn could take a lot more of a kicking but the serrano ham deserved a break. It’s hard to be disappointed with such good ingredients though.
Quail with romesco sauce was nice and salty, almost crisp enough and perfectly cleaned of meat by the time I’d finished with my half. A swift chop right down the centre made this a lot easier to share than the previous three prawns between the two of us. The slather of rich, nutty romesco, was generous, too.
Cauliflower with chard, soft cheese and walnuts was delicate, the vegetables beautifully cooked with coriander seeds and bay, the lot topped with crumbles of light, fresh tasting cheese. When the veg was all gone, I longed for bread to plunge into the oily juices at the bottom.
The first of the larger plates we ordered – Secreto Ibérico – was surprising mainly because we thought we were ordering something akin to the Pluma Iberica at José, but it arrived cooked through. We could have predicted that to be honest, because it comes with mashed potato; mashed potato and rare pork would be strange. The charred fatty pieces were heavenly though and despite being underwhelmed at the time, I find myself thinking about the dish an awful lot now. I’m afraid I can’t say much about the mashed potato, as I’ve never been particularly interested in it, to the constant disbelief of other people.
Hake, black cabbage and clams was okay but the hake was a touch over-cooked (though better near the bone) and I just couldn’t get excited about it. Three clams is a bit mean too, I think, particularly if you’re going to list them on the menu.
Desserts ramped things back up again; first ‘chocolate, toast and caramel ice cream’, the chocolate a big, sticky ball like really high-grade Nutella which we treated appropriately by smearing on the toast. It was incredibly good but intense and large; we couldn’t finish it. It was decided that more caramel ice cream, less Nutella blob would be better. I’m sure these things will be sorted.
To finish, my highlight of the meal; a pear sorbet in cava which was just so much fun, the light perfume of pear rising to our noses as we bent down to suck up the (lightly) saffron infused cava through straws, finally mixing it all together to make a posh, boozy Slush Puppie.
With 2 glasses of La Gitana Manzania and a beer each, that all went down very nicely at £46 for two thanks very much (with £50% off everything due to the soft opening). I’m sure any niggles will be ironed out pronto making this another boost for the increasingly trendy Bermondsey Street. Maybe one day Pizarro will own the whole stretch. Let’s hope he’s got lots of middle names.
194 Bermondsey Street
Restaurant 12 – 3 pm then 6 – 11 pm
Bar open all day
The restaurant does not take bookings.