I was having a conversation on Twitter yesterday about the restaurant Apsley’s. I didn’t like it. I believe I described it as ‘wanky’, ‘over-priced’ (£30-£40 a main course anyone?) and ‘over-fussed’ (I’m being kind – one starter came on 9 separate plates). This sparked off another conversation with a friend about restaurant preferences in general. He asked me, innocently, “you really wouldn’t go to these places (like Apsley’s), even out of curiosity, if money was literally no object?” I couldn’t say ‘NO’ fast enough or with enough emphasis to really sum up the strength of my feeling on the matter and let’s face it, Gmail chat isn’t the easiest medium to communicate a ‘NO’ bearing the force of splenetic juices, unhinged fury, fires of hell and vein-popping frustration. Well you know, I feel quite strongly about it.
My point is that people have different restaurant preferences, which aren’t entirely dependent on whether or not they can bloody afford it. Not everyone wants to go around ticking off the most expensive places like collecting notches on the bedpost. Every few months I go to The Ledbury. This is because it’s a brilliant restaurant; simply outstanding cooking . I fork out the money because I want to go there, as I could with any restaurant in London if I fancied it. I don’t.
The day my friend and I ate at Apsley’s, we also ate at José (Pizarro). It’s a ham and sherry bar, which is so much more up my alley I can’t begin to tell you. It’s a small space on Bermondsey Street with a bar, a few stools dotted about and a couple of chefs beavering away in an open kitchen. The chatter is loud and the laughter unrestrained. We settled in for Manzanilla and snacks.
Croquetas de jamón. I was shocked when I bit into the first. No ham?! Turns out I was just unlucky. In my second the cheesy filling wibbled around hammy jewels. Very good croquetas, although not quite on par with those I ate at Barrafina earlier in the week.
Jamón Ibérico was to die for, as ever; nutty fat slowly, slowly melting away…sigh. The carving was really quite something as you can see from the top photo. I’ve had a go at this myself at Brindisa and let me tell you, it’s not easy.
Having already packed away 3 courses we were really only after a nibble but a special of ‘Pluma Iberica‘ with piquillo pepper was so intriguing it duly got ordered. We looked at it, at each other and back at the plate, a mixture of fear and excitement brewing. Could we eat rare pork? The waiter reassured us of the quality and in we plunged. It had the plancha-charred initial taste and silken texture of rare steak then a deep pork flavour that somehow didn’t make your brain go “argh, raw pig, I’m going to die!”
So that was José; a few snacks effortlessly trumping an earlier elaborate 3 course meal. Fantastic ingredients, served simply and modestly. Of course these two places have completely different aspirations but that’s not my problem. All I have to do is decide where to spend my money. José wins every time.
104 Bermondsey Street
Tel: 0207 403 4902