José restaurant

José restaurant

Two weeks ago I went to My New Favourite Place; the newly-opened tapas and sherry bar José on Bermondsey Street.

The reservations-free, teeny tiny restaurant is run by José Pizarro of Tapas Brindisa fame in Borough Market.  I'm a very regular regular of Brindisa - definitely high in my top five London restaurants - I love tapas and having spent a gorgeous weekend in Barthelooona in March, a big fan of the bustling Boqueria market, from which José took inspiration.

One of the best finds in Barcelona was Bar Pinotxo inside the market which is run by a charmful character called Juanito for - I assume - decades, looking at all his photos pinned up.  The menu changes every day and includes extremely simple and extremely effective dishes (I still crave the baby squid and beans plate, dammit).

the daily specials board

José's menu goes down the same tried and tested route with a daily menu of market specials and simple seasonal ingredients thrown together into delicious sharing dishes. 

 José himself

I love when chefs are so confident in the quality of their ingredients that they let the vibrant flavours speak for themselves without overcomplicating dishes unneccessarily.  And this is definitely that.

Pisto & crispy duck egg

Of all the plates we sampled, my favourites were the ever-so-tasty jamón ibérico, the flavoursome pisto and crispy duck egg and the jamón croquetas balls (I'd like to think of myself as somewhat of a croquettes connoisseur and I don't think I've ever had round croqettes before... Wild!).  Oh, and the asparagus wrapped in manchego cheese was fantastic as well. 

The cracking wine list is created by Tim Atkin and includes an abundance of sherry, cava and wines from carefully-selected producers in Spain, most of whom I'd never heard of before.  It's great to be introduced to rare wines which can't be found elsewhere in London and I can definitely learn a thing of two about sherry, as it's something I've always left to my mother.

Even though I'm a sherry ignoramus, the Pedro Ximénez-soaked strawberries were something else...

Chocolate mousse, sherry-glazed strawberries, arrez con leche and rosé cava: the dessert of kings

I've already been back twice since the opening and the place has a really great atmosphere.  It's buzzy and crowded - in a good way - with groups standing, drinking wine over old barrels, cosy seating and with an open kitchen and an ever-present, hands-on owner it feels informal, relaxed and welcoming.

The decor is similar to market bars with an eclectic mix of pictures tacked to the exposed bricks, reclaimed food tins for wine coolers and cutlery pots and the fresh produce under glass counters, giving it a deli feel.

The Spanish chef's second venture will be a bigger restaurant called Pizarro in the same area later in the year (all hail SE1!).  I'll see you on the day it opens.

José, 104 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB
José on Urbanspoon