Jose does this little magic trick: it is able to put a smile on my face no matter what mood I walked in with, and it has never failed, not even once.
It’s true. However stressed I feel, I forget about all the stress as soon as my palate dances tango with the food served at Jose. This is what good food is all about – something that makes you smile.
It’s true. The consistency of food delivered at Jose is incredible. We’ve been visiting Jose since 2011 and have accumulated 30+ visits to date. There has only been once that we found the quality slipped slightly on one exceptional-bad-day-in-the-kitchen.
Between ourselves, we call Jose the place with “Quality Fresh Fast Food”. It’s not everyday that we want good food and also want to sit in an up tight restaurant for 3 hours, especially not after a stressful day at work. Sometimes, we just want good food, but fast. Sometimes, we just want to dress down and relax, but not sitting in an up tight restaurant.
I’m not going to dwell on who Jose Pizarro is and his background, because there are plenty of it online already. What I will say though, is that Jose used to be the Exec Chef at Brindisa in Borough Market before starting his own venture round the corner on Bermondsey Street – Jose the tapas bar and Pizarro the restaurant. And I wish I had the chance myself to meet and thank Jose in person, to let him know how much colour Jose has added to my life since its opening.
Jose is very small. It has about 10 stools only, with table space enough for approximately 25 (with a squeeze). There is a bit of space to stand for you to have a glass of wine whilst waiting, but it is very tight. Basically, come prepared to walk into a very cosy and noisy tapas bar – hey, isn’t that what tapas is all about anyway? Whenever we go to Jose, we always choose to go before 18.30 or after 21.30 on a weekday, and only at unusual times outside of lunch or dinner hours on a weekend. We generally get a table right away or within 15min, but coming at other times could mean waiting time of an hour or more.
The kitchen is open plan so customers can see exactly what the chefs are doing. There is an extraction unit above the stoves but it’s not noisy, and it takes out all the deep fried and oiliness and yet still allowing streams of spanish fragrance from the cooking to penetrate through the restaurant.There are never more than 3 people in the kitchen. They are organised and seem to know exactly what they need to do now and next. I just love sitting at the bar seats closest to the kitchen to see all the action. It’s kind of therapeutic and calming seeing the amount of love put into the cooking.
I can’t say this enough of time. I love Jose. It’s cosy and warm. It’s casual yet you are greeted with a huge sense of passion as you walk in. As busy as Jose gets, service is always attentive. Their waiters and waitresses all know their food and wine. The food always arrive in a thoughtful order from starter to fish to meat. All dishes are always consistently cooked just perfectly. In my opinion, their seafood dishes are always perfectly cooked and can’t be beaten even by many very good restaurants. Perfectly cooked crispy skin with the most delicate flesh that flakes off, often accompanied by a variety of Spanish cured meat or vegetables that adds explosion of flavours to the fish.
Their garlic and chilli king prawns are another personal favourite (even though I am not a big shellfish fan). Excessive amount of olive oil with intense garlic and a hint of spiciness from the chilli. The best part is the prawn, I still remember the first ever time putting a Jose prawn into my mouth, it was like memory back flooding to when I have live prawns retrieved straight from the water and freshly cooked in a hot pan, something usually only available in Asia. The seafood garlic and chilli oil, dear oh dear, absolutely platelickingly delicious. We often get extra plain bread just so that we can wipe the plate clean.
Food at Jose always end on a high note – Pluma Iberica. This translates to Feather Loin, the piece of meat on the back on the shoulder, and there are only two pieces of these on each pig 🙂 I still remember vividly the first time I had this dish, we were warned when we ordered the dish that it is served medium rare. I’ve never seen a piece of pork served this rare, ever. Lightly seasoned with olive oil and sea salt flakes, yum. There is a layer of marbled fat in every bite of the loin, and it’s a sensational flavour that stays with you for hours after your meal.
As much as we love desserts, we’ve only ever had desserts twice at Jose. The desserts are ok, homey, almost rustic. But the main reason for why we avoid desserts here is because our love for the Pluma Iberica – we just love ending our meal on a salty piggy note.
Croquetas. These change depending on the season and the ingredients they have. Often it’s cheese and mushroom, sometimes olive and orange. The consistent thing is the quality of these little lovely balls – always perfectly crunchy on the outside and hot inside.
Pan con tomate. I have a thing against raw tomatoes. But this is the first (FIRST) place where I could put mouthfuls of raw tomatoes into my mouth and actually fall in love with what I am eating. The toast is rubbed with garlic, topped with fresh tomatoes with a hint of vinegar, finished with excessive amount of great quality Spanish olive oil and sea salt. A favourite and must have everytime we are here.
Tortilla. There isn’t much consistency in how this is served in Jose. It is sometimes cold, sometimes warm, sometimes hot. That doesn’t bother us, all just as good. These tortillas at Jose are made in one big pan and slices from the big round tortilla are served. The inside of the tortilla is always cooked just right that it is still a little runny.
Jamón ibérico. Those who like any form of cured ham hand cut off any form of legs would know that the skill of the chef slicing the meat is almost just as important as the meat itself. Not something that you would have to worry here.
Seabream, carrot mash, Jamón A piece of sea bream couldn’t possibly get more respect than this. It is perfectly cooked. Meat is moist and done just under. Skin is crispy. Freshness of the fish comes through with textures of intense velvety carrot mash and cubes of Jamón.
Jose remains to hold a high level of consistency and will continue to be our frequent dining place. It’s a whole package: food, service, ambience, speed, quality. If you still haven’t been, go, now.
Damage to pocket: £20-40 per head on average, but totally depends on how much food and wine is ordered (e.g. £25 per person for 6 dishes and 2 glasses or wine)
Number of accumulated visits: 30+
Date of visit: Since 2011
Will we return? Absolutely yes