11 June 2011
We'd finally hit summer. Friday night spent lolling outside the pub and a perky Saturday of sun and fun with walks wearing shirt and no jumper. A continental day ended appropriately with a hoped for but unscheduled aperitif stop in Bermondsey tapas joint du jour Jose. Owned eponymously by Jose ‘Brindisa’ Pizarro and garrulous business partner front of house expert Herve, it's finishing the job that neighbour (and final dinner destination) Zucca kick started and making Bermondsey, Street at least, a real foodie destination.
I have a slight problem with tapas restaurants out of their native environments, and it's that you can't crawl. The joy of tapas for me comes with a gleeful bowl around the neighbourhood and a bite and a glass in each joint. Moderation, exercise and a pub crawl in one. With a little help from Herve, we may have cracked it.
Prior to dinner and after a long warm walk, I was ready for a glass of something dry and crisp and cold. I steered us into Jose, keen to have a gander. The white tiled space focussed around the marble slab bar feels uncharacteristically out of place in South London, the heat emanating from it even more so. A combination of the small room, a large stove surrounded by Jose and his brigade, no air con and a sunny day meant I nearly lost the others at the first hurdle. The place was packed, no more than 25 in there, but it's enough not to want to be there when it's busier. No reservations means that like Spuntino you're going to have to come early, or be prepared to wait. As Herve explained, they're not aiming for the (London) bridge and tunnel crowd but hoping to add something to a great little local scene prior to opening larger restaurant Pizarro later in the year.
I sucked down deliciously dry sherry while we gorged, an early doors licensing quirk meant no booze without food, on a couple of the delicious tapa from behind the counter. We grabbed a couple of plates judging they would suffice as starters. Sea fresh boquerones, juicy white anchovies, came in a light and sweet seasoned cava vinegar, Murcian speciality pisto, a simple full flavoured Spanish version of ratatouille, came with a perfectly fried duck's egg. Giant yolk flecked with salt looming over the the plate reminding us of the late spring sun. Despite the specials board (cruelly featuring crab and basil croquettes the next day) you'd struggle to make a full meal out of the place, but that's partly the point. Grab a couple of plates, and move on. We admitted to Herve that we were going on to Zucca for our mains; “there you go then! There's your tapas crawl.. start here, mains at Zucca and then on to Village East for a cocktail or dessert.” Tapas crawl, Bermondsey style.