There is nothing TOO spectacular about this Spanish sherry bar on Bermondsey Street.
We walked in (as they did not reservations). One of us got a seat; the other didn’t. Clustered we were near the small kitchen where Jose Pizarro the man from Extremadura (where all the best Spanish piggies are) embellished his tapas. We got the theme.. bustling and casual. Nicely designed space but could have been better thought out when it came to standing diners up. I’d suggest a row of no seat somewhere rather than mix me up with seated ones. Felt a second class diner. Good thing is that there is this sense of authenticity and originality. The Spanish vibe the London scene lacks, especially the fact I couldn’t get my head around why many tapas places in London don’t let people stand and eat.
The menu is a mix of nibbles, regular dishes and day specials displayed at the bar. Alluring chunks of pork necks they were!! Dishes range between £2.5 – £7 meaning if you carefully construct your meal, you will walk out as rich as when walking in.
Dishes came and went swiftly. Clean plate, clean flavours. Some more stunning than others. All eaten. I took delight in the pan con tomate. Nice balance of mushed tomatoes and crusty bread. The best in London so far. Beat Barrafina in this regard. Their Jamon Iberico (£18?) was also brilliant (but I forgot to take notes where it originates!!). Great marbling layers of fat. Not particularly as salty as my Meson Cinco Jotas favourite, but fattier. Jose was skillful in Jamon carving. Same thickness. Great size. Gorgeous flavours and texture. Very often I found the Jamon brutally sliced. Too thick, too thin – as if to twice murder the pig. The Jamon croquettes were a let-down. Quite greasy. The creamy potato inside also tasted much of oil.
Delectable pisto with crispy duck egg. The yolk spurted on the ratatouille-like vegetable goodies. The heat from the pisto helped cook it straightaway. Fabulous! Then, the lamb meatballs (called albondigas on the menu) with spicy tomatoes. A set of three balls. Not big and came with limp chips. At this point it became obvious the deep fried elements were not blowing me away. Good balls, but could do with some more fat content as they were biteful rather than tender. The spicyness did not come through from the tomatoes.
BUT IT WAS A SOFT OPENING..
The cold special beany tortilla was unforgettable, but it was due to the pool of olive oil that was bombed in and did not add much to the dish. Great olive oil though (Valdueza Extra Virgin which Waitrose and Fortnum&Mason retail it around £15-16 for a 500ml bottle) as we happen to use the same kind at home. At this point Jose had took notice of me taking photos and popped over for a chat. Passionate and knowledgeable guy he is and also planning the launch of another proper Spanish restaurant in Bermondsey later this year. He says it will break the Spanish norm in London. Hearty food – no tapas!! He also comp’ed us the best part of Jamon Iberico, which is the lower part when the leg is hung. As gravity takes hold, it creates this tupendous whirlwind of porky flavours. Magic. Period.
Last two dishes.. the special pork neck. Just cooked medium rare and served with a dash of olive oil and salt. Soft and beautiful. Could do with another helping as it looked small for a £15. The peas, chorizo, migas and poached eggs dish was also very nice. Fresh. Perfectly cooked and full of crispy texture.
Comforting desserts. Rice pudding Spanish way with cinnamon dust would be a perfect antidote for bad weather. Fresh strawberries with a splash of PX Sherry. Decent contrast between PX sweetness and cleansing acidity from the fruit. Choco mousse was a less intense version of Nutella. All went down very well.
The scene died down a little and Jose seemed to take time getting feedbacks from diners. I won’t rule the food here is top-notch (even though we were also comp’ed for desserts) but the kitchen has great potential and delivers something comforting and of highly respectable standard. I can see it being o! so well loved by locals for its fair price, buzzing ambiance and pleasant food. And I strongly believe it would make its way into the Bib Gourmand section in the Michelin Guide 2012 (as it surely is deserved its spot more than Morito).
Would I go back?
At present of its soft opening.. Jose is (very) okay.
My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
104 Bermondsey Street
Tel. 020 7403 4902