We’ll keep it simple: Pizarro offers one of the most convivial, most charming, most relentlessly enjoyable dining experiences in all of London. Amidst the freneticism and novelty-hunting that characterise the city’s dining scene, it can be too easy to overlook local stalwarts like Pizarro, which has been open on Bermondsey Street since 2011. But to do so, as we were recently reminded, would be a grave error.
If the eponymous restaurant represents chef José Pizarro at his most ambitious and creative, it also offers a primer on classic Catalonian flavours. A wise way to begin is with slices of jamón Ibérico, which melt on the tongue like chocolate. Pan con tomate—the greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts snack that consists of garlic and tomato grated on a slice of toasty bread—creamy-crunchy croquetas, and seasonal specialties like calçots with romesco sauce also round out the menu’s traditional offerings. In the main dishes, Pizarro and his team have more room to play. During our visit, white segments of monkfish were beautifully paired with orange, and fried brill was poised on the plate in an acrobatic pirouette, tail and head arced towards the ceiling, its skin crisp and flesh flaky.
Beyond the flawless culinary execution, however, the hospitality that pervades Pizarro is what makes this eatery so delightful. Staff are warm and bantering, and come bearing flutes of blueberry liqueur-dosed cava or glasses of patxaran (Basque Country’s answer to sloe gin). The wine list, too—while not overlong—is full of gems, and the sherry selection is worth exploring. Make a proper meal of it, then, and be sure to linger for a few hours.