Wednesday, 29 February 2012


If I were to divulge about the top five world cuisines then Spanish wouldn’t figure. And if we were talking about the top ten instead, it would still lag behind the Japanese, Moroccans, Mexicans and dare I say the Vietnamese. Spanish cooking in general thrives on the best and freshest ingredients that doesn’t rely on unneeded complexities or the culinary rigmarole of the rest of the world’s best offerings. In spite of its simplicity Spanish cooking is also undyingly delicious. So it’s hardly a surprise that the clear majority of Spanish chefs who hold three Michelin stars have embraced rocket sciences and molecular gastronomy to achieve their respective merits globally; and to good effect I might add. Nicholas Lander, in his review of Jeremy Lee’s Quo Vadis for the FT said- ‘These are simple dishes that could be cooked at home, though they are even better when left to a consummate professional.’ Well, the statement sums up my experiences at Pizarro in its entirety.

Quickie notes:

To get there- crossing the Thames might be a chore too much for some.

Ambience- a welcoming bright and airy jaunt during lunch but too dark when supping in the evening.

Service- Smiley and pleasant but depending on where you’re sitting; if you’re allocated in some secluded corner facing Bermondsey Street then you might as well serve yourself or throw a tantrum.

Drinks- Filtered tap water, choice of still or sparkling served free. High mark-ups on the wines and sherrys indicated a trigger-happy mentality to keep the restaurant’s bank manager smiling incessantly.


The wonderful cover-charge-free enticement of radish and cauliflower was a good sign of what to expect.

Quail, Romesco

The anaemic looking bird belied its looks. It was beautifully cooked and thus moist and succulent. The sweet nutty Romesco sauce lent itself an immense apricity to the dish.

Salt cod, white beans, and spinach

The way the fish flaked so easily with the slightest of fork-nudges was a joy. Simply marvellous. It was a dish that was reassuringly rewarding created out of a combination of subtle tasting ingredients. And if the pescatarian disciples of the Dukan Diet had a sacred dish in mind, this would be it.

The next two dishes ordered are José Pizarro’s favourite dishes at the restaurant-

Duck livers, capers, Fino

Potentially another finely concocted dish that made me wish I was a humble peasant instead of living in W2 and faffing around with sliding doors. Fresh, sharp and earthy. This dish would’ve been fit for kings except that the livers were a little overcooked for my liking.

Lamb, lentils, radicchio

Lamb should always be cooked like the above; no more and no less. Impressive. However I was brought up on Sunday Roasts so where’s the gravy? And if the omnivorous disciples of the Dukan Diet had a sacred dish in mind this would be it.

Dessert of Vanilla ice cream, Moscatel grapes, PX

Sweet as hell but devilishly momentous, so much so and for my sins, one of my crowns broke in half. I blamed the almonds and injury lawyers were as a matter of fact, not consulted.

The second time I came back here the gaffer, José, was grafting his dues in the kitchen. Psychologically, the food can only get better and it did. Can I also say that Sr. Pizarro is my height, i.e. shortish…elation exclaimed!


José’s version was very good. Then, so too is Miguel’s, Jesús’, Santiago’s, Javier’s and Enrique’s but I love this the best because of the bacony bits.

Lamb’s tongues, red onion, gherkins

A dish whereby adjectives can do no further justice to. Memorable. A redeemable dish for those who have an aversion to lamb (taste nowt of and guaranteed) and for those who sigh about the myth that surrounds the melt-in-the mouth tedium.

NB just don’t bite your own tongue when enjoying.

Prawns, crispy Serrano ham, piquillo pepper

Impossible to share let alone oneself. The prawns may be not be the fabled Palamós y la gamba but they were one of the best I’ve tasted. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the crispy Serrano was beyond a tease! The only problem was…

…Michel Roux, Jr. has left the building!

Lamb, roasted winter vegetables, salsa verde

José loves his lamb, faultless and right up there but once again-

‘Love me tender,
love me sweet,’

So, let's chant-

Gravy! Gravy! My kingdom for some gravy!

Iberico pork fillet, mashed potatoes, peppers, almonds

Heaven is akin to eating near raw pork without the fear of trichinosis. It was boar taint at its finest, a perfume no longer offensive but inviting and luscious. Blimey, how do the Spaniards get away with this sort of thing, I’m numbed out but overwhelmed. Although it was not exactly the much hyped Pluma Iberica it was still a brilliant dish. The mash was in itself a standout star, it was made and seasoned so well that MsMarmitelover would love and envy at the same time.

Cambridge burnt cream Crema Catalana

Words desserted desert dessert me- like a child, I liked, liked and forver will like.

Simplicity at its best; that’s Pizarro. Highly recommended.

194 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3TQ

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Set Lunch at Hereford Road

''Poor and content is rich, and rich enough.''
William Shakespeare

Feeling brassic?

Well let's rejoice and celebrate one of London’s best kept secrets- Hereford Road’s Set Lunch. It’s the most perfect food-lover’s respite from the tedious uncertainties to do with the age of austerity.

Three starters, three mains and three puds- 2 courses for £13.00 or 3 courses for £15.50 and only valid from Mondays to Fridays.

And if you’re really über skint then there’s always the Express Lunch- a main course, a glass of wine and coffee for £9.50! (In reality a tenner isn’t really enough so make sure you have 69p spare…12.5% whatnot withstanding).

''...bread and butter, devoid of charm in the drawing-room, is ambrosia eating under a tree.''
Elizabeth Russell (née von Arnim)

Welcoming warm bread and butter served correctly at 21ºC. Gratis and no cover charge, all sorrows disappear thereafter.

''Divine Providence has spread her table everywhere, not with a juiceless green carpet, but with succulent herbage and nourishing grass, upon which most beasts feed.''
Thomas More

Starter of Suckling Pig and Watercress Salad

Wonderfully dressed salad with a generous amount of tender meat and take note, the raison d’être (crackling) was not omitted. Sometimes if you’re lucky enough you might find Deep Fried Calf's Brain or Lamb's Sweetbreads on offer instead.

''My favorite animal is steak.''
Fran Lebowitz

Mains of Onglet, Chips and Aioli.

We call it skirt and the Yanks, hanger- but the French, as always, have a way with words like the sweeter and more euphonic sounding enticement of onglet! Despite the alien nature of the grain and being a little tougher than the usual cuts of steaks, it was packed full of beefy flavour and tasted superb. Accompaniments included great chips, a token leaf salad to comply with the 5 a Day campaign and an excellent garlicky aioli. Capital punishment applies to those buffoons who insist on having the above steak cook beyond medium-rare.

''A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.''
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

The hard to come by but excellent tasting Criffel cheese from Scotland, served with Italian flatbed flatbread. This was a decent sized piece of cheese on a plate and quite unlike certain rip-off artists like here!

Sex is beautiful. But at my age a good apple crumble takes precedence.

Apple Crumble and Cinnamon Ice Cream ordered from the main menu. It was piping hot, delectably sweet, soothing and had the crumbliest topping ever; it was with good reason the most ideal pudding to complete the proverbial last meal.

''I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.''
G.K. Chesterton

Tom Pemberton et al, your restaurant rocks and long may you thrive! Thank you.

My previous review of Hereford Road as an à la carte diner-

3 Hereford Road
Westbourne Grove
London W2 4AB

Friday, 10 February 2012

Gaby's Deli

Let’s say a prayer and help save Gaby's Deli.

If you’ve been banged up for a consideration stretch somewhere in the Altai Mountains then you best read about the above here, here and Norm’s biased review here.

The delectable falafel that begat Gaby's enviable reputation.

Although I’m no groupie of the houmous stuff- but I’ll happily scoff Gaby’s version with a malicious satisfaction every time

The salt beef.

It too substantiated Gaby's status as an institution.

It may not be the be all and end all of salt beef sandwiches but it’s still pretty good. I suppose the ideal time to sample the above at its best is between noon and 1pm when the beef comes straight out of the bain-marie; it’ll always be succulent, moist and gratifying.

The kebabs on offer here are unfortunately not in the same league as our Turkish friends’ efforts like here or here but Gaby's giant meatballs deserve a special mention for they were particularly memorable.

So readers and Londoners alike, like the mother of all nudges goes- please sign the petition and keep this place alive for years to come. Thank you.

30 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0DB