In review: José Pizarro, Broadgate Circle

Jose Pizarro - a view down the bar
The City is strange place. What is a bustling hub alive with endeavour, exaggeration and excess on work days becomes an eerily deserted collection of marbled squares and pitch black chain pubs at the weekend, as if traders are Cinderella-esque characters who leg it, afraid they’ll turn into gourds come 5pm on a Friday.

It was wandering through one such abandoned expanse of polished mineral, en route to the gym, that me and the other half first laid eyes upon Broadgate Circus, a rounded hollow barely a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station. The jazzy decals in the windows bore evidence of the impending opening of José Pizarro’s latest venture, a prospect that, to us, was rather exciting.

Before I go on, I must fully disclose the importance of José Pizarro’s restaurants to my life.  It feels like it’s been a darn sight longer, but ever since it opened in 2011, José on Bermondsey Street has been very close to my heart. As authentic a tapas bar as you’re likely to find in London, José’s warm, welcoming atmosphere, heady with fino, chatter and jamon, has always drawn me to its cosy corner plot.

In the just over 18 months we’ve been together, me and the missus have spent more afternoons than it is advisable for my liver, cholesterol and wallet shuffled up next to each other, snaffling down another pluma Iberica. We’ve laughed, loved, cried, argued and decided, in a round about way, that we were proper girlfriend and boyfriend. Big stuff for a little restaurant.

Safe to say then I was looking forward to this opening, especially since it’s a darn sigh closer to our Hackney home than south east of London Bridge. Last Saturday I strolled up in a post-gym haze of exhaustion and sweat. The menu is familiar but tweaked from Pizarro, the Spaniard’s more formal eatery a bit further down Bermondsey Street.

Handsome swing 5J jamon Iberico de Bellota

I took my place at the bar, to my mind really the only spot you want to sit in any tapas/pintxo/small plates establishment, as the handsome 5J Bellota jamons swung gently in the breeze above me. At the other end of the bar I spotted the affable Jack, an incredibly tall Antipodean as warm as their weather and stalwart of the Bermondsey Street bar, deep in conversation.

Mr Pizarro was similarly occupied, prowling the then fairly empty room, putting finishing touches to preparations and giving gentle instruction to his friendly staff. He spotted me and came to say hi; we chatted briefly about his recommendations.

Prawn fritters with saffron aioli

His first, prawn fritters (buñuelos) with saffron aioli are a highlight – hand-minced coarsely, they are pure yet unctuous and subtly herbal. Mushroom croquetas travel well from SE1 to EC2M. Grilled octopus dusted with José’s own pimenton is traditional and supple. Roasted root vegetables are firm, their sweetness cleverly balanced by the acidic Monte Enebro cheese and black olive dressing. The meatballs made with Iberico meat with orange could do with a tad more fruit in the rich tomato sauce, but the chicken livers blush just as they should. By the time I made it to a final plate of the fantastic 5J, I was a little tiddly, having taken down a carafe and a half of good red wine, the first a very good red from the modern Spanish part of the list.

I tore myself from the fine, fatty ham and looked up. The place was packed.

José tapped me on the shoulder as a large group was brought the presa Iberica, a quite stunning 500g piece of pig served deep ruby red and unapologetically simple. Jack told of a mythical 1kg sirloin cooked to perfection. At first they seemed like overkill – I’m a purist at heart and revel in the variety and unassuming nature of pintxos, so the big slabs of meat, while mouthwatering, struck me as rather inelegant, excessive even. But then I looked to the sun-drenched outdoor tables, the pristine circle bathed in the warm glow reflected from the glass towers surrounding it, and it all made sense.

In a world where Goodmans and Hawksmoor are neighbourhood joints, Jose Pizarro is to the City what José is to London Bridge. It may be a strange part of town, but I think this Spaniard’s going to fit right in.

José Pizarro Broadgate
36 Broadgate Circle

Open Monday to Saturday, for bookings click here or call 020 7256 5333 (or alternatively walk in to try you luck at the bar – now it’s fully open, I imagine there’ll be quite a wait)

Grilled octopus with JP pimenton Roasted root vegetables with Monte Enebro and black olive dressing Chicken livers Iberico meatballs with tomoato and orange Sliced 5J jamon Iberico de Bellota

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