So you’ve never been to…José, Bermondsey St

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Bermondsey Street’s most popular tapas bar is wildly busy for a reason


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jose tapas bar
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Age: Unbelievably nearly a decade. José was the first solo venture from acclaimed chef José Pizarro on the irritatingly hip street that everyone – given half the chance – would happily live on.

Where exactly is it? Didn’t you hear? Bermondsey’s key thoroughfare, stuffed with attractive hangs from sweary beans at Fuckoffee or boozy espresso at Chapter 72 to art and sartorial inspo at the White Cube and Fashion Museum respectively.

OK. So what goes on there? Jose? Mostly queuing. That is, if you get there peak time (it’s a tiny corner tapas joint, as authentic as ones in the capital get y’see). The menu is chalked up, and service is coolly run by the efficient senorita and her small team who glide about dishing up ice-cold cerveza and glasses of cava to eager-beaver customers.

What should I eat? Now you’re talking. There’ll be bar snacks (for many punters it’s solely about the Jamón Ibérico), tortilla and other starter-style nibbles on one blackboard, with perhaps ten bigger plates listed on the other. Don’t miss the rustic pan con tomate, expertly seasoned (and gobble down croquetas while you’re at it); and then perhaps try a crisp baby gem salad (see below) strewn with fulsome anchovies and speckled with chopped chives: an umami flavourbomb.

Jose tapas
Gem with anchovies. Photo: SE
And speaking of fish? Our two main fish dishes dazzled: pulpo a la gallega was served typically on a cute circular board, the tender oval discs of tentacle paired with al dente potatoes and dusted with smoked paprika; while an opaque hunk of Norwegian cod, skin seared and topped with jamon, straddled chunky pisto (the ratatouille-style stew) and jamon.

The interior: discuss. Double-fronted windows with stools all the way along offer great people watching. Inside it’s a wooden-beamed ceiling and brick walls, with barrels, around which customers perch, and pendant lighting. Chefs sweat visibly in the open kitchen.

And what do I drink? Cold Spanish beer; or perhaps a crisp verdejo. We chose both (sequentially).

What’s the service like? Brusquely efficient; it’s worth at least trying to charm the staff to ensure you get good service, as they always have one eye on the snaking queue.

Do say: ‘How about a late lunch at about half past three?’

Don’t say: ‘But is it as good as Barrafina?

Jose is open daily 12midday – 1030 (9.45pm Sunday) at 140 Bermondsey Street SE1

Main image: SE


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