Treading water or better than ever?
When I first dined at Pizarro shortly after it opened in the autumn/winter of 2011, I noted a few niggling blemishes and hoped they’d be ironed out. After a longer delay than initially planned, I made a return visit on a weekend evening with Templeton Peck, Socialist Worker and the Squinting Brummie to see if it really is worth queuing for the eternally popular Pizarro.
I don’t drink, but the Squinting Brummie and Templeton Peck love a good tipple and opted for a carafe of 2009 Syrah from Tierra de Castilla by Casa Delle Valle. They both seemed pleased by their choice with the Brummie describing it as earthy and reminiscent of blackcurrants.
The Brummie enjoyed his plate of thinly sliced chorizo which had a salty and nutty flavour. Templeton had to stop himself from wolfing down the tender, fresh and creamy scallops all in one go. Socialist Worker was pleased the tenderness of his squid which was complimented nicely by the squidginess of the sautéed artichokes.
My own starter of Jerusalem artichokes served with goat’s curd and hazelnuts was a delightful layer cake of flavours and textures. The artichoke pieces had a charred, slightly chewy outer layer which quickly gave way to a creamy centre that was accentuated by the light creaminess of the goat’s curd and the crunchy, nutty sweetness of the hazelnuts. The curd had a texture that was curiously both coarse and fluffy at the same time.
I continued my meat-free trend by opting for sweet potatoes with pomegranate and blue cheese as my main course. The sweet and fluffy sweet potato slices contrasted nicely with the crunchy pomegranate pieces and the bold, tangy and sharp saltiness of the soft blue cheese.
Socialist Worker was disappointed by the blandness of his cod served upon a bed of beans, although given his crude palate and blundering vocabulary this might not necessarily be the cod’s fault.
Although Templeton complained that his onglet steak cooked rare was a little chewy and tough around the edges, the centre of each beefy slice was pink and quivering with plenty of moreish flavour that was enhanced by the sweet onions and hearty gravy. The exceptionally creamy mash went down a treat too.
Even better than the onglet was the Brummie’s duck breast cooked rare. The moist and tender meat was spectacularly moreish due in no small part to the salty, seafood-ish sauce. The mildly bitter spinach contrasted well with the oranges and pears which weren’t overly sweet. The tender slices of sweet pear were a particularly good match for the duck.
For dessert, Socialist Worker plumped for the honey toffee cheesecake. He found it to be soft, fluffy, custardy and very light with a sugary sweetness to it. Templeton Peck and I both went for the soft and fluffy almond tart which had a dense crumb pastry. The tart yoghurt ice cream was icy with a clean, pure aftertaste that cleansed the palate of the nutty almond flavours from the tart very effectively.
The Squinting Brummie opted for the white chocolate mousse and apple. The diced apple cubes had been dipped in lemon juice giving them a zesty tinge, but the excess juice mean that the top layer of mousse on which they rested turned soggy and a little gloopy. Despite this, once the apples were mixed in with the mousse and cinnamon-flavoured crumble the result was an exquisite multi-layered melange of sweetness and varying textures.
The service at Pizarro varied from mildly brusque to forced civility, but there was no doubting their efficiency. Upon accidentally smashing Templeton’s wine glass when clearing the table at the end of our meal, the shards were promptly cleared away and a replacement, complimentary glass brought to the table within minutes.
Pizarro still isn’t quite perfect but, as at sister restaurant José, the cooking is very good indeed. If you haven’t made you way down there, then you owe to it yourself to do so.
Address: 194 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UB
Phone: 020 7407 7339
Opening Hours: seven days a week noon-15.00 and 18.00-23.00.
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks but excluding tip: £30 approx.