With the weather being so warm and lovely on Sunday. M and I decided to pop down to south london and has a Tapas lunch. José sprung to mind. A popular Tapas bar that has been recommended by many critics and foodie alike. As it is located in Bermondsey, which is not too far from us. This is perfect.
First impression upon approaching the bar is that this is, without a doubt, a Tapas bar. It occupied a tiny corner of the street. From the outside, A charming, mahogany exterior with fuss-free decor. It was so subtle that we nearly walked past it without knowing.
Once entered, we were immediately transport into a cosy, slightly Hispanic ambiance. The decorative tile, juxtaposed with exposed brick walls and the industrial steel pillar and beam. Wooden flooring and ceiling and a strategically place wooden barrel complete this unassuming bar. The exposed kitchen is a welcome feature. The aroma exudes from it when the chef were cooking were simply intoxicating. It was already busy when we got here at around 2 o'clock. The buzzing crowd further add to this sociable Spanish charm. We were first ushered to the table right by the kitchen where we had to stand by the friendly matron'd but a couple paid up and left while we were pondering on the menu. So we were swiftly moved to the corner where the much sought after stools were available.
We ordered a selection from the menu as well as a few from the chalkboard behind the bar. This apparently are the daily specials that changes everyday according to what's fresh and available in the market. The wine arrived not long after. The red Decenio Cranza Rioja was an excellent choice. It was oaky and fruity, with a light liquorice and perhaps vanilla aftertaste.
Following swiftly on was the famous plain Tortilla and the Croquetas. It was sensational, so simple, yet so good. The caramelised onions within gave it a touch of natural sweetness, the texture is just perfect, soft and curd-like, not dissimilar to a really moist cake. How extraordinary! The croquetas were little balls of delights and just as yummy. Light crispy outer, enveloping a creamy béchamel sauce and bits of ham. Well seasoned and truly moreish.
The juicy and sweet tomatoes on crusty bread were another highlight. Fresh with abundance of ripen flavours. If only all tomatoes taste as good as these. Even the humble Padrón peppers were pan-fried with peppery olive oil to perfection. And nope, we were not have lucky enough to have encountered a truly spicy one.
After that came a long pause. We waited...and waited...and finally after about fifteen minutes, I queried the waitress about the remaining of our order. She went to check and came back to reassure us that it was on it's way. After what seems like another good ten minutes or so, they finally arrived. The prawns with chili and garlic is another fine example of fresh produce being beautifully cooked. Sweet and juicy, seasoned to perfection. The mackerel with spinach and Ibérico were also outstanding.
We waited another ten minutes before giving up on the Patatas Bravas.
'It's not going to come is it? Shall we go?', asked M.
We asked for the bill and then explained to the waitress that we never did received our Patatas Bravas. She apologised and immediately took that off our bill. Despite this little hiccup and the inconsistency of the service, we both really enjoyed the food.
The tapas dishes ranges from £3-£9 on the regular menu and the daily specials were up to £13.50 for the fillet steak which we stupidly, didn't order. The pair of ladies next to us did however, and it looked well cooked with a touch of pink in the middle. All I can hear was 'ooh this is perfect' as she cut into it and ate it. Massive regret of the day. With all the half-baked Spanish tapas restaurants that are cropping up everywhere that serves mediocre spanish food, it is clear that José stands out, a true gem amongst the cloned dross. I will definitely revisit again and the fillet will be on the top of my list if it's on the daily special.
104 Bermondsey Street