Monday, 20 June 2011

José, Bermondsey

Someone pointed out on Twitter the other day that with the launch of Bar Pepito, Capote y Toros (review coming soon on London Confidential if they ever get round to launching the site) and now José in Bermondsey, London now has more dedicated ham and sherry bars than Barcelona. Whether or not this is completely accurate - and I think it's probably a bit unfair to Barcelona where ham and sherry isn't really a Catalan thing - it's nevertheless a trend I can thoroughly get behind. In fact, it's surprising it's taken this country so long to wake up to the combination of Iberico ham and cold sherry, as you'd have to be lacking a significant part of your brain (or be a vegetarian, and let's face it that's more or less the same thing) not to enjoy these most wonderful ingredients. Iberico ham, in particular, is a genuine gastronomic wonder; produced correctly and carved properly it has an almost impossibly rich, complex flavour that builds the longer you hold it in your mouth, with notes of forest and moss and the acorns that the pampered black pigs themselves feed on. It's my Desert Island dish, my Death Row meal, my one true food love.

The Iberico ham at José, you'll be pleased to hear, was superb, sliced into translucent strips and arranged carefully on a salad plate for £9. Great value, and value in the most literal sense - this is a world-class product, expensive to produce and requiring specialist skill to present, and alarm bells should ring if it's ever priced at anything less than a premium. We savoured the silken shards of pig in between mouthfuls of the always wonderful La Gitana Manzanilla, the salty sherry matching it perfectly.

If we'd only gone to José to get deliriously happy on Iberico and Manzanilla it still would have been far from a wasted journey, but certain items on the chalkboard menu just sounded too good to miss so despite a large (and expensive and ultimately rather disappointing, more here anon) lunch elsewhere we still found room to squeeze in a plate of croquettas and something called "Pluma Iberica". Firstly, the croquettas were something approaching perfect - a delicate thin crust broke to reveal a soft béchamel filling shot through with dark chunks of more of that brilliant ham, they were as good as any I've had in Spain or anywhere else for that matter. But the Pluma Iberica was truly astonishing. Strips of pork seasoned and seared to rare, they were served simply with a couple of strips of preserved piquillo peppers (try saying that after a bottle of Manzanilla), and tasted, thanks to aggressive seasoning and expert timing on the grill, like the finest aged beef steak, marbled with fat and bursting with flavour. It's a dish rarely seen in this country, presumably because serving pork even pink is a controversial step to some people, never mind as under as this, but I will be eternally grateful for José for having the cojones to put it on the menu here. I still can't stop thinking about it.

Three tapas and a bottle of Manzanilla may seem like a rather flimsy amount of food to base a whole review around but I have every confidence that everything else at José, including the fresh seafood which looked magnificent presented under a glass case in the counter of the bar, would have been equally wonderful had we found room for it. In fact, you don't even have to take my word - see the Dos Hermanos review here, or the gushing reports that are stacking up on London Eating. Or, and this is something you absolutely must do, just go yourself. José is as good a restaurant as you could ever want.


José on Urbanspoon


CompostChris said...

It's a shame you've used a cheap shot at vegetarians for humour, I thought bloggers were moving beyond the vegetarian hate stereotype portrayed by the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. I'm genuinely surprised that you'd alienate some of your readers.

Anonymous said...

CompostChris - Chris doesn't alienate vegetarians with his gag. Vegetarians alienate themselves by not eating meat.
Given that many male food bloggers cite Bourdain as a big influence I think it's probably gonna be a few years before the 'poke a vegetarian because they are pale and don't know what a kidney tastes like and giggle' attitude changes.
I like vegetables as much as the next man,woman or vegetarian but they really do play second fiddle to pig and cow and anything that once lived and breathed and had thought and felt pain and reproduced and went shopping and stuff.

tori said...

Have been meaning to get myself down there for a few weeks now. This just clinched it. Ta muchly for the motivational kick along.

Kevin B said...

Was directed to this blog and arrived hoping to see some sort of carnivore v. vegetarian bunfight (and knowing where my money would be if it were indeed so).

Hillariously, a gentleman with the moniker CompostChris (honestly, you couldn't make this up) calls out the author for alienating a section of his readers and, indeed accuses the latter of stirring up 'vegetarian hate'.

The very notion that a vegetarian could claim to be a 'foodie' without suffling his feet and staring uncomfortably at his shoes, or indeed that Cheese and Biscuits would be concerned with alienating some anaemic but mysteriously ultra-powerful lobby group amongst his own readers has considerably brightened up my evening.

CompostChris said...

I didn't mean to stir up a bunfight of any sort, I'd rather scoff buns than see them thrown, and not being a veggie I appreciate Chris' reviews of places I can pop out to eat one day. Sadly Pitt Cue was closed when I popped by recently, and I'd have not heard about it if it weren't for this blog.

So it's not a virtuous veggie campaign in any way, just a reader thinking it was a tired joke. I must fish out Kitchen Confidential again and see what I think of it...

Pasta Bites said...

Mmm... interesting review and kind of tempting given it's close to home (literally) but... Im always disappointed by spanish food...!

The Perfect Trough said...

It looks fantastic. I love croquetas and could eat them forever, ditto with the ham. Great location too.

The Pluma Iberica sounds a bit like the 'Iberica Presa' I had at the Opera Tavern (my very first review!) and the grilled pork is nice and pink

Great post. Veggies - I'm sure it was just a joke...?

Anonymous said...

Good Article

Liv said...

Hmm, sure just a joke. Then it's an exceptionally tired, boring, cliched one at that. Really, please give us at least 'top drawer' 'joke' material rather than this slop.

Ah, but it looks like it's ok -

Anonymous said...

The dishes don't seem nice (maybe because of your camera). Could you also publish the bill?Thanks

CellarDoor said...

Argh Chris and Kevin B etc, stop your veggie hate!
Just because some people either don't like the taste of something or feel disgusted by it or are opposed to it ethically does not make it alright to ostracise them. I'm so sick of this crap in the "foodie" world.
You may think pig and cow tastes better than vegetables @arbaggs, but I prefer a curry to a ratatouille and I don't go around insulting people who like ratatouille. So people have the right to call others out when they do so to veggies.

Chris Pople said...

I'd like to just point out that I made a very poor (and very brief) "joke" about vegetarians as part of a post about eating raw pig, that's all. I don't hate anyone.

I do hate ratatouille though (not the film, that's ace)

Anonymous said...

Haha I said ratatouille because I'd seen the film a couple of days before!
Sienna x