Pizarro, a Spanish restaurant sitting in the shadow of the Shard, is just such a chameleon. Smart enough for a business lunch (remember those?) but relaxed enough for a family gathering, its unassumingly stylish décor allows the food to shine on its own merits.
The restaurant is owned by José Pizarro, who also owns a tapas bar – José – down the road, and previously worked at the much-feted tapas bar Brindisa. Pizarro is also a favourite celebrity chef of my foodie friends – with whom we visited the resataurant – so we went with high expectaions and were especially excited to see him in person, walking through the open kitchen in personalised chef whites.
Service was leisurely and very friendly – especially to younger diners – and we spent a happy afternoon sampling the small food menu and larger choice of Spanish wines and sherries.
Included on the specials board was a whole shoulder of lamb – cooked gently, the waitress explained, for eight or nine hours. It will serve four or five, she suggested, and at £70 that seemed good value compared to some of the other mains. In the end there was enough meltingly tender meat and sweet vegetables (braised in the lamb juices) to serve at least six adults.
Vegetarians aren’t given a wide choice – one starter, and one main – but thankfully both dishes were judged excellent by our veggie companion. The veggie main course featured sweet potatoes, creamy-salty blue cheese, and a burst of freshness from pomegranate seeds – demonstrating Pizarro’s great skill of balancing flavours with aplomb.
Meanwhile the omnivores were experiencing a rainbow of tastes, from a starter of earthy lamb livers dressed in tangy sweet onions; to a perfectly-seared salt-crusted tuna steak on a bed of rich sweet aubergines; to a pudding of creamy coconut milk, sweetly-tart marinated bananas, and crunchy chocolate crumbs.
Some dishes erred on the salty side – particularly the tuna and a clams starter – and the portions weren’t huge, but we left feeling full. Since the quality of the ingredients was obvious, the cost of £30 a head seemed fair; though it’d have been much more if we’d all had starters and separate mains.
Thanks to the price – with mains up to £21 and starters at around £8 – it’s not a place you’d visit every week, but it’s a place you’d confidently pick for special dinners and occasions of any sort.
194 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ
020 7378 9455