The anticipation of the meal out, knowledge of a convivial time to come, the escapism, the little surprises on the menu, or the first sips of your arrival drinks.
I love the whole experience.
Often constrained by budget, the challenges are all the greater…
With our destination chosen, we walked up to the open door filled with bodies not quite inside – the fun of “no reservations” venues…the hubbub was at the perfect level, buzzy not rowdy, packed not uncomfortable and the seeming chaos was soon clarified by Jack who gave us an indication of the wait time and then walked us through the beverage options with skill and charm. He would, he said, guide us to the one of the slots on marble bars along the windows or elsewhere shortly, the spaces are all numbered so what appears to be random and informal is actually really well organised to make sure you have your own spot in which to enjoy your stay.
Jose, is the Bermondsey based tapas bar, of Spanish chef Jose PIzzaro. It’s actually, we learned, a sherry and Tapas bar, and Jack got us started with a couple of very fine Sherries. He had my measure right from the start – I’m not an automatic sherry lover – but he correctly assessed me as a dry crisp and light girl– it was truly delicious and got the evening off to a great start. I had the Manzanilla Classico and Rocket started with the Amontillado.
So the next ‘little thing’ I enjoy is being able to put yourself in the hands of the team, which means you can dare to try new things, instead or reverting to type. In good establishments, I find, you are rarely at risk being stuck with the most expensive option.
The tapas are shown on chalkboards, and the chefs work behind the bar – the whole things is compact and cosy. Another little thing (or a big thing for me) was the lovely lantern lit ambience. We have driven past this place many times and gazed enviously at the happy band inside, but for some reason we were always on way to somewhere less appealing. I was worried we may be disappointed once actually on the ‘inside’ but not a chance. We started with the Carpaccio of iberico pork, played inferno roulette with the padron peppers (2-0 to Rocket) and the escebeche of boquerónes. We had no idea what the carpaccio would be like but it was the most succulent and delicious pork I’ve eaten in a long time, earthy with a deeply herby flavour that melted away like butter.
Another little thing? You go to one place and you discover somewhere else. As we sat in the window we were facing a charming looking little French Bistro Casse-Croûte. Somewhere for another time – fantastic!
After switching to wine, again under the expert guidance of the waiting staff, we went for the hake, the iberico ham, and the patatas bravas. The hake was soft and moist encased in a crisp batter and topped with a rich mayo. We should have stopped there but Rocket couldn’t resist trying the Spanish black pudding with scrambled egg and I finished with the salted chocolate…
Walking home we concluded that we had spanked the budget, but for the quality of our grazing evening, I think the cost of £114 was bang on– we had pushed the boat out and will not hesitate to go back for another go, or just for a quite drink and a bite. Karl-Heinz and The Minx would love it there….