Posted on Wednesday, 15th February 2012
Pizarro has been receiving all the same rave reviews that its sister restaurant José also collected when it first opened. But one of the things that make Pizarro more appealing than José is that it is bigger, a huge bonus when both restaurants do not have a booking policy and happen to be two of the most sort after tables in London at the moment. I still imagine there could be long waits, but we turned up around 6.30pm on a Saturday night and managed to nab a spot straight away.
The dining room spells T-R-E-N-D-Y. It feels more formal and less raw than José, but it still follows the bar-seating-around-the-open-kitchen formula of its sister. We sat right near the pass during our visit which meant we got to see José at work. The menu is small, and it has less of a tapas-focus than at José and more main course selections (five).
As we decided on what to order, we were presented with some veggie nibbles of radish and cauliflower dressed with olive oil and cava vinegar. These are worth a mention as they were lovely with a hint of delicate acidic sweetness.
A parsnip and celeriac soup (£5.50), with a drizzling of truffle oil and a choice of crispy ham and/or Manchego (we went for both) was scrumptious. There was a sweetness coming through from the parsnip and celeriac, and the robust flavour of the cheese and the crispiness of the ham provided a lovely contrast against the mellow qualities of the creamy soup. The truffle oil rounded off the dish nicely. We attempted to share the soup by asking for another bowl, at which point José kindly plated up another portion for us at no extra cost. How generous! But then, José himself comes across as kindly and extremely nice.
A plate of jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado (£20) was deliciously meaty and rich in flavour. Also appealing was the fantastic deep red colour of the ham and the unctuous qualities of the fat.
We followed this with pan-fried fillets of seabass (£17.50) which were meaty and generously sized. The fish had been perfectly cooked, moist and juicy. Served with roasted winter vegetables including parsnip and Jerusalem artichoke, it was also accompanied by a herb salsa verde with capers and olives which matched the fish wonderfully with its freshness and acidity. This was a fantastic dish.
Lamb (£14.50), was nicely cooked, gamey and meaty. But at £14.50, the portion felt small. It was accompanied by fresh radicchio and sweet lentils which gave way to a tender bite and a lovely sweetness.
Chocolate and caramel ice creams (£6) served with toast was delicious. The ice creams were decadently creamy and silky smooth, and the contrast between the two flavours worked well. The toast added a subtle crunch to the ice creams.
Pizarro lives up to the food standards set by José. Its philosophy of simple, fantastic cooking using great produce speaks for itself. The food luxuriates a comforting warmth. However, the service, whilst pleasant, was a little sloppy – as an example, we had to ask for a dessert menu three times. Nevertheless, Pizarro is still a winner.
Food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 3/5
Price range: £27 – £44 for three courses. Excludes drinks and service.