José Pizarro: London’s tapas master

By ExtremeFoodies on October 21st, 2016


José Pizarro has joined restaurateurs, chefs, bakers and café owners across the UK participating in #CookForSyria. Throughout November, #CookForSyria participants are putting a “Syrian-inspired twist” on one of their favorite signature dishes or creating a new dish. Starting Nov. 1 at José, Pizarro and José Pizarro, the chef will offer marinated lamb over hummus, drizzled with a pistou sauce of garlic, fresh basil and olive oil. £2 from each dish sold will be donated to UNICEF UK’s Children of Syria Fund.

José Pizarro has spent his professional career defending the quality, variety and creativity of Spanish cuisine. Born on a farm in Extremadura, José put aside the country life to work in restaurants in the region before moving to Madrid and finally to the United Kingdom.

He is now regarded as one of the biggest champions of Spanish cuisine.

Pizarro's first steps as a cook were taken at the Fonda de San Juan restaurant in Cáceres and the Hotel Cañada Real in Extremadura. Following a chance encounter with Chef Julio Reoyo, Pizarro worked for a time at El Mesón de Doña Filo, one of the most highly regarded restaurants in Madrid.

Eager to experiment and branch out on his own, in 1999 Pizarro decided to try his luck in London, where he began working in Spanish restaurants such as Gaudí and Centro. Two years later, he was signed as head chef at Eyre Brothers. The following year, the Good Food Guide named Eyre Brothers the “Best New Restaurant” for 2002.


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Pizarro’s rising culinary star attracted Monika Linton, founding partner of the Spanish products import company Brindisa. In 2003, she made Pizarro an offer: set up the Tapas Brindisa restaurant in London's Borough Market. A focal point for gourmet food fans, it was a resounding success and received glowing reviews as customers flocked to the restaurant. 

As a result, Brindisa Tapas Kitchens made Pizarro a partner and charged him with opening two more London venues: Tierra Brindisa in Soho and Casa Brindisa in South Kensington. 


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In response to an adoring public clamoring for his recipes, Pizarro began regularly contributing to specialist gourmet publications and provided a series of recipes for the English version of “1080 Recipes by Simone Ortega.”At the end of 2009, Pizarro published his first book in the United Kingdom, “Spanish Seasonal Food,” which had already been released in Holland and the United States. The Spanish version, “Cocina Tradicional Española,” was published in 2011.

First venture: José

That same year, Pizarro opened his first solo venture, José, on Bermondsey Street in London. Inspired by the bustling tapas bars around La Boqueria market in Barcelona and the traditional tapas bars in the towns and villages of Andalucía, Pizarro’s mission was to serve simple, seasonal food with a wide selection of sherry and wines. Specials change daily, and include such classic dishes as grilled razor clams, crab and basil croquettes, Spanish omelets, chorizo sausage in red wine, and chickpea and pumpkin stew.


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Second venture: Pizarro 

The award-winning chef and author then opened Pizarro, a full-sized restaurant one block away from his tapas bar on Bermondsey Street. A bar fronts the restaurant, offering a wide selection of sherry and Spanish wines, with a spotlight on cava wines, Spanish-style gin and tonics and Spanish vermút.

He named the restaurant after his grandfather, who owned a bar called Pizarro in Talaván in Spain.

“Seeing that name above the door is very special for me,” Pizarro said.


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Diners pack the window seats overlooking St. Mary Magdalen church, at a long communal table or at the bar to drink and graze on snacks, cheese, cold cuts and special tapas. At the rear is a more formal restaurant with small tables, banquettes, a large communal table and a private dining room.

Open for lunch and dinner daily, the restaurant’s menu is also available at the bar.


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“We offer a selection of small and more substantial dishes that can be served as starters and mains or as tapas for sharing,” Pizarro said. “As usual, I want to bring you delicious food with bright new flavors – the season’s best on a plate.”

Reservations are available for lunch and dinner in the restaurant and private dining tables. Bar seats are set aside for walk-ins.

Third venture: José Pizarro

In 2015, he opened his third venue, José Pizarro, in Broadgate Circle. As with his other venues, his enormous passion for fresh, simple, seasonal ingredients is at the fore and his dishes showcase the best of Spanish and local British produce.


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Menu highlights include grilled octopus with baby potatoes; croquetas caseras, crisp balls filled with ham and creamy béchamel; spinach empanadas; empanadas with Torta del Casar cheese and pine nut dressing; Riojan cod with red pepper sauce; and Tocino de Cielo, a caramel flan traditional to southern Spain.

Pizarro will offer his #CookForSyria dish at all three locations: José Tapas Bar and Pizarro Restaurant on Bermondsey Street, and José Pizarro in Broadgate. 

For more information, visit José Pizarro 

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