Ex Bermondsey Kitchen soon to be Pizarro’s

José Pizarro’s Tapas bar “José” in Bermondsey Street is oh so popular and rather small to say the least, it’s near impossible to get in. So when I heard that he was opening a larger restaurant in the premises formally occupied by The Bermondsey Kitchen just a few yards further up the street it was music to my ears.

The official opening of the new restaurant which will be called Pizarro is in October, but unusually they started earlier by opening up The Bermondsey Kitchen again with the new Pizarro team, for just a few weeks before it closes in September for its make over, which will involve extending the bar to take up the whole front of the restaurant. The new restaurant will also feature a traditional Spanish menu and provide London’s first Cava bar.

This premature opening was confusing enough to make me unsure if I was visiting/reviewing a “real restaurant”. Although the bill for two of £80 was pretty real and not particularly great value.

The room currently lacks atmosphere and was half full on our visit on a Friday evening. The menu looked quite interesting with tapas like starters and more substantial mains, they all looked like fairly traditional Spanish dishes to me, but I do not know if this food style is a true example of what will be served in October.

We had the prawns and anchovies – both very good tapas style dishes. However when the mains arrived we rather wished we had just ordered all of the starters, as they were less successful. My Rabbit was rather unseasonal to say the least, a hearty rabbit stew in August! My companions Iberian Pork was pretty basic served with mashed potatoes and piquillo peppers, a bit dull really.  For dessert we had the figs which were burnt on the bottom and a rather ordinary orange and almond cake.

On the plus side we had a  very nice bottle of Ribero de Duero and a couple of glasses of PX.  However based on this “taster” I think I will wait a while until the real Pizarro is in place and has settled in to the area. Then if I can not get a booking at nearby Zucca I might try it again.

Marks out of 10

Food 4.9

Service 5

Ambience 4

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Zucca – Cucina povera & BYOB : Bellissimo

Zucca has a very reasonable £10 corkage fee when you bring your own bottle.  Corkage fees can be excessive. Here is a useful list, to give you a rough idea of the typical charges:-

It’s not as good a deal as the one advertized by the Kitchen W8 (free corkage on a Sunday evening), but for a Saturday night a £10 corkage fee is not too bad.  Especially in a restaurant with such a great reputation for food.

So armed with a rather nice bottle of Amerone (Masi Costasera Classico Amerone 2003), we headed off to Zucca (Bermonsey’s answer to The River Cafe), to choose some cucina povera to go with it.

It is almost a year now since my last visit, shortly after the Restaurant opened, and to say Zucca has been successful in that intervening period would be something of an understatement. It’s had rave reviews, is buzzing most nights and is firmly recognised as a “Foodies” destination restaurant.

The highlights for me had to be the pasta dishes.  The beautiful fennel and lemon flavoured tagliatelle was so refreshing and the veal and parmesan ravioli was delicious  – why did I just order a starter size portion!  The pasta was just in a different class from the very ordinary and much more expensive pasta dish I had at Apsleys. The Brunet and Speck (goats cheese wrapped in ham) was also very good.

The only downside to bringing your own wine without knowing the menu in advance,  is that you are a bit restricted in your food choices.  We avoided the more interesting fish dishes which would not have worked with the Amerone and ordered the slow cooked pork in milk and the veal chop instead.  One thing that had not changed since my last visit was the limited selection of side orders.  My veal chop, lovely though it was,  would have really suited me better if accompanied by some potatoes rather that the spinach I barely touched.

We finished with the cheese course and a very nice piece of light and moist orange cake.

The service is not particularly polished. The staff were all very pleasant, but  not quite attentive enough to comfortably handle the two hour turn around on the table. That and our waitress must have missed watching Michel Roux’s Service 😉 pouring as she did a full measure of wine, rather that just enough to check that the wine was OK, something that is especially important in BYOB situations.

Zucca is not perfect, but they certainly know how to cook.

After dinner we headed down to Most Cafe bar under Tower bridge, it was busy and getting served at the overcrowded bar looked impossible (why do under staffed bars insist on doing cocktails?), so instead we made our way to the more laid back Draft House Pub. Instant friendly service and a free table. It has a good reputation for its food as well, so definitely worth a return visit to try that, see Cheese and Biscuits review for details.

Marks out of 10 for Zucca

Food 6.3

Service 4.9

Ambience 6.0

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Square Meal

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The Mayflower Inn versus La Lanterna

So why a historic gastropub versus a traditional Italian Trattoria.  The reason is Open House London or Open City as it is now called, an event that allows for free access to some very interesting places. We had a tour of Sands Film Studios in Rotherhithe, an amazing place that among other things provided costumes for films ranging from Little Dorrit to Pride and Prejudice.  The studios are directly opposite The Mayflower Inn, so that popular scenic pub seemed an ideal location for dinner.

The Mayflower is a great pub with a floating deck area right on the river. Great for drinks that is, it used to do good food too – maybe it still does!  However when we saw the price on the chalk board for Fish and Chips, we just could not justify it – £21.00 (see picture). So we headed up river to Shad Thames, and went to La Lanterna, which is a “real” Italian Trattoria, with genuinely friendly and hospitable Italian staff. In style this place is almost the antithesis of the modern Italian restaurants typified by Zucca and the River Cafe.

We chose a bottle of my favorite Italian white wine (Gavi de Gavi), and I ordered Antipasto misto all’italiana (mixed appetisers) at £7.20 ( this dish was for one, but could have fed four). I followed this with fish from their specials board – Halibut with Scallops and Langoustine (not cheap at £21 either, but a lot more than just fish and chips).  This dish was nicely cooked and served with a tasty citrus sauce and a side order of vegetables, it  was also a huge portion.  Way too big for me, so  the waiter kindly offered to box the piece of halibut I left for take away.

There was absolutely no room for dessert so I just had coffee.  This was followed by a complementary liqueur (we were offered a choice of Amaretto, Sambuca, Baileys or Limoncello) –  a very nice way to end the evening.

La Lanterna also has an attractive inner courtyard for eating al fresco (in the summer).

Marks out of 10 for La Lanterna

Food 5.8

Service 7

Ambience 6.8

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The Mayflower Inn – NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK

La Lanterna – NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK

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Zucca – a significant addition to Bermondsey’s burgeoning foodie scene

The Evening Standard and Time Out reviewers really rated Zucca, a new Italian in Bermondsey – see Review of the Reviews

We tried it for Sunday lunch.

It is a modern take on a good Italian Trattoria, in that it is informal and makes no attempt to “tart up” the presentation of the dishes. Which are made from fresh ingredients and beautifully cooked.

For starters I had the Zucca Friters (Pumpkin in batter) and my companion had the Speck (juniper flavored ham) and Pigeon Crostini, both very nice but we had to make use of the olive oil provided with the bread to enhance them. Some pesto or a dip of some sort would have been ideal with my Friters.

There was small selection of  main courses, basically meat/fish with some greens, so if you want pasta you need to order as a separate course.  I ordered Pigeon, it was superb, tasty and moist – actually better than the Pigeon I had in Cibrèo in Florence which is a real compliment.

I would have liked to have tried the Amaretto tart for dessert but they had ran out, so we made do with some home made ice cream.

The wine list included several options by the glass and a range of reasonably priced bottles.

The marketing for Alfies a near neighbour to Zucca, describes Alfies as “a significant addition to Bermondsey’s burgeoning foodie scene”.  That description did not fit Alfies, but does most definately describe Zucca.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.3

Service 5

Ambience 5.9

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Where to eat and drink – London Bridge, Bermondsey, Bankside (Southwark)

There are lots of restaurants to choose from in the Southwark area.  I have listed a few of my favorites.

Albion – Located in NEO Bankside, it’s a Shop, Bakery and Cafe, it’s great for Cake and Coffee and has outside seating. Part of the Conran Group.

Del’Aziz – Mediterranean Delicatessen and Brasserie, good venue for Cakes and Brunch.

Delfina – well cooked, quality food. Open for breakfast and lunch, occasional evening openings.

JoséJosé Pizarro’s tiny Tapas bar in Bermondsey Street.

Tas (Borough High Street) and Tas Pide (Bankside)

Tapas Brindisa – Close to Borough Market

The Table – Tucked away a couple of streets behind the Tate Modern, it’s ideal for late Breakfasts and Brunch.

The Hide Bar – excellent selection of wines, beers, spirits and cocktails, it also does regular wine tastings.

Village East (171-173 Bermondsey Street) – Good venue for carnivores, a popular place that does excellent steaks.

Vinopolis – There are several restaurants in the “City of Wine”. The Cantina Vinopolis is the best one in my view.

Zucca – Bermondsey’s answer to the River Cafe.

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