I have a special place in my heart for Spanish tapas.
It was actually my first introduction to the world of Mediterranean cuisine, the abundant use of great quality olive oil, specialty-fed pork, freshest tomatoes, flavourful seafood offerings, and of course, lots and lots of paprika.
As with any type of internationally acclaimed cuisine, you are bound to find the best version of it here in London. It’s literally an international food treasure trove of a city and I’m just a very hungry kid in a vast candy shop.
With some very trendy friends based in Bermondsey High Street wholeheartedly raving about Jose Tapas Bar, I just couldn’t wait to dive in and give it a try. I have been a loyal fan ever since I stepped into this place 2 years ago.
Whenever I felt that I was missing one of my favourite food in the world, I just make a trip back to Jose. As soon as you are inside, you are instantly transported back on to Spanish soil.
A wait at the door is almost a guarantee, so arriving early is highly recommended. With its very intimate and small space, get ready to rub shoulder and arms (if just those body parts, you are lucky) with your table neighbours. It’s OK, nothing a glass of Ribera del Duero can’t solve.
The offerings of the day are etched into the blackboards above the bar and change on a daily basis. If you see croquetas on the menu, this is a must to include in your orders. With crunchy shells and soft fillings, I always order 2 of these! Another delicious dish is the tomato bread (pan con tomate), which always appears first before you dive into the other delicacies. Such a simple dish but so tasty, probably because the fresh tomatoes bursted open and left itself smeared all over that softly baked bread until they just disappeared.
Goat cheese soaked with honey was an interesting one for the palate. I wasn’t too sure about the combination in writing, but in taste it was a match made in heaven. The saltiness of the goat cheese worked really well with the gooey honey and was a nice dish to pair with everything else.
With smiles and excitement all around, the croquetas finally made its appearance. Five cute little round parcels arrived in a brown dish and looked very humble. But don’t let that fool you, once cracked open, the soft melting center oozed in all its glory and made the table fight over every last one.
Croquetas have this power to rekindle lovely memories of sun, beach, and holidays in Spain. In my opinion, it’s the dish that defines a great tapas bar from just a good one.
Why does the name ‘patatas bravas’ comes out such a mouthful? It looks just like the English chips with tomato sauce. Except this wasn’t any ordinary sauce, it’s “bravas” sauce, a superb combination of garlicky tomato sauce mixed with aioli. I loved the dish so much that I attempted to recreate the sauce at home, but unfortunately the consistency just wasn’t right. Jose gets it right every time! Thumbs up. Patatas never tasted so good.
Wild mushroom on toast was OK but not spectacular. Perhaps because it’s a dish I cook very often for a quick breakfast! Tender nutty mushrooms cooked with garlic, scrambled egg, and a good whack of soft cheese to top it off. It was good that we ran out of bread so we had this little slice to soak up all the juices.
Alongside Cambio de Tercio, this is, without a doubt, definitely one of my favourite spots for Spanish food in London. The only downside here, is the size, although this was probably intentionally to create a small and cosy atmosphere. I did have fun eating standing up, licking my fingers while I stuffed myself full of these little dishes of wonder. If you are looking to check out this place, I would suggest trying to nab one of those window seats to people watch or the standing spots over looking the bar.
For an authentic Spanish experience, definitely make a trip down to Jose, and while you are at it, perhaps try Pizarro as well just down the street, the sister restaurant providing a more formal dining experience.
104 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UB