Jose is the creation of Jose Pizarro, formerly the chef and co-founder of well-established tapas bar Brindisa, which in itself has now spawned a mini-chain of establishments. Jose is a tiny tapas bar in Bermondsey, and late in 2011 a slightly bigger (50 seat) sister restaurant opened nearby, called Pizarro.
Jose is very much a tapas bar rather than a sit-down restaurant, and indeed I didn’t get to sit down at all there. They take no reservations, and despite arriving at 6:30 p.m. all we could do was squeeze into a narrow gap between the bar and the window and eat our food from the ledge. Even at this early hour on a weekday I counted 34 customers packed into a space that could comfortably deal with, oh, about a dozen. Those seats that exist are mostly stools at the bar, so this is not a place to linger. There was a short selection of sherries and wine available, with some well-chosen Spanish wines.
I enjoyed the padron peppers, which were a mix of mild and quite spicy (12/20). Boquerones (£4) were simple but pleasant (12/20). A slice of tortilla (£4) was well made, with good texture (13/20). I also liked the patatas bravas, with an aioli and a spicy tomato sauce (13/20). The least good dish was grilled prawns, which were a little overcooked (11/20), but slices of Iberico pork fillet were properly cooked, served with some slices of red pepper (12/20).
The bill came to £35 a head with a glass of wine each, which is not unreasonable but also not exactly a bargain given that we didn’t even get a seat. Staff were friendly and skilled at manoeuvring in the restricted space. jose has nice food but is not somewhere for a leisurely, relaxing evening. Sorry about the murky photos but that is a reflection of the equally murky lighting.