This tiny tapas bar is the closest to the ones in Madrid I have seen in London. About 12 people were rubbing shoulders around the marble bar, where fresh fish and Iberica pork fillet were displayed in a glass cabinet, and whole cured pork legs were dangling from the ceiling. While we stood sipping our wines, our waiter found us a couple of stools, so we sat with a brass pillar between us.
Jamon Iberico Manuel Maldonado
We have been hooked to high quality jamons since our trip to Iberica in Canary Wharf – no way we‘d give this a miss. This was like a cross between the jamon from Huelva and Salamanca; it had the best of both worlds. It didn’t have the fat marbling but the sweetness was unbelievable, with an aromatic aftertaste that loitered forever.
The grilled pork was still slightly pink in the middle, with a faint crusty bite from the sea salt. This was surprisingly different to the pork loin “secreto” in Iberica; just as tender and juicy and meaty and flavoursome, but the texture had some coarseness to it, giving it more chew and substance. It was a different kind of piggy brilliance.
Prawns, Chilli & Garlic
The best part of prawn is the roe packed in the head, the sweeter the fresher the better - and these were bursting with it. Most prawns we get here in this city have previously been frozen, and we don’t usually get that natural bounce like fresh prawns; these were bouncier than the usual. The de-shelling was a nice touch, flavourings penetrated better and much less fussy.
Mackerel, Jamon & Spinach
I have been craving for mackerel for months; there seems to be a shortage of this scrumptious fish in the supermarkets near my area. And this was the silkiest mackerel I’d ever eaten, oozing with gorgeous oils. Interestingly the subtle nuttiness in the cured meat was much more pronounced when deep fried, and added more dimension to the dish.
Iberico Manuel Maldonado Meatballs
I don’t have a natural passion for meatballs, so to me, these are just meatballs with a coarser texture to usual. An appetising start with the tomato sauce, nothing too spectacular though.
There is nothing complicated about the food here – in fact it’s so simple that the tiny corner of the bar was the kitchen. Chefs were working it like a teppanyaki, a quick stir on the hot surface followed by a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. No fancy recipe, no fancy accompaniments, no fancy sauce, just plain simple top class ingredients flawlessly cooked with minimum seasoning. The laid-back ambience, elbow-bumping, easy-drinking wines and simply perfect tapas made an extraordinarily Jose.
104 Bermondsey Street
Tel: 0207 403 4902
You may also like: Tendido Cero, Iberica Canary Wharf, Polpo