José Pizarro Broadgate: Different chef, similar problems (March 2016)

Broadgate Circle, just to the west of Liverpool Street station, has reinvented itself as a culinary hub. Gone is the late 80’s/ early 90’s feel of swanky City elitism (and the horrible concrete ice rink that used to be here) and in its stead, is a much more egalitarian crescent of on-trend restaurants, where diners can indulge in most cuisines from around the world. Into this mix comes José Pizarro’s third venture. He has established a solid reputation and is seen by many as one of the upcoming names within the world of modern Spanish food. The menu here combines elements of the traditional (think patatas bravas) with some much more enterprising options such as spicy chicken skewers and boquerones (anchovies) with salsa verde, for example. This all seems very fitting for the venue, which combines both these elements to in its décor, mixing clean metallic lines with the more authentic hams hanging above the bar. All very promising, but as ever, with tapas, I came away slightly disappointed. With very few exceptions (perhaps Brindisa or Barrafina), while some dishes were absolutely excellent, others were decidedly average. In the former category were the previously noted boquerones, delicate yet full of flavour, neither too salty nor too oily, with the salsa acting as a superb foil. Similarly, the octopus a la plancha (i.e. grilled) with a special chef’s sauce was close to perfect, with a clear emphasis being on drawing out the flavours of the dish and the quality of the produce. Some variations of this dish leave the diner with a sensation of eating rubber, but this was far from the case here. On the negative side, however, the pan con tomate was both too greasy and too salty, a far cry from the joyous experience of such a dish witnessed almost anywhere in Catalonia. Meanwhile, broad beans with chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) was lacklustre and saw a preponderance of the former at the expense of the latter. Overall, more good than bad and we also appreciated a good quality sherry (from an interesting list) and mostly friendly and efficient service. At around £30/head all-in, pricing is also very fair. My conclusion: if in the area and after decent enough Spanish food, then go, but don’t make the effort specifically.