New London restaurants: José/Cut (Elle)



104 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UH

An unwillingness to share food has marred many an experience of tapas until recently. So… my new coping strategy? Over-order and hope for the best. Which was easy at José Pizarro’s new sherry bar in Bermondsey, because I wanted everything, in large amounts. Having had it, I want it again soon.

Pizarro co-founded the tapas restaurant offshoot of Borough Market’s Brindisa deli, and this is his first solo venture. Another, larger restaurant, will open nearby shortly. It’ll definitely be larger because it couldn’t be any smaller. At José you perch by a ledge by a window, wall or bar, or stand around a barrel. This isn’t somewhere to linger for hours, it’s for grazing, in authentic Spanish style. You pop in (you can’t book and it’s consistently full), have a glass of sherry and a couple of plates, and move on. It’s also the last place in London that anyone with any consideration would think to wheel a large pram with a screaming baby, but the day I went, someone had clearly taken leave of their senses. Fay Maschler took a seat as we were leaving, and Joe Warwick visited twice in the same day, which is of course far more significant than the actions of an entirely deluded yummy mummy. But still… Anyway: out with anger, in with lovingly prepared tapas.

I know it’s wildly fashionable, and all, but sherry really hasn’t been my thing until now. A soft, wonderfully caramel Valdespino Viejo Palo Cortado, however, was just what the Jamon Ibérico called for. Here was a plate and a glass that were clearly so much more than good friends. José imports his own Jamon Ibérico, and this is the best you’ll taste in London, enhanced by that aforementioned sherry no end. The Ibérico is an intense red, slightly sweet, and comes almost imperceptibly warmed – as it should do – to enhance the streaks of fat. It’s utterly sublime. Even better was a special of Pluma Ibérico, which is the missing link between the flavour of pork belly and cured leg. It’s a rare (in both senses) cut from the armpit of the pig, and it’s one of the most sumptuous things we’ve eaten in years.

Apparently they change the croqueta regularly at José, and on our visit it was a delicate and moreish blue cheese variety. Good though it was, I’d also like to visit when the crab and basil one is back on. A bowl of small, soft and rich chorizo sausages in red wine was exemplary. (Supermarkets take note: ‘chorizo-style’ doesn’t cut it.) Technique aside, Pizarro’s genius is in sourcing the very best produce in Europe. These are simple small plates, with no alchemy or molecular shenanigans. The other plate I fell wildly in love with was a mix of peas and chorizo with a poached egg and little bits of bread fried, seemingly, in chorizo oil; an easy and accessible dish, but powerful and entirely fantastic. The only thing I didn’t enthuse entirely about was a hake dish in aioli. The fish itself was more than fine – big chunky flakes of flavour – but with its slightly spongy coating, it was so slightly airline. Still, it was very posh, turn-left-on-boarding airline; not scratch-card Ryanair.

This stretch of Bermondsey has been a more sophisticated sibling to Shoreditch since long before Hoxton happened, thanks to its early colonisation by the likes of Andrew Logan and Zandra Rhodes. Now, with José Pizarro joining Zucca, the Garrison and Village East, it’s established itself as one of the best quarters for casual but world-class dining in the capital. If you don’t know it, go and discover it at the earliest opportunity.


Food: 10

Ambience: 4

Service: 9

Value: 8



45 Park Lane, London W1K 1PN

There’d been every chance that Wolfgang Puck’s first UK restaurant, at the new deco-styled 45 Park Lane hotel, was going to be a critical car crash of Ballardian proportions, particularly as he’d chosen steak as his medium (half-baked, not-quite-pun unintended). It hardly needs to be pointed out that London has some of the world’s most exciting chefs right now, as well as some of the best steakhouses, so to import a celebri-chef best known to UK travellers from an appearance on Frasier and his name on American fast food outlets in airports seemed arrogant in the extreme. “It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for London”, confided one of the UK’s most famous chefs to me while doing the rounds of his tables at his own restaurant a few nights before my visit. “And because it’s a Dorchester production, he’s been given resources and an amount of staff that no start-up restaurant could possibly afford.” So – Cut could have been given a quite unprecedented kicking by the heavyweight critics. Many were lined up, steak knife and fork in hand, to bury, not praise Puck. And yet – it’s all gone rather well.

First impressions confirmed that ruinous fortunes have, indeed, been spent to make Cut happen. There is an army of ladies and gentleman – all in architectural, sharp, noir-tailored outfits by Dorchester Fashion Prize winner Thomas Tait – manouvering their away around a slightly cramped, narrow dining space, to a distinctly un-Mayfair soundtrack of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. At times it feels like there are more staff than diners. The room itself is handsome enough, lit with a flattering amber glow, but it’s not user friendly for service – a cheese trolley had to be abandoned by one waiter as he tried to wheel it past a table of four. Also, for all that service going on (and most of it fawning and informative, right down to a presentation of the raw meat with a description of its diet and travel history), it’s something of a surprise to sit down at 7.30pm and start eating at 9pm. Things will, no doubt, improve here, but I left at close to midnight. Which is quite late for a school night. And a friend who’d lunched the week before reported similar gaps. I’ve had the most elaborate tasting menu at Sketch faster than that.

I dined with Philip Stephens, the designer behind the Unconditional fashion label.  I don’t eat carbs and yet I take a 54 suit (virtually a plus-size in fashion terms). So a steakhouse is an easy indulgence for me. Philip eats everything and makes Dior Homme models look chunky. Some pre-dinner sliders with cheese were a delight. I could eat a dozen of them (having carefully removed their buns, of course). We ordered three starters – Australian Wagyu steak sashimi, a scallop carpaccio and Dorset Crab and Lobster “Louis”. The last dish was a creamy, moreish, ultra-souped-up prawn cocktail. The scallop plate was good, with a blast of wasabi, and the raw steak was nothing short of fantastic. For a main I had the Wagyu/Black Angust Beef filet mignon and Philip had a Wagyu Chilean rib eye, ordered fearlessly – as only the skinny or morbidly obese can – with chips. The chips were, he announced, a waste of time – limp and overly salted. The steaks, however, were as good as steaks can be. Better than that even. There is major science going on at Cut – each steak is grilled over hard wood and charcoal and finished with a trip to a 650 degree broiler. The result is a moist, juicy cut, with a wonderful, flirty, barbecue crust. I preferred my fist sized, 6oz £85 (yes, we know!) Wagyu/Black Angus, but the Chilean rib eye had a more complex flavour from its fats. For afters, I had some cheese and Philip had a Caramilk Chocolate Bar, which tasted like it was on a “base made with chocolate rice crispies”. Good, but if you’re coming to Cut to have a deluxe evening of protein and greens, then it wasn’t, by all accounts, worth the calories. Apparently. As for Cut itself – is it worth it? Well, it’s expensive. Very. A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon Duckhorn from Napa is £20. But then that’s a pretty sublime wine, and you’ll pay north of fifty quid a bottle for it on the high street, if you can find it in this country. Likewise, £27-£85 for a steak (most cuts hover over the £40 mark) is a fortune. But you aren’t going to eat here every night, and it doesn’t cost as much as it would if you tried to fit your kitchen out with the technology and trickery required to make it taste as good as it does here. So all credit to the Dorchester for doing it for you.

Food: 9

Ambience: 5

Service: 4

Value: 5


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