José is a tiny little tapas joint/sherry bar on the excellent Bermondsey Street. If you can resist the temptations of both Maltby and Borough Market and manage to get one of the few spaces to eat here, then you’ll taste Spanish food that is as good as anything in London.
Three classics to start- first Pan con tomate(£3.50) which only needs good garlic, olive oil and tomatoes, and we weren’t let down. Then corquetas packed with strong blue cheese (£4.50) and a good classic Spanish totrilla (£4) served cold.
Next whitebait, topped with an egg and a good seasoning of smoky paprika (£6.50). It needed a little more lemon to sharpen the flavour, but the creaminess of the yolk worked perfectly with the salty fish.
Then came the Ibérico pork fillet, served rare (£9). It looks like beef, and the flavour wasn’t too far off either, except this was much richer and more tender. It came without a sauce, just a sweet pimento pepper, and it was best like this, letting the flavour of the meat do all the talking.
I was surprised when the dish I’d least been looking forward to, managed to steal the show. Squid with garlic, chilli and a good dollop of allioli (£8). There was such a strong hit of fire from the slices of fresh garlic and chilli and the sauce was so good that we kept asking for more bread until it was all mopped up.
It’s hard not to love the place. The food is simple and packs a real punch of flavour, which for me is what Spanish food is all about. Before this Barrafina had always been my number one Spanish restaurant in London, but it has just been knocked off top spot. The meal came to just over £60 with a couple of glasses of red wine and this was great value. We left full, happy and stinking of garlic. I’ll be coming back to José again and again.