José

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.

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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.IMG_9982

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Overall: 9/10

104 Bermondsey St, SE1 3UB

José Tapas Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Elliot’s

If ever a restaurant faced stiff competition then Elliot’s located right in the heart of Borough Market is just that. It always looks appealing with people standing outside enjoying a glass of wine, but I’ve never been able to resist the treats on offer in the market so I have always been too full to give it a go. What convinced me today was that I had read that they served one of the best burgers in London, something I could hardly pass the opportunity of trying.

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We turned up without a booking and were told they’d have a table ready for 1.30pm. That time soon came and went, and it was 2pm before we were seated. This didn’t bother me a great deal because we took a seat up the bar, ordered a couple of pints of the Kernel pale ale (£5) and took the place in. There’s a great warm vibe which was helped by it being packed, and it has the feel of a good neighbourhood restaurant.

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When we were seated it was a little frustrating to be made to wait for about ten minutes without a menu. Finally with one in our hands I was gutted that there was no sign of the famed burger! Instead it was made up of small sharing plates and a few mains. Oh well, I’ve had three burgers already this week, can’t hurt to be a little more experimental.

We had to ask for bread and water (that makes it sound a little bit like a soup kitchen) and then had to tell the waiter when we were ready to order. The waiter was chatty and knew his stuff, although when we asked how much food we would need (I always get confused by this small plate system and end up with far too much) he did seem to be pushing us down ordering more than we’d need.

First up was the brown sourdough. Exactly what we needed to soak up last night’s drink and ease our hunger. It was warm, soft and with just-the-right-amount of burnt crust. It’s probably the best sourdough I have eaten, and it helped to ease my pain at missing out on the burger.

The first small plate was game sausage with oxford sauce (£7). I was hoping for big juicy sausages so I was a little disappointed by the three chipolata sized sausages that turned up. They didn’t have a strong enough game flavour, but were still tasty and the oxford sauce (which I admit I didn’t know what it was) had a good kick of mustard. Still though for £7 this is more like an expensive bar snack than a small plate to share.

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Next up was the hare ragu and fazzoletti pasta (£10). Again given the size of the portion I find this to be overpriced. The dish was fine, but didn’t really excite. It needed more seasoning but there was no salt or pepper to be seen- either complete confidence by the chefs that the seasoning is just right or the waiters forgot to put them out. It also could have done with a little more of the meat juices and sauce- it just needed something to bring the dish together.

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Last of the smalls was squid with datterini tomatoes and capers (£10). The squid was perfectly cooked and had a lovely flavour, but the dish was a little unbalanced given how many capers and tomatoes there were, as the sharpness of their flavour took the focus away from the squid.

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For a main we shared the cockerel kiev and cauliflower cheese (£29). Is it simply by putting cockerel instead of chicken that they can push the price of the dish up? It certainly seemed a little expensive for a posh kiev, especially how you only get one side with it. It has to be said though that it was excellent. The crumb crust was perfectly crispy, like that on the best of Scotch eggs, and the chicken was moist and succulent, and there was plenty of strong and buttery garlic sauce. The cauliflower cheese was rich and had a good strong flavour as well.

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With a couple of beers the bill came to just over £75, which for a lunch that was initially intended to be a quick burger seemed expensive. Although it is the best sourdough bread and possibly the best chicken (sorry cockerel) kiev I’ve eaten, it still didn’t justify these prices. I admire that they use seasonal ingredients and keep things simple, it was just that none of the small plates really had a good kick of flavour. We were left thinking just how much we could have had in Borough market for that price…

Food: 7/10

Service: 6.5/10

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 7/10

12 Stoney St, (Borough Market) SE1 9AD

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