Love, marriage, horses, carriages…. and sherry and ham.

These are all things that belong together. 
We found our way to José, the newish tapas bar in Bermondsey at 1pm on a Saturday. 
It was an irksome sort of day, the sort where you want to press ‘pause’ and ‘rewind’ and start again.

(A side note the spouse and I don’t fight- we’re just not those sort of people- but that’s not to say we don’t occasionally rub each other the wrong way. And that’s the sort of morning it had been.)

Compounding the situation; there were grunters at the gym and hoards loitering slack jawed at Borough markets, when all I wanted to do was buy a handful of samphire. I thought a coffee would help. Except the queue at Monmouth Coffee was 20 minutes long (about 10 longer than I’m happy to wait).
So by the time we’d made our way over to Bermondsey, I was a little grumpy.

The inside of José was already crowded when we got there. Couples were tucked into the benches that hug the windows. Others were standing at barrels, picking at plates of padron peppers. There was a seven year old sipping orange juice on one of the few available stools. The only spot left for us to stand at the bar. 

The Hungry One eyed me warily. Standing for a meal isn’t usually something that makes me happy. I like to sit and nest.  He needn’t have worried. There were plenty of  things to make me smile.

Such as;

1) José has hooks under the bar for handbags (and for coats on the wall). Sounds like a silly trifling thing, but it can make all the difference between a comfortable couple of ours eating and drinking and one where you accidentally take out two waiters and a short man with a leather tote that’s balanced precariously on your shoulder.

2) They’re serving wine and sherry out of proper glasses- and nice ones to boot. There’s a fad that’s swept London where wine is served in tumbler glasses. It’s a bug bear of mine. I know it’s rustic, I know it’s supposedly chic but all it does is make me feel like I’m drinking at a university house party where someone has broken all of the good glasses.

3) There are some serious legs of ham hanging from the ceiling. 

José is the product of José Pizarro, who was the head chef at one of my (and our lass Gwyneth’s) favourite spots in London;  Tapas Brindisa. This is his new venture. José takes his commitment to stellar Spanish products seriously.

I can see a plancha grill getting busy with shellfish in the corner of the open kitchen. Nudging up behind it is another chef meticulously carving slivers of Iberico bellota ham.

I’m happy.

We turn our attention to drinks. There is beer and wine and cava, but this is essentially a sherry bar. There are 16  in total on the list.

This is not the sherry that your nana used to drink.

I’m steered towards a glass of Palo Cortado, from Viejo (£8). It’s nutty, honeyed yet dry and packs a kid gloved whallop of booze.

It proves to be good friends with the poached egg, peas, nubs of pig and toasted breadcrumbs (£6).

The oozing egg yolk was so good that I wouldn’t let the floor staff take the plate away until I had a nugget of potato to clean the plate with (I could have slyly used my finger, but nothing grates on The Hungry One more- and we were trying to play nicely). 

The sherry is also excellent friends with the croquetas (£6). They arrive as five joyous balls of lightly crusted, oozing cheese laden bechamel, studded with pieces of ham.

Also joining the party is a generous portion of patatas bravas (£3)- a solid serving or roasted potato chunks, topped with a spicy tomato slurry and an aioli that’s stern with garlic.

The sherry is then downright delightful with a special of lightly fried chicken livers on toast (£4.50). One or two of the livers suffered from being pushed slightly towards the grainy and dry end of the spectrum, but the rest were pliant, soft and sweet, sitting on top of charred bread, sodden with fino.

But what the sherry went best with; was the jamon. We ordered it with a side of tomato bread (£3);  a large portion of toasted bread that marries crisp edges and a centre that’s sunk by a sopping of tomato, olive oil and garlic.

Together with the jamon, this is one of my favourite things to eat. In the world.

The jamon came from close to the bone, so had an extra ballast of sweetness. The fat melts slowly, leaving an acorn sweetness behind. Yes, £9 for a serving of shaved ham can feel like you’re reaching deep into your pocket, but this is a pretty special product.

There was complimentary sparkling water, made from filtered water on site. There were glasses of pink wine and white wine consumed along the way.

We stood happily, ate, talked, and apologised for being miserable grumps earlier in the morning.

There were cortados to finish and promises to return and try the rice pudding and Pedro Ximenex drenched seasonal fruit. We left, stuffed and delighted. We departed much much happier than we arrived.

Ham and sherry- it seems sometimes that’s all it takes to put the love back into a marriage. 

We’ll be back.


(020) 7403 4902

104 Bermondsey Street, London
London, SE1 3UB

José on Urbanspoon

  1. The ham looks like the best Spanish hams I have eaten… The shiny fat is sooo yummy! Spanish ham is by far my favourite, for me a good slice of Spanish ham is worth 10 slices of Italian one. I totally agree about bag hooks at the bar. Is it so difficult to put them??? So few bars think about it… I don't live in Britain, so have never tasted wine in a tumbler, but I'm sure I would hate it.

  2. ha, I love the part about the egg yolk – definitely something I would do 🙂

  3. All of the food, particularly the hams, look great.

    Love your blog and am seriously impressed by your multiple visits to the top ten restaurants in the world!

  4. You just got me even more excited to be leaving for Spain in a few days. Yipeeee!

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