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John Lanchester astutely pointed out in his review of Jose for the Guardian that most tapas bars in the UK aren’t actually tapas bars, but restaurants specialising in tapas. In Spain, the food can sometimes exist to serve tapas, but functionally it still works as a bar even if you took the tapas away. Ultimately, in the majority of instances, our tapas bars here are the equivalent of cloth napkin restaurants serving steak and ale pie and bangers and mash, and then calling themselves gastropubs.
Jose is a little more like the real thing. It’s busy, buzzy and the rush can sometimes sweep you off your feet. If you’re lucky, you’ll find somewhere to sit. If not, you’ll be standing my friend – but you’ll be eating some of the best Spanish food in London and drinking delicious sherries while doing so. The food, as if you have to be told, is tapas. So we’re talking small plates of delicious, intensely flavoured and unfairly moreish food. We say “unfairly” because food this addictively good should come in a trough so you will never, ever be without it. Grilled shrimp and squid is super fresh and has the sweetness only the freshest seafood possesses; patatas bravas is smeared with a delicious tomato and garlic sauce, while the fluffy, delicious tortilla is a slice of heaven. A pan-friend chunk of fish is exquisitely delicious and light as tempura, while anchovies are delicious – fat, plump and sweet-salty. Of course, the incomparable jamon Iberico is on the menu, and of the ultra-premium bellota variety.
Don’t come here expecting a quiet evening, or a sit-down gastronomic revelation under hushed light. At peak times it heaves with foodies, the after-office crowd and hip South London locals out for a relaxed time, some delicious food and maybe more. But then with food this good, an evening out will always be an adventure.
Opening times: Monday - Saturday: 12:00 - 22:30, Sunday: 12:00 - 17:00.
104 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3UBView Larger Map