José – third time lucky

For me it was a case of third time lucky, as we finally managed to get a seat in José (José Pizarro’s tiny Tapas bar in Bermondsey Street). We did this by choosing a non standard time though – 2 o’clock on a Monday!  It was worth it.  Excellent service and some pretty superior Tapas dishes, better I have to say than Tapas bars we have tried in Spain, including Alberto Adrià’s  famous (and now closed) Inopia in Barcelona.

We ordered some delicious Tomato bread, Patatas Bravas, Lamb Albondigas, Hake, Lentils and Chorizo with a couple glasses of wine.  Then for dessert we had a  juicy soft pear poached in red wine and a dish of cold rice pudding – divine.  We thought the bill might be excessive as it is very easy to keep ordering Tapas dishes without realising just how much the costs are mounting up. However we were pleasantly surprised at how reasonable our lovely lunch was.  £25 a head for  two glasses of wine, two coffees and seven Tapas dishes isn’t bad for London.

We’ll be back.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 7

Ambience 7

UPDATE 21/12/12 – Made a return visit and sat at the bar to enjoy some delicious Croquetas, Hake, Chorizo al Vino and take in the buzz.  Just as good as our first visit.



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Breakfast in Westminster

There are a couple of interesting breakfast venues in Westminster, both are tourist attractions in their own way. The first and most well known is The Regency Cafe, recently seen on BBC 2 in Michel Roux’s Service, and the other is The Riverside Cafe on Lambeth Pier. The little hut that houses that cafe has made a few TV appearances too, mainly in the  background when a great view of Parliament is required, last spotted in Doctor Who – Rise of the Cybermen.

The Regency Cafe – 17 Regency Street

This is well worth a visit for the atmosphere alone, it’s just full of character. You will most likely need to queue for service, alongside the local workmen, businessmen and tourists, but the small team that man this place are very efficient and the queue moves quickly. The place in a strange way was reminiscent of Inopia in Barcelona, especially when the orders are called out by the women with the amazing voice (a tourist attraction in its own right!).

We had the Full English breakfast with Hash Browns and Black Pudding as extras.  Not a healthy breakfast option that’s for sure.  This place is often described as a Greasy Spoon Cafe, but the breakfast was far from greasy, the eggs were very tidily presented on the plate, the bacon and sausage though were a little heavy on the salt for my taste. I could almost feel a coronary coming on. I liked the way they sold Orange Juice in a milk bottle, might go for that next time along with the Eggs Benedict they were advertising – less dangerous to my circulation!

The Riverside Cafe – Lambeth Pier

This is under new management, and they have given the old hut an effective make over with new flooring and seating, a central table and other nice touches like the modern mirror and flower displays. There is not a huge amount of space, about 10 seats inside and maybe a bit more outside. It attracts the tourists due to its location I am sure, but the staff are also friendly and helpful. They seem not to mind being asked for directions or information on the river boat trips.  This is a much more relaxing/quieter venue than The Regency Cafe. I accidently dropped my coat on the floor and the staff quickly picked it up for me, which was a nice touch, in most venues of this type it would go unnoticed.

Here we ordered an Omelette with Chips and a Full English breakfast (which came with Hash Browns,  Bacon, Sausage, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Beans and 2 slices of Toast – it was a big breakfast). Coffee was extra.  The cost of breakfast here is more expensive than The Regency.  I have to admit though that  I enjoyed this one more.


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Inopia – VIP tapas

We had heard good things about Inopia, but were not sure it would be our scene, as it seemed a little too trendy and lively for our tastes, but we decided to give it a go. Following advice from other food bloggers we arrived early (about 7:30 to avoid the queues) the red rope was raised and we got the last two seats.

The place was already buzzing,  food bloggers were clearly in situ, armed with cameras and note books. For such a busy place the service was exceptional, friendly and efficient.

Here is a short video:-

As you would expect with the el Bulli connection (Inopia is owned by el Bulli’s dessert chef, Alberto Adria), the food quality and service was definitely well above your average tapas. We were happy to follow the waiters recommendations, sampling top quality tapas favourites like  Patatas Bravas and ham croquettes, along with other dishes such as the Russian Salad and the Tuna carpaccio, we had about 7 dishes in total, washed down with a couple of glasses of Kalimotxo and a refreshing complimentary liqueur.

UPDATE November 2010 – Last weekend, the last tapas were served at Inopia, co-owned by Alberto Adrià, who is said to have been too busy working on another project to mourn over the closing, the place is soon to reopen under a new name, Lolita.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.8

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Bar Lobo – slow and moody

Went to Bar Lobo (part of the Grupo Tragaluz) for drinks. It is a pleasant enough venue (although the drains do smell a bit when sitting outside). The service is the main problem here, staff did not seem very friendly and the service was slow and inconsistent, i.e., later arrivals getting their food and drink before we got our rather simple drinks order.

We returned again a few evenings later for Tapas (to give it a second chance!). It was quite lively but not packed, and we got a table more or less straight away, but after that it went down hill, it took ages to get our order taken. Bar Lobo could take a few lessons from Inopia on what it means to provide good service.

Marks out of 10

Food 4

Service 4

Ambience 5


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