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Master of Tapas in London

José Pizarro


José Pizarro's professional career is one of the best examples of how to defend the quality, variety and creativity of Spanish cuisine abroad. Born in Extremadura, José worked in restaurants in the region before moving to Madrid and finally to the United Kingdom, where he is currently regarded as one of the best exponents of Spanish cuisine.

José Pizarro's first steps as a cook were taken in the Fonda de San Juan restaurant in Cáceres and in the Hotel Cañada Real in Plasencia (Extremadura). Thanks to a chance encounter with chef Julio Reoyo, José had the opportunity of working for a time in the restaurant El Mesón de Doña Filo, one of the most highly regarded in the Community of Madrid.

José felt he needed to go on experimenting, to continue treading his own path and find his own professional goals. In 1999 he decided to try his luck in London, where he began working in Spanish restaurants such as Gaudí and Centro. Two years later he was signed up as head chef by another restaurant, Eyre Brothers, for which he won the Prize for Best New Restaurant awarded by the Good Food Guide in 2002.

A key date in his career came in 2003, when Monika Linton, founding partner of the Spanish products import company Brindisa, made him an extremely tempting offer: setting up the Tapas Brindisa restaurant in London's Borough Market, a focal point for the city's numerous gourmet food fans. It was a resounding success, and soon after it opened, the restaurant received glowing reviews in the specialist press and customers flocked to it day after day.

As a result, José was made a partner in the Brindisa Tapas Kitchens business and was charged with opening two new London premises, Tierra Brindisa in the heart of Soho and Casa Brindisa in South Kensington.

José Pizarro is a regular contributor to many specialist gourmet publications and provided a series of his own recipes for the English version of the book 1080 Recipes by Simone Ortega, published by Phaidon. At the end of 2009, José published his first book in the United Kingdom, entitled Spanish Seasonal Food, which has already been released in Holland and in the United States. The Spanish version of the book, called Cocina Tradicional Española, was published at the beginning of 2011 by Blume.

In 2011 José Pizarro felt as if he was ready for a new, and exciting, project. June 1 was going to be an exciting day on Bermondsey Street in London, as famed Spanish chef José Pizarro’s first solo venture was set to open. His restaurant is called José and the plan is to create a tapas bar which serves simple, seasonal food, which diners can enjoy with a wide selection of sherries and wines. The specials will change daily, and include some dishes such as grilled razor clams, crab and basil croquettes and Ibérico ham. In this venture, José looks “[channel] the informal bustle of the tapas bars at Barcelona’s La Boquería alongside the more traditional vibe of those found in the hot, dusty towns and villages of [Andalusia].”

José Pizarro has another project: he opened his first market stall in 2012 in Maltby Street Market, around the corner from his two restaurants, bringing his tasty tapas to an even greater public. He serves some of his more popular dishes, among them Spanish omelet, chorizo (sausage) in red wine, and chickpea and pumpkin stew. The chef also sells some of the stellar products he imports from Spain and uses in his own cooking, including Arroyabe’s tuna, Artysan’s morcilla (black pudding), Miset’s piquillo peppers, pimentón de la Vera (a type of Spanish paprika from Extremadura), and Surat olive oil. For updates and news on the daily menu, follow the chef on Twitter.

  • José's Pizarro Spanish Flavours (Kyle Books, 2012)
  • Cocina Tradicional Española (Blume, 2011)
  • Spanish Seasonal Food (Kylie Cathie, 2009)
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