Pizarro and the Gentrification of Bermondsey


4 generations of Blewers, the first born around 1929, the last in 2012 convened, with my Mum (a Blewer in name, but a Connell in her heart) and Kirsty (soon to be a Blewer, but clearly an Armstrong) for lunch at Pizarro in

It’s a very attractive restaurant, with deep brown wood, dark leather booths, wide open sharing tables and a semi private room at the end, sort of on a right angle turn like the end of a “j”

We were in said room, which opens onto the restaurant, so that the boy could run around to his content without getting in anyone’s way. Also the acoustics work very well for gran’s slightly age impaired hearing. There’s some lovely stained glass and Hispanic tiling in there, and whilst its slightly separate, with the doors open, you still feel you’re in the restaurant.

The food was awesome. The starters are all distinctly “tapasish”. Fried sweetbreads, prawns in garlic, jamon etc. All of the cooked stuff was very well judged using great ingredients, and adding more than the sum of their parts. My sweetbreads were bouncy, crunchy coating, creamy gland, punchy mustard mayo. They loved the dry oloroso I ordered, but we just as good with beer.

Main courses were also excellent. My pork burger was rich, salty, creamy from cheese with the odd burst of caper to tame the richness. In a slightly sweetish brioche bun and crispy chips, I didn’t bother with wine but drank Al-Hambra and was very happy with everything.

Everyone else had good stuff, be it onglet or lumps of fish. Full on gutsy chocolate desert tempered by a berry sorbet was well matched with a Mataro sweet wine. The wine list is interesting and not appalling in terms of price. Add in truly hospitable service, indulgent of and welcoming to all members of the family and you’ve got an excellent restaurant. We love it as a family and will return.

Pizarro is very much part of the gentrification of Bermondsey. Other restaurants such as Zucca and the Garrison, not to mention the way some proper boozers that have been reconstructed into something glossier and safer are other notable examples. I’m slightly ambivalent about this. There’s an awful lot of tourists and north Londoners coming south for a bit of colour. Bermondsey Street is now something of a middle class enclave in middle of what remains a tough, working class area.

Pizarro and Zucca aren’t places for many locals, which makes the strip feel slightly false. Its as if somewhere like Notting Hill or Hampstead has been parachuted into South East London. Something for me doesn’t quite fit. Like a nagging feeling at the back of your mind. I don’t know what’s driving this, as I’m not a working class South Londoner despite certain social and personal beliefs and living in Croydon; I’m aware I’m basically a nice middle class boy and I should be happy with the environment.

But I’m not. I don’t know why, but something doesn’t fit. It’s like Borough Market, and Spittalfields. Middle class foodie nirvana cheek by jowl by some of the poorest areas in London. A little distasteful.

It doesn’t stop Pizarro or Zucca being wonderful restaurants. It just means I don’t want to hang around afterwards.

Sent from my iPad


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