José Pizzaro Broadgate
36 Broadgate Circle, EC2M 1QS
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
“It isn’t cheap but the atmosphere and tasty, moreish tapas provide a welcome injection of Latin passion into one of the city’s more soulless corners” City A.M.
Margaret Thatcher conceived and Prince Charles opened Broadgate Arena (now known as Broadgate Circle) in 1987 – it was designed by Arup Associates in a post-modern concrete-laden style. The development won numerous plaudits, including the Royal Institute of British Architects’ National Award in 1991, but an application for listing was rejected by Tory culture secretary Jeremy Hunt a few years ago. This left the door open for further development and although the circle is used as an ice rink during the winter there had been demand to make better use of the space during the rest of the year, leading to Arup being brought back in to create an arena for shopping and eating. They were able to attract an impressive list of restaurants to the new venture, including Brixton’s Franco Manco, Yauatcha (from the Hakkasan Group), the Botanist and the wonderful José Pizzaro. As José on Bermondsey street is one of my favourite tapas places I was keen to see what José Broadgate has to offer.
The restaurant has 65 covers and so is a lot bigger than the tiny, intimate José; a lot of money has been invested in the fit-out, designed by CADA – there are some nice features, including concrete panels with patterns inspired by Pizzaro’s Extremadura hometown, but on the whole it feels a bit corporate (I much prefer the rustically decorated José). The menu is mainly composed of tapas dishes and charcuterie, they also serve a range of Spanish breakfast dishes which I think will be a hit with local desk monkeys. We started with some decent padron peppers (£5) and some beautifully rich and nutty Jamón ibérico de bellota (ie acorn-fed ibérico ham) sourced from Cinco Jotas (albeit for a whopping £23). Next, we had some grilled octopus with Catalan olive oil (£10) – the octopus was cooked perfectly so it was soft and melt in the mouth; its salty, sea flavour was enhanced by the rich olive oil and a hint of paprika.
There are five larger dishes on the menu (£12-25, as well as the presa ibérico which has been getting good reviews) – we chose the whole grilled baby turbot (£24) with pan con tomate and a green salad. The fish was very fresh and exquisitely cooked so that it was still moist and full of flavour. The dearth of sauce or seasoning let the true flavour of the fish stand out. Aubergine stuffed with a traditional Extremadura dish called migas (stale bread soaked in water, garlic, paprika, and olive oil – £12) was interesting and I guess authentic, but a tad boring, especially given the quality of the rest of the dishes we sampled. We finished with an amazing dessert of chocolate with olive oil and salt (£6) – this was effectively a chocolate mousse with the cream replaced with olive oil, the resultant dessert was rich, decadent and as it used dark chocolate, fairly healthy – a great end to our meal.
Verdict: José Broadgate has fantastic food, but I prefer the humbler pricing and bustle of it’s (diminutive) big brother José 7.5/10
“In some ways it’s like something your dad would produce at a barbecue, if he spent endless summers out there in the rain honing it to perfection.” The Independent
Tomas Tómasson opened his first burger joint in Reykjavik in 1981, quickly building a mini-empire over the next three years with six restaurants that flipped over a million burgers. He sold up in 1984 and pursued other restaurant interests, including opening Iceland’s first Hard Rock Cafe and rejuvenating Reykjavik’s plush Hotel Borg. Tómasson took a break from the business in the early 2000s, travelling the world and eating loads of hamburgers (research, apparently) before opening the second wave of Tommi’s burger joints in 2004. Four more restaurants followed, with expansion into London in 2012, then Copenhagen and Berlin in 2014. Apparently Tommi, whose portrait hangs in all the restaurants (he looks a lot like Hemingway), has eaten a burger every day since the first of the new joints over a decade ago (burgers for Christmas?) and is often found working behind the grill in his restaurants. The menu is pretty simple – a beef or veggie burger (both £6.9) and a steak burger for £8.9, the only side on offer is fries (£2.75) and you can add bacon and extra cheese for £1.
Their beef comes from traditional butcher HG Walter in Baron’s Court and the mince used in my burger was of good quality, lean and tasty. The patty had been cooked medium using coarsely chopped mince and was fairly juicy, but underseasoned. All burgers come with standard toppings of lettuce, american cheese, tomato and onion- in the age of wacky toppings many find this simplicity refreshing, but I found it a bit dull and wasn’t keen on the raw, bitter red onion. The bun (supplied by monolith bakery Millers which is owned by Alex Polizzi, that annoying TV hotel makeover woman) was quite doughy and starchy – I much prefer a brioche style bun.
The fries had been bought and cooked from frozen and were unremarkable. Apart from the quality of the meat used in the burger I was underwhelmed by Tommi’s offering.
Verdict: a reasonable burger, but not a patch on Patty & Bun 6/10