Sunday, 8 November 2009

José Pizarro: Seasonal Spanish Food

On Thursday night I was invited by the Ambassador of Spain to celebrate the publication of Seasonal Spanish Food by José Pizarro, head chef across London's three Brindisa restaurants.

Making my way to the Spanish Embassy with my i-pod blasting out flamenco to get me in the mood, I was expecting the evening the follow the format of most book launches - a small intimate gathering in which to enjoy a glass or two of fizz and a sprinkling of canapés. I had clearly underestimated the size and scale of the event.

Spilling from the open door of the embassy was a long queue of smartly dressed human traffic that snaked around Belgrave Square. Party dress codes are something of a sartorial minefield. Should you err on the smart side of casual or the casual side of smart? The invitation said 'Lounge Suit', which is almost untranslatable for women. I began to panic as I notched up the number of evening dresses on display. Would my frilly dress cut the mostaza?

At the door the PR told me that the original guest list had started at 800 but had to be slashed to a mere 300. The best thing about these events is that you get to go behind closed doors and sneak a peek into realms that would otherwise remain forever closed. The interior of the building is breathtaking, with chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings.

Grabbing a glass of Cava, I entered the main room. It was heaving. It took me back to my days as a reporter for Pandora, the diary page of The Independent. Walking into a packed room where everyone appears to be in glittering conversation with one another can make for an unnerving minute or two, as you penetrate the room with an air of purpose, until that wonderful moment when you spot someone you know.

I spent my awkward minute admiring the goliath paintings adorning the walls of lords and ladies with hounds at their heels indulging in country pursuits. No sooner than I'd spotted some familiar faces a glass was tapped and the speeches began. Pizarro, looking jovial in a pink shirt, spoke of his childhood in Extremadura and how growing up in Spain all food was seasonal. The message of the book is about going back to basics: if you stick to fresh, good quality, seasonal ingredients they will speak for themselves.

After the speeches we got to try a selection of his creations. A modest 19 courses did the rounds. Standouts included the mushroom and chestnut soup, scallops with crispy ham, deep-fried goats cheese with orange blossom honey and Brandy-filled figs. When the Cava ran dry we were ushered out and given a goodie bag full edible treats - Ibérico Chorizo, sweet pimentón and vials of olive oil. A huge number of us then carried on the party into the early hours at Casa Brindisa in South Kensington.

Judging from the colossal turn out and the reaction to his speech, Pizarro is a much-respected figure who has been pivotal in putting quality Spanish food firmly on the London restaurant map. 

Photo credit: Seasonal Spanish Food by Jose Pizarro (Kyle Cathie, £19.99) with photography by Emma Lee

1 comment:

  1. Lucy
    Sounds like a nice book launch party.
    Did not have a chance to taste Jose Pizarro's food yet but just interviewed him in Soul of Tapas Brindisa, Jose Pizarro, Talks to Us About his Road from Extremadura to London on 'Serge the Concierge'.
    As for wine, I am a regular at wine tastings in New York (I live 35 minutes from the city).
    The latest was 19 producers from Argentina at Consulate of Argentina.
    Take care

    'The French Guy from New Jersey'

    Facebook: sergetheconcierge
    Twitter: @theconcierge