Knowing I was visiting the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy, a friend tipped me off about a new restaurant within the RA, aptly named “Jose Pizzaro at the RA”:https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/parent-page/eating-and-drinking-senate-room-restaurant/welcome-to-the-senate-room-restaurant. I’m a great fan of Jose’s tapas and having visited both his restaurants in Bermondsey, a table was quickly booked.
Having enjoyed the 161 iPad drawings, we arrived a few minutes early for our 12.15pm reservation. The restaurant is in a relatively small, long room with a stunning high ornate ceiling, and we hoped we wouldn’t be seated at one of the corridor tables just outside. Not only were we led inside, we were shown to what I think was the best table in the house – a circular table for four at the end of the room next to the fireplace. This provided a view of the whole restaurant and was perfect for people watching (and there was lots to see). As the two spare place settings were removed, we couldn’t understand how we’d bagged such a magnificent table, particularly as it was still early and tables for two were still available.
As it had been my birthday the previous day, we kicked off with a glass of fizz reasonably priced at £7. The “menu”:https://royal-academy-production-asset.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/c22abec3-b087-42d2-ae59-9a378b7fb895/Jose%CC%81%20Pizarro%20Senate%20Room%20Menu%20-%20August%202021.pdf is divided into hot and cold tapas, and we were advised to choose two to three each. We started with pan con tomate, one of my favorites, which came on wonderfully thin crisp sourdough with lots of garlic flavors in the crushed tomatoes. The croquetas del dia were chorizo which were a must and the five small crisp balls with chunks of diced chorizo inside were divine. It turned out to be a chorizo fest, as we couldn’t help choosing another favourite, tiny, really soft chorizo sausages cooked in red wine. We chose two cold tapas. The first, ensaladilla rusa, a far cry from the tins of Heinz Russian salad we had as a treat on a Sunday night when I was young and the second, tabla de embutidos a plate of thinly cut Morcón, salchichón, lomo and picos. These came accompanied by a small dish of crisp crackers of varying shapes which thankfully proved less filling than bread would have been. The plates are reasonably priced from £3.50 to £20 although the average is around £7. We also had a bottle of rose reasonably priced at £25.
Initially service was a little slow and lacking, but as the meal progressed and more staff came out, it improved considerably. My only criticism was the A4 size linen napkins which whilst beautifully starched and embroidered, were somewhat lacking in coverage, especially when you’re wearing white shorts and eating chorizo in red wine. When the manager came to check everything was OK, I mentioned the napkins and he said he totally agreed and laughingly said that if that was the only issue, then he was happy.
As well as the food being good, one of the highlights was seeing Jose Pizarro himself in his chef whites working the room. He told us that the restaurant had only been open for two weeks and was keen to know what we thought. I mentioned it was a birthday treat hoping there might be a little something sent out from the kitchen, but nothing appeared, despite an interesting chat about star signs.
There were a few stools at the bar and very soon the place was full. Our people watching involved a couple of very elderly gentlemen, who were immaculately dressed, with one sporting the most fabulously large dickie bow, a lady with baby, who we think might have been Mrs Pizzaro, and a couple of well to do older ladies both on their own, who appeared slightly flummoxed by the tapas style menu (tapas is never great when you’re eating alone).
That is also another also a smaller, more casual area, Poster Bar by Jose, but it looked very small and full, and I suspect you’d be lucky to grab a table. However, if you’re visiting an exhibition at the Royal Academy, I’d definitely recommend the main restaurant.