Published: Wed 3 May 2023, 6:27 PM

Restaurant review

By Harriet Shephard

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Restaurant Review: José by Pizarro Abu Dhabi

Harriet Shephard embarks on an immersive journey through the rich culinary culture of Spain in the capital

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Abu Dhabi’s world-renowned dining scene leaves us spoilt for choice with incredible places to eat, relax and celebrate.

However, whilst award-winning recipes, stunning beachfront terraces and luxurious interiors are found in abundance, the UAE capital has long been lacking a fun, informal and truly authentic Spanish tapas bar.

Thankfully, José by Pizarro Abu Dhabi has come along to fill the city’s croqueta-sized hole.

Nicknamed the ‘Godfather of Spanish cooking’ in the UK, renowned Spanish chef José Pizarro already owns several well-established restaurants in London, and a rather idyllic guest house on the Andalusian Coast.

Marking his first foray in the Middle East, the new addition to Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers opened back in March. An intimate and cosy 40-seater restaurant inspired by the lively up-market tapas bars of Seville, it’s a distinguished spot that oozes refreshingly laid-back and friendly vibes.

The front part of the buzzing restaurant is filled with standing tables for those who wish to socialise and mingle as they dine, while the back area holds wide booths, comfortable tables and a slick well-stocked bar.

Hailing from Cáceres, the beautiful ancient city in Western Spain, José has channeled all the bold colours, flavours and traditions of his hometown into his enticing classic and contemporary tapas.

Live music from a guitarist, and black and white Pizarro family photos set the scene as we tuck into our opening pica-pica (snack) selection. The traditional Spanish tortilla is elevated with a scoop of silky caviar, and the spicy prawn fritters, chicken croquettes and spinach and Manchego croquettes are simply tremendous.

More simple and timeless recipes are found in the tapeo (small plates) section. Made with beautifully fresh and high-quality fish, the tuna and potato salad is extraordinarily creamy and delicious, and we demolish the spicy beef meatballs in seconds.

The mains are served in large, sharing-style portions. Featuring huge deep-sea carabinero prawns, one of the most sought-after shellfish in all of Spain, the show-stopping prawns and creamy rice is a clear highlight, while the free-range chicken paella and suckling lamb leg provide further tempting options. Saving room for a rich and decadent pot of thick dark chocolate pudding is another must. Based on José's grandmother's original recipe, and finished with a pinch of sea salt, a playful drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and slice of crispy sourdough, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and savoury.

Currently splitting his time between all his branches, the friendly, bubbly and charismatic José can often be found on the restaurant floor, welcoming every guest and making sure that everyone feels at home.

Presenting a relaxed, upbeat and culture-rich fine-dining experience unlike anything else in Abu Dhabi, José by Pizarro provides an unforgettable setting for a sizzling date night, or a special night out with friends.

We’ll be dreaming about its tasty bites and fruity Spanish grapes for a long time.

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