What's On (Abu Dhabi)


- Jose by Pizarro, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers on the Corniche. @josebypiza­rro

What’s On: You’ve already achieved incredible success in the UK, have any British influences crept into your menu here?

José Pizarro: I’ve been in the UK for 24 years now, but no, not really. I make food to please people, it’s about my customers, my friends. But in my Spanish restaurant­s, I don’t try to do anything that’s not Spanish. I always wanted a pub, because pubs are like a tapas bar — you can go for a quick drink, some croquetas, and then go. It’s a place for community. For friendship, and very good for a date. And in my pub, I do fish and chips, and I’m doing my Scotch egg, but in my restaurant — you’re coming for Spanish cuisine and I think it has so much diversity that you really don’t need anything else.

WO: What would be your ‘death row’ meal?

JP: OK, it’s something I used to hate when I was a child but, lentils. My mum makes the best lentils in the world.

With different types of meat, it just really takes me back and I cannot adjust the flavour. And I think kitchens and restaurant­s are about memories. Life is about memories. And even though I didn’t like it, that smell takes me back, it reminds me of being in bed whilst my mum was cooking. It’s weird, but it’s true. And definitely I would have a chocolate pot, I love chocolate.

WO: Not a Pot Noodle (a sort of British instant ramen) then?

JP: [Laughs] That is my guilty food pleasure. It’s different, here this is my last meal — so it’s important. I would also like to eat a really lovely roast, the sort I would eat with my mum and dad for celebratio­ns. The baby goat, it’s very simple recipe. Just really amazing meat, with onions and peppers the sort my mother dries, and wine, and bay leaf and water. My mum doesn’t use stock. Smoked paprika, fried potatoes.

WO: We can almost smell it now.

JP: Because it’s real. It’s real life, and the last meal has to have memories.

WO: Are there any local flavours that you were excited to include in your menu here?

JP: I think because there is a lot of shared culture, you know with the Middle East and Spain. So a lot of the ingredient­s, the flavours are already in my menus. And I’m looking forward to discoverin­g many more new things, because really – this country [the UAE] is amazing, the diversity, the culture for example. And we talked before, when we were cooking about supporting local suppliers and using the farm here at Conrad, which by the way, being able to get there and pick up a lettuce in the morning, in a hotel, in the desert — is incredible.

WO: One of our local dishes here, a very popular street food dish — the Schwannoma, which is like a kebab. If you were going to ‘Pizarro-fy’ it, what would you do to kind of give it the José flavour?

JP: Paprika, it’s always been a part of my life. And extra virgin olive oil. Smokiness, peppery, I really think it would work.

WO: That literally sounds incredible. Thank you so much José.

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