Arepa & Co Brings Venezuelan Flair To Paradise Row
This cobbled side street is so sought after, you have to squeeze past the hoardings of a new luxury development before you can comfortably duck into one of the hip bar-restaurants that occupy the railway arches on Paradise Row. Hold out until the penultimate arch and you'll be rewarded with the second branch of Arepa & Co, whose original canal-side site in Haggerston has become a firm favourite among London's Venezuelan community.
No matter if you find yourself in unfamiliar territory with this particular type of South American cuisine. Our personable waiter knows the menu back to front and happily (and succinctly) makes recommendations before darting off to collect the nibbles. The fried plantain crisps are a tad plain and arrive with a yoghurt dip that lacks oomph, but this is a minor niggle in an otherwise flavour-packed evening.
The small plates are perfect sharing food, though you’ll want a canoa de maiz all to yourself. This delicately seasoned doughy parcel enclosed in a corn husk is a delight that's over far too soon.
After the corn-heavy starters, we forgo the popular Arepa cornbread sandwich in favour of the pabellón, a traditional dish of shredded beef on a bed of black beans, fried plantain and lightly spiced rice topped with cheese, which co-founder Gus Salguero describes as “Venezuela on a plate”. The beef is melt-in-the-mouth tender and the veggie version is all kinds of satisfying though a little heavy on the plantain/sweet potato, which isn't terribly exciting once we've hoovered up the beans.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, it’ll definitely be tickled at Arepa & Co, from the terrifically moreish candied corn kernels to the cheese-filled tequenos, which have the texture and taste of freshly baked scones — especially when dipped in that indulgent guava jam, which you must do.
The cocktails too are the right side of sweet. The delicious spice-infused old fashioned has a kick but the usual back-of-the-throat burn is softened by the honey bitters and syrup, while the Beso del Diablo Martini, a harmonious blend of lychee, lime, apple juice and homemade chilli syrup topped with a velvety foam goes down without a hitch.
The decor is textbook trendy east London: exposed brick walls, low hanging lamps and potted succulents, but a couple of colourful, horned Diablo masks and an emerald green tiled bar add Venezuelan flair to the industrial setting.
When husband and wife team Kathe and Gus Salguero opened the first Arepa & Co, they set out to create a home from home for the Venezuelan community, but this buzzy Bethnal Green branch is sure to attract foodies from far and wide. The vibe is warm and inviting, the service faultless and the menu demands multiple visits — we'll definitely be back for those arepa sandwiches.
Arepa & Co, 254 Paradise Row, E2 9LE
Last Updated 11 April 2018