What: Venezuelan operator Arepa & Co has opened its second restaurant, serving a larger menu than is available at its original Haggerston outpost. The new restaurant is also in East London, on trendy Paradise Row near Bethnal Green station.
Who: The business is run by husband and wife team Gus and Kathe Salguero. The couple met whilst Gus was running one of London’s first arepa (a type of cooked corn-based bread, often split and made into sandwiches) stalls at a local market, and opened their first restaurant in 2014. The Venezuelan cuisine they serve is inspired by recipes from their upbringings.
The vibe: The restaurant takes the place of Robin Gill’s Paradise Garage, which closed last October. It joins the likes of Mother Kelly taproom and bottle shop, modern British bar and restaurant Sager + Wild, and London Cocktail Club. With design inspired by the industrial look of the area, the vast window front of the restaurant opens onto a terrace. Interiors feature exposed brickwork, distressed wood furniture, succulents on the tables and a few South American ornamental masks.
The food: The restaurant’s menu is significantly wider than its canalside sister’s. A Bethnal Green-exclusive list of small plates includes crunchy fried cassava chips; cheese ‘tequenos’ pastries with guava sauce; and ‘funche’, which is polenta with shredded beef and red wine jus. The brand’s extensive list of arepas includes the classic options of ‘Pabellon’ (beef, cheddar cheese, black beans and plantain); and the ‘Mulata’ with cheddar and black beans. The new restaurant, however, offers a more creative selection, including the ‘Reina’ with charcoal roasted chicken, chicken fat mayonnaise, fresh avocado and tangy dressing; ‘Cangrejo’ soft shell crab with spicy herb sauce and crab mayonnaise; and the vegetarian ‘Sabich’, which includes roasted aubergine, eggs, pineapple, coconut chutney, tahini and pico de gallo.
The drinks: A list of Venezuelan-inspired cocktails includes the ‘Caracas Old Fashioned’, which uses spiced rum and honey bitters to put a twist on the classic; the Guarapita with gold rum, orange liquor, passion fruit juice, and sugar cane lemonade; and the Arepa sour, with Venezuelan rum, lime, gomme syrup, bitters and foam. Venezuelan beer is also available, alongside a selection of softs such as sugar cane lemonade; fruity milkshakes; and fresh juices.
And another thing: Arepa & Co is well known for its Venezuelan take on brunches. Dishes include corn pancakes topped layered with grilled ham and cheese, topped with an egg; a smoked salmon and cream cheese arepa; and the South American take on avocado toast, consisting of an arepa base topped with avocado puree, chilli flakes, lime, coriander oil and rocket.