Absolutely reviews Arepa & Co, where rich and vibrant Venezuelan plates add a Latin lift to Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row
Words Helen Brown
A quick Google search for Venezuelan food in London and you’ll find Arepa & Co. sitting top of the pile; and for good reason. Start a conversation with any Venezuelan about food in the capital and they’ll tell you about this spicy little number. It comes from husband and wife Gus and Kathe Salguero who opened the first site near De Beauvoir Town in 2014. I’m in Bethnal Green where the pair has launched its second site on Paradise Row.
On a warm sunny evening, the spot is a winner. Each bar and eatery along the strip is buzzy and inviting; on a night like this, east London’s well-dressed locals are out in force with beers in hands and Ray Bans firmly on faces.
While sticking to its Venezuelan roots, the menu this time round pulls influence from across the rest of South America. Arepa refers to a particular cornbread which features heavily in the menu, along with maize, black beans, fried plantain, avocado and cassava. These staples of the Arepa & Co. store cupboard contribute to a menu that is rich and vibrant.
The plantain crisps with spicy dip are a no-brainer to pick at while we natter and navigate the menu. But for us, new to the cuisine, the rest of the menu is a bit of a minefield. According to our waitress it is not a true Venezuelan party without tequeños (golden pastry fingers fried in oil and oozing with melted cheese) so we go for these along with the yuca chips. Before I go any further, I will just say that the menu is spectacularly diet-busting. Stretchy trousers are required. There’s not much to really say about deep fried melted cheese pastries, except that it takes some pretty strong will power to stop at just one. The yuca chips are warm with paprika and satisfyingly crisp.
For mains, we go for the cachapa pernil and the arepa pollo frita. The former comprises slow cooked pork shoulder on a sweet corn pancake with avocado, the latter is a traditional cornbread sandwich stuffed with crispy fried chicken. Both are incredibly indulgent but devilishly moreish. The chicken in the arepa has a tamarind glaze which is particularly delicious.
Each dish has a pleasant warmth which cuts across the heaviness of the meal. This is comfort food with a vibrant twist and perfect for a casual dining and post-work cocktails.
254 Paradise Row, E2; arepaandco.com