East London Liquor Company is a Bow-based independent distillery well known for producing a range of spirits. However, perhaps the lesser known side of this business is their restaurant nestled between Mile End and Victoria Park, a two-minute walk from Roman Road.
The bar and restaurant are divided into three areas, an indoor restaurant and bar, an outdoor patio, and another indoor space running the length of the patio. To reach the entrance of the restaurant you get the joy of walking through the patio, decorated with warm fairy lights, draping greenery, and fittingly large liquor barrels serving as sturdy tables. (My millennial mind couldn’t help but think it was the ideal place for a perfectly aesthetic Instagram post).
The inside was just as stunning, as your eyes instantly draw to the enormous copper stills separated behind the bar with glass windows. This conspicuous feature definitely reminded us of the roots and nature of the company. Despite the machinery’s size, the tall ceilings and bright windows kept the space from feeling cramped, and the rustic metal furniture was placed on the outskirts and centre of the room to allow for lots of space in between.
The food menu has an Italian influence, and my friends and I were quick to order the tempting selection of homemade bread with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. The breads served were a flavourful flatbread, a crusty ciabatta, and a moist focaccia which was so tasty it had my friends and I battling for the last slice.
The Italian foundations of the menu also means that the kitchen includes a large stone oven, from which my friend ordered a margherita pizza that was just as classically delicious as anticipated. My other friend ordered tiger prawn and paprika risotto, which was very softly creamy, and the dusky pink colour told you it was rich with flavour before it even hit your taste buds.
For myself, I chose the three-cheese Tuscan Macancini: macaroni-cheese bites in breadcrumbs with truffle oil. The portion size was generous, each ‘bite’ took me around three bites to actually finish, and they filled the bowl to the brim.
The crunch of the fried breadcrumb coating was the perfect shell to the soft and gooey interior. The choice of cheeses (gorgonzola, grana padano, and fontina) melted together to create a deliciously cheesy and intense sauce, and the truffle oil enhanced these notes even further. A nice surprise was the addition of a few chilli flakes garnished inside, which gave the bites a unique side and edge in every few mouthfuls.
For all the tastiness, what struck me most about this restaurant was the helpfulness of its staff, who were willing to go above and beyond. For example, my inexperience in liquor lead to me making an uninformed guess at which cocktail to order – pro tip: don’t order a drink that includes only one ingredient you recognise.
However, when I explained that the smoky cocktail I ordered wasn’t the fruity one I had pictured in my head (despite being impressively presented with jewel-like decorations scattered delicately on the glass), they didn’t shake their heads at my mistake, but kindly took the cocktail off the bill and even offered their expertise in choosing another.
The staff also catered to my friend’s allergies very well, not only offering to alter her meal specifically for her needs, but also taking it upon themselves to check the ingredients of all the plates on our table (mine and my friend’s included) and informing us which were safe and which weren’t, just in case we wanted to switch or taste test each other’s meals.
Despite the menu being listed as containing ‘Small Plates’, we did not find the portion sizes to be so, and we were each full and content at the end of our meals. This lead to us feeling even happier with value for money too, as the food was not overpriced and was rich in quality and quantity.
As expected, the drinks are more expensive, but throughout your visit, you really cannot forget the passion and roots of the East London Liquor Company, thanks to the themed decor, to the staff expertise, oh – and of course the big and shining distilling machinery.
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