Arepa & Co x Beer52
Venezuelan street food delights
Thursday 08 November 2018
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Beer and food
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Who knew a stuffed cornbread could bring a community together? In 2014, Gus and Kathe Salguero opened Arepa and Co, named after a popular Venezuelan street food, to create a home away from home for the Venezuelan community in London. Arepa is the daily bread of Venezuela, handed down generations from the Timoto-Cuicas (a local tribe), made of cornmeal, water and salt. Fried, grilled, or baked and split open, it provides the perfect home for a variety of delicious fillings, from shredded pork to avocado. Simply topped with cheese, arepas are a powerful reminder of home.
Arepa and Co have two contrasting venues, one nestled inside a railway arch just off a main road in Bethnal Green, strung up with bulbs on a large outside terrace, the blue-painted furniture a reminder of relaxed summer vibes; the second sits alongside a London’s beautiful Regents Canal in Haggerston on the brilliantly named Paradise Row. Gus and Kathe’s mission is to introduce London to the flavours of Venezuelan cuisine, building upon traditional recipes with the creative expressions of their chefs, inspired by the rich and colourful Venezuelan ingredients. Think black beans, fried plantain, avocado, cassava, shredded beef, pork loin and scores of roasted vegetables. Since corn bread is gluten free, the menu is diverse enough to suit all tastes and preferences.
That’s not to say you should stop at trying arepas should you visit. The tequenos are pure comfort food, hot salty pieces of cheese enrobed in crisp pastry, ready to be dunked in guava sauce. Their second restaurant on Paradise Row, opened in 2017, introduced dishes like ‘pastelitos’, light and fluffy puff pastry parcels; ‘hallaquitas’, steamed corn dough balls; and crispy fried plantain. New fillings for the trademark arepas include fried chicken, soft shell crab with chilli mayo and for the vegetarians, the Sabich, a curious but delicious mix of roasted aubergine, pineapple and coconut chutney and pico de gallo.
Don’t be fooled into ordering many dishes like tapas, unless you have the emptiest of stomachs prepared; the small plates are not very small at all. Sharing is encouraged though, so split a main meal like pabellón, a traditional dish of shredded beef with black beans, fried plantain, rice and cheese, aka Venezuela on a plate. The drinks are Venezeulan-inspired too, with cocktails centred around rum, like the Arepa Sour, a simple mix of rum, lime and gomme syrup. Polar beer, a Pilsener style, is imported across the Atlantic as well. The biggest treat may well be in the form of a soft drink, however - the mango milkshake, thick and creamy with a hint of vanilla is a big winner. Try the homemade lemonade too, for a real authentic feel.
Gus is rightly proud of his cuisine, and hopes London will embrace it too, just as it has the flavours of Mexican, Brazilian and Argentinian cuisine over the years. It’s time for Venezuela to arrive.
Creating the beer – Chris J.J. Heaney
“Gus and Kathe were instantly so welcoming, and their passion for the food and culture of Venezuela was infectious abd unforced. They were excited about the idea of doing something different from a pale lager, which is what customers often pair with their meal. We came up with a bright and bold session IPA that’s still refreshing and thirst-quenching, but with bags of character. New World hops give a fresh and fruity palate, which is assertive without overwhelming the food.”
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