First there was the distillery, next came the bar. Now, in a seemingly unstoppable expansion of their spirit and design-driven brand, East London Liquor Company proudly boasts a restaurant. And the good news? It’s on par with the venue’s other ventures. In fact, it complements them flawlessly.
Launching in late May, the dining offshoot is located adjacent to the already acclaimed cocktail bar and active distillery that so effortlessly suggest they’ve been part of the urban landscape for decades – despite only being around since 2014. Nestled into the industrial surrounds of Mile End, it’s spitting distance from both Regent’s Canal and the increasingly hip Victoria Park.
Preserving the venue’s overall ambience that’s inspired by the area’s rich-spirited history, the restaurant design doesn’t veer far from the tried and tested formula of the cocktail bar. Expect exposed ceilings, stripped-back brick and a spattering of copper that emulates the distillery’s shimmering stills. Glistening Carrara marble lends itself to table and bar-tops, giving a nod to an underlying Italian motif.
This theme continues into the menu, which leans towards modern Italian, with pizza being the main offering but far from the only one. A number of sharing-friendly small plates are also available, with the seasonal selection continually updated by the kitchen.
A long rectangular building provides indoor seating, while there’s ample al fresco space that’s shared with the bar. Regardless of an ominous sky above, open-air seems to be the prevailing option.
Despite visiting on an overcast evening, the sky teetering between downright gloom and intermittent patches of sunlight, we opted for the outdoor seating too, as dining indoors seemed a sure-fire way to invoke the dreaded FOMO.
The waiters were chirpy and attentive from the get-go, ensuring we were fed and hydrated throughout. They’re also more than happy to guide you through the menu or recommend a perfect pairing for your food – a quality that’s much appreciated in a city that often fails to put service in the forefront.
Backdrop in mind, we thought it only fitting to start with a cocktail. A recommended mezcal-based margarita was served in a dinky terracotta plant pot, while an altogether more noble ‘Nothing Toulouse’ made with their Batch No.2 Gin and crème de violette, was delivered straight up with an impeccably colour-matched thistle to adorn. Garnished with olives and vastly removed from the generic lime-laden margarita, ELLC’s version boasted just the right amount of sweet and tart, almost skirting on the edge of savoury. The Nothing Toulouse came packing a strong floral punch, but for those odd kids (me) who actually liked Parma Violets growing up, it’s a little taste of childhood nostalgia – with a very grown-up amount of booze in it.
A smoked burrata arrived within moments of ordering, dolled up with charred red pepper and looking pretty as a picture. A lack of greenery, combined with its texture – slightly denser and more gelatinous than its unsmoked compadre – had me likening its appearance to panna cotta, while its subtle smokiness lingered satisfyingly on the back of the palate. Had we not an aubergine dip to accompany, however, we’d have been lacking a starchy component to go with it. The aubergine, charred and crushed, came with crisp flatbread and bags of flavour.
Poussin – available in two sizes – was next, served on a bed of truffled polenta and asparagus. It didn’t fall short on presentation or flavour. While it remained humble in its simplicity, the meat was dark and juicy, and as you’d hope from such a young chook, rich in that poultry flavour so often absent in mass-produced farm birds.
The pizza plays off the classic Neapolitan base – thin, crispy, charred and bubbled in all the right places, but the toppings veer off the well-trudged path. We opted for a garlicky white pizza with prosciutto and spinach; and a goats cheese pizza with broccoli, honey and flaked almonds. Both left little to complain about – the blanca option disappearing in its entirety before any of the other plates were scrubbed.
A changing dessert selection is also available throughout the week with gelatos, sorbets and other classics. Regrettably, we were brimming with sustenance by the time we found out about a wild cherry semifreddo. Next time.
Overall, we left fuller, fatter and by all accounts a little tipsier – the markings of a successful dinner. Go to East London Liquor Company for the booze, but don’t forget to stay for the food.
East London Liquor Company, 221 Grove Rd, London E3 5SN, United Kingdom