Arepa & Co, E2

The first Brunch Club gathering of 2019 was on Sunday 10th February at Arepa & Co, 254 Paradise Row, London E2 9LE. We hadn’t met up in far too long, and the brunch menu here is something quite different, so we were all excited to get together in Bethnal Green and celebrate our move to the new brunchclub.london domain!

INITIAL BEVERAGES

ED: Long term readers can imagine mine and Lou’s faces when we were told that there was no Breakfast Tea available. They did have Earl Grey though, which was fine, though just a bag in a cup (with a saucer) nothing too fancy.
LOU: I wanted tea. They only had Earl Grey. And whilst the beautiful cups were large and fresh milk came separately the Earl grey tea itself wasn’t amazing – though the fresh mint tea was nice.
LORI: I ordered a latte with oat milk. It was sadly very bitter (perhaps I should have opted for soya milk to get some added sweetness?), and there was no sugar provided.
ELEANOR: I had a flat white – it was lovely and I found out later that they make their own coffee! I did my usual of downing a lot of water as I was unsurprisingly running late.

WHAT WE HAD

ED: I had the Desayuno Veggie, which was really tasty, soft scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, plaintains, black beans and a cachapa which was a sort of flat corn pancake. Really delicious, if quite subtle in flavour in general. The scrambled eggs and plantains were the highlights for me. After this I had a tres leche for dessert, on Lou’s recommendation. It did not disappoint, it was deliciously sweet.
LOU: I had the Desayuno Criollo which was underseasoned and underwhelming. Whilst the meat was tender, and black beans very tasty the arepas felt very heavy. I shared a side of Carona De Maiz with Ed – goats cheese, corn, and chilli dough steamed in a corn husk. Ed pointed out it tasted like a gourmet Wotsit. He was not wrong. For pudding I had the Tres Leche cake which was *so* good. Light sponge, soaked in milks, topped with toasted marshmallow. It was spiced well and sweet without being sickly. But I think a tad over priced.

Ed photographing his Desayuno Veggie at Arepa & Co
Ed photographing his Desayuno Veggie at Arepa & Co

LORI: I wanted to go for Hallaca, but they only had the veggie version left and I was warned that it’d take 40 minutes(!), so I chose the Desayuno Driollo with arepas. This combination of shredded beef, scrambled eggs, black beans, plantains and cheese sounded absolutely delicious, but turned out to be extremely bland. Sadly there was no salt on the table (which I think would have made a massive difference to my dish) and I didn’t want to ask for condiments as the service had already been a tad slow and I was hungry. The arepas were also a little bland… sounds like I should have chosen the cachapas! For ‘brunch pudding’ I went for the mazamorra, which was very tasty but would perhaps have been better without the rather chewy coconut ‘crisps’.
ELEANOR: I had visited Arepa & Co a few weeks ago so I *tried* to ordered differently. I didn’t. I had the Tajadas to start – delicious fried plantain with super tasty sour, spicy cheese sauce and more cheese on top! For main I had the Desayuno Criollo, but with the capachas. It’s a filling dish – eggs, beans, beef, plantain and cheese – but I surprised myself by finishing it. I had the same pudding as Lori, the mazamorra which was an odd texture and I agree the coconut wasn’t necessary and a bit chewy.

Lori's Desayuno Driollo, with the arepas in the background.
Lori’s Desayuno Driollo, with the arepas in the background.

WHAT DID WE CHAT ABOUT?

ED: Oh we had a lot of stuff to cover, it being so long since our last Brunch…
LOU: we talked a lot! Lori and Eleanor give a full account below, so I won’t repeat but it was *lovely* to have such good catch ups!
LORI: Ed’s poetry book getting published, toys and games (because the V&A Museum of Childhood is nearby), my recent honeymoon, All Stars 4, Eleanor’s fab new clothes, embroidery, job hunting, the shiny new Brunch Club blog, and plans for our upcoming 3rd ‘brunchiversary’. We definitely made the most of not being rushed to leave!!!
ELEANOR: So many things, it was wonderful to hear all of Lori’s honeymoon stories which were highly focused on the breakfast offerings and I think made us all want some winter sunshine! Lots of All Stars 4, I’m a bit behind but catching up. It’s a strange season before.

Eleanor enjoying a colourful fruit juice at Arepa & Co
Eleanor enjoying a colourful fruit juice at Arepa & Co

SERVICE, ATMOSPHERE, TOILET STANDARDS/QUIRKS

ED: I managed to arrive half an hour early (didn’t realise until I sat down at our table) and the rather bewildered member of the waiting staff just sort of left me there for a while, only bringing menus and water when I was joined by Lou. This was at a time when the place was very quiet indeed. I think it was possibly early days in the job for certain staff members and they didn’t have the experience that we would normally expect, this is fine of course, I do think that having to wait so long after we’d finished while people were standing in the doorway waiting, was unacceptable. Toilets were a bit of a mess and one of them was being used as a store cupboard for cleaning paraphernalia, leaving two cubicles and one disabled cubicle left for people to use.
LOU: I loved the vibe – but being in a railway arch I found everything a bit noisy (even if the sound track was awesome). There was an accessible loo but the toilets in general were of a poor standard of cleanliness. But waiting 40 minutes between finishing out deserts and getting the plates cleared and leaving the place did rub me up the wrong way…
LORI: The service was rather varied, as it depended which member of staff we got. Special shout out to the lovely guy who put together the rather excellent 80s playlist though, as he was very friendly and efficient. The atmosphere was very relaxed and we were not rushed at all… even when there was a queue of people waiting. Toilets were disappointingly soggy (probably due to being gender neutral and there being a lot of kids in at the time we went!), with one cubicle out of action and being used as a cleaning cupboard.
ELEANOR: The service was pretty bad, as Lori said – the guy was lovely but the rest were not very attentive – not the one if you’re in a rush! There’s a lovely atmosphere in the place, great soundtrack. Toilets were gender-neutral with beautiful floor tiles.

Mazamorra at Arepa & Co
Mazamorra at Arepa & Co

POST-BRUNCH PLANS

ED: Back up to Muswell and straight home!
LOU: My bae has bought a new house, so I popped over to see their awesome partners’ paint job!
LORI: I had pondered stopping off at Westfield Stratford but, in the end, went straight home do do some brunchclub.london site admin.
ELEANOR: Another coffee with an honorary Brunch Club-er, Katherine, to talk work and new jobs…

FINAL THOUGHTS

ED: I feel like I probably wouldn’t go back unless I knew I was in the area for some reason, I’m glad I got to try some Venezuelan food though, I’d try it again, but possibly elsewhere?
LOU: I want to go back to try capachas and more tres Leche cake, but I might try the Hoxton branch neck time?
LORI: Overall, I was a little disappointed but am now wondering if I should go back, order differently, and demand salt!
ELEANOR: I really enjoyed going back again and, in this instance, it was good to have all the time to talk and catch-up. They do a £5 lunch deal which I’d definitely check-out if I was in the area. I really want that tangy cheese sauce from the tajadas again…

The image at the top of this post is via desingmynight.com. All other images were snapped by Brunch Club members on their phones, so excuse any blurriness as we were all rather excited about eating the food.

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