I often get asked by friends for date ideas, and I usually reel off a list of eateries, bars and beer haunts for them to tie together in an evening. But if you want to keep it simple and stay in one place all night, and avoid all that queuing nonsense, you can’t do much better than East London Liquor Company in Bow. I’ve been a huge fan of it since it opened in 2014 as a distillery and bar, and they’ve just added a beautiful Italian restaurant in to the mix to take things to the next level. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of London, this is the place to be, especially with Victoria Park and the canal a stone’s throw away.
Italian might seem a slightly random direction to take the food in, but it fits well with their love of negronis and all things aperitivo. It’s a simple menu with a selection of ten small plates and six pizzas on offer. You could escape for £6.50 with a fine example of a tomato, mozzarella & basil pizza, but you’ll be missing out on all the fun.
Smoked aubergine, lardo and flatbread (£4.50) was the standout small plate, closely followed by a generous portion of cod cheeks, blood sausage and charred leeks (£8.50) that was surprisingly light. Smoked burrata with red peppers (£4.50) is another must – be sure to get some foccacia (served with olive oil and aged balsamic) to mop everything up. On the pizza front we split two down the middle, contrasting a bianca base topped with prosciutto, spinach, garlic polenta and torn buffalo mozzarella (£10), with a sweet and mildly spicy ‘nduja pizza with pequilo peppers, burrata and roasted fig (£11.50). To finish, a gin pannacotta, with elderflower, grilled peach, and almonds made up for its lack of form in flavour – a great way to end an excellent meal.
After dark, if you can drag yourself out of the candlelit dining room, it’s straight back to the bar for some of the best spirits and cocktails in town. If you ask nicely, they’ll show you around the distillery which is in full view behind the bar. This is where they distill their outstanding range of gins, rum and vodka. The Batch No.2 premium gin is a personal favourite of mine, which isn’t surprising given that owner Alex Wolpert created it with negronis in mind. Keep your eyes peeled for their limited edition barrel aged gins and snap up a bottle from their on-site shop if there are any left.
They also exclusively import some exciting Californian products from Miracle Mile Bitters (Los Angeles), Lost Spirits Distillery (Monterey County), and Sonoma County Distillery (Sonoma County), adding to a seriously boozy back bar. Alex is particularly proud of his bourbon collection which I intend to work my way through soon.
If for some reason you don’t want to spend all night drinking Batch No.2 negronis, try their refreshing Bow Wharf Americano (served long with fresh pink grapefruit juice, campari and sweet vermouth) or a slightly more serious Toronto, made here with the aforementioned Sonoma rye whiskey (instead of something Canadian), fernet, maple syrup, and the magic touch of a prune! Whatever you are after, the fun and friendly ELLC staff will sort you out. At the end of the day, that’s what really makes it a special place.
Click here for some black and white photos of the restaurant on Flickr
Unit GF1, 221 Grove Road, Bow Wharf, E3 5SN