Ahead of a trip to Draughts with some friends, I was finding it really difficult to source a suitable place to eat around the Haggerston/Kingsland Road area. As much as I wanted to peruse the lovely Vietnamese restaurants of Kingsland, we only had an hour to eat and I didn’t fancy having to work out what I can and can’t eat and risk being hungry for board game fun.
After multiple failed ‘gluten free restaurants in Haggerston’ searches, I turned to trusty Google maps to check the menus of the restaurants nearby and that’s when I came across Arepa & Co, a Venezuelan restaurant right on the canal.
It was the first place I’d found that actually indicated allergens on the menu including cereal containing gluten, celery, eggs, fish, milk, mustard, nuts, and soya beans. Best of all, it turns out Venezuelan food is naturally pretty coeliac friendly so I booked a table straight away.
We arrived at the small, waterside restaurant and were greeted by friendly waiting staff who seated us and quickly took our drinks order – wine for me and Venezuelan beer for everyone else.
Having never eaten Venezuelan food before I wanted to go for something authentic, so I ordered a starter of Yuka and an Arepa main.
Cassava is a South American root vegetable, which tasted like a cross between potato and celeriac. The Yuka starter is deep fried cassava with a rich garlic dip, essentially like having some chips as an appetizer, which is all good in my books.
Arepa is like a corn bread patty that is traditionally eaten in Columbia and Venezuela and as it’s made for maize is gluten and wheat free. I opted for the ‘Pabellón’ arepa which contains shredded beef, cheddar, black beans and plantain.
When it arrived I initially thought it was a bit on the small side but once I got started I realised just how packed full of meat, beans and cheese it was. I was completely full afterwards.
The shredded beef was incredible and the beans and cheese obviously went very well with it. The plantain was an interesting addition, adding a little sweetness to the rich beef, which I loved but I imagine might not be for everyone.
Another similar gluten free main was my friend Laura’s one – the restaurant’s signature dish of Pabellón Criollo. Also consisting of shredded beef, cheese, black beans and plantain but layered on rice and with a little flower garnish.
Unfortunately there was no time for dessert but next time, and there will be a next time, I’m going to try the coconut ice cream.
Overall Arepa & Co was a great experience – the food is delicious and the service exceptional. Our waiter was very attentive, asking us about our plans for the evening, how we found out about the restaurant and chatting knowledgeably about the food and what does and doesn’t contain gluten. He also came to say goodbye when his shift ended, wishing us a good night. Lovely.
A great find in an area with little or difficult to find gluten free places to eat.