Restaurant Review: East London Liquor Company

When Hackney Road’s Mr Buckley’s announced its closure, resident Head Chef William Dennard wasn’t sure what was next on the horizon career-wise. Until, that is, Alex Wolpert – who supplied the Shoreditch based restaurant with gin  – asked him to come on board as the head chef of a new restaurant he was opening (East London Liquor Company) after the Italian chef he’d lined up had let him down. It was a partnership born out of two unfortunate events that led to something spectacular, as Good Things’ Web Editor Alice Wilkinson discovers.

The Venue

Tucked away in Bow Wharf, East London Liquor Company‘s courtyard space captures the relaxed atmosphere of a pub garden but it’s much cooler.  Home to the area’s first distillery in almost a century, the bare brickwork and rustic wooden floors creates a simple but welcoming space. Sit at the huge wooden barrels used as high tables in the bar or head for a smart, marble topped table in the restaurant. We sit in the courtyard space that lies in between the two – it’s the perfect spot for a summer’s evening.

The food 

ELLC Pizza
Previously at Mr Buckley’s and Dalston’s White Rabbit, William Dennard knows a thing or two about Italian small plates and – although he says the menu is still a work in progress – it’s a refreshingly simple selection of dishes that caters for every palate.

From the 11 small plates on offer (all around the £10 mark), we’re served smoked aubergine, lardo with homemade flatbread, fried chicken with nduja aioli and a dish of burrata with herbs. It’s simple food, made incredibly well. I loved Dennard’s take on traditional baba ghanoush – the smoky flavour adds depth while his fried chicken – which he says has taken him a long time to perfect – is the perfect combination of crunchy and tender.

Pizza’s next. There’s traditional tomato, mozzarella and basil and also ham hock and olives. I try the one topped with nduja, piquillo peppers, burrata cheese and roasted fig. While the nduja packs a bit of a punch, the roasted fig and peppers add a sweetness that works really well.

Gin and vodka is on tap and I’d recommend the ‘Army and Navy’ made with gin batch No. 1. It’s made with grapefruit and lemon, and served in a small coupe.

The chef

William Dennard

Can you talk us through the concept behind the East London Liquor company?
“Italian small plates was always Alex’s vision. But we opened the restaurant with a completely different menu to what he have now. My ego ran away with me a bit – I’d never opened a restaurant like this before and I wanted a menu so extravagant that the ingredient list was unmanageable. My kitchen’s pretty small so I learned quite quickly that I needed to simplify it. After listening to feedback from our diners, I tweaked the menu – the general consensus was that it was too fussy. So, I decided to do a few things but do them really well. Now, we make all our own dough and even our own butter – I’m proud of the little touches like that.”

What’s the inspiration behind the menu?
“It’s heavily influenced by seasonal ingredients. I get a daily delivery from Gastronomica who bring me the most amazing fresh ingredients from Borough Market – it’s my favourite part of the day deciding how to incorporate them into the menu.”

Is your kitchen a tightly run ship?
“I make sure we have a lot of fun in the kitchen – I’ve got a really young team and have surrounded myself with friends who I’ve worked with before. I’d call it a well oiled machine and we all like a few beers together, which helps!”

The verdict: A simple concept, executed beautifully.

East London Liquor Company, 221 Grove Road, Bow Wharf, London E3 | +44 20 3011 0980 |

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