You know how I’m always oscillating between the country and the city? Alcohol and non-alcohol? Bars and restaurants? And always with one running theme – green, eco-conscious, and independent, usually with a beautiful verdant garden out the back. Those that I turn to time and again – to tuck up my knees against my chest and just relax.
My ultimate quest: where to find the country in the city. And have a good time doing it too. ‘Gastronomic delights’, cocktails that taste like somebody might have poured nectar in there (cheesy, but you know what I mean). Oh, and wine that makes you think the massive problem you had earlier was probably just an overreaction…?
Welcome to my ultimate Country in the City hideaway.
Happiest when I can leave the city (but not actually leave the city) behind, turn off a forgotten track away from those swarming roads… to find a quiet spot surrounded by greenery and historic buildings –
Where I can have my honey-glazed cod, sun-dried tomato stew and my cocktail too…
But let me explain – I’d moved just down the road from today’s hideaway about 8 years ago. A country girl from a pretty village in Sussex… to the heart of East London, where I remained, living a shabby but (I like to think) chic fly-by-the-seat-of-your-leather-pants kinda life in a mouldy old Victorian apartment block. And you know what, it wasn’t the easiest transition, which is probably why I spent most of my time seeking out the quarters (“where the ragged people go….” we interrupt this piece for a brief interlude…)
…ANYWAY, this is probably why I spent most of my time seeking out the quarters where I can have my cake and eat it too. Or – to put it more bluntly – to have my farm / garden / swans / canal / river / insert rural environment of your choice here* and city
squalor living too.
And the place that encapsulates all of this? That would be East London’s newest (and actually… only) canal-side distillery – The East London Liquor Company, or ELLC to those in the know – which has taken up shop in the somewhat incongruous setting of a disused horse glue factory from the early 1900’s…
A former knackers yard in Bow, which they have re-purposed and put to the much more convivial use as East London’s first gin distillery in over 100 years. Complete with the best-stocked bar, tastiest restaurant and open-to-the-elements herb garden, which also acts as the distillery’s ingredients source and private courtyard for guests to eat out front.
Surrounded by the sounds of birdsong, clatter from the kitchens, and the smell of herbs rising up to meet you from the earth-filled boxes and trellises that ring the entire garden…
It’s a true “I Can’t Believe It’s London” moment.
(Not to get too idyllic here – the odd police siren does creep in too).
Feel free to walk beside the canal-path that runs through Victoria Park and Mile End. In summer, the boat owners often gather on the banks and open up their homes to sell trinkets and handmade or vintage clothes. There’s also quite a lot of music and dancing involved. I like to come down and watch before ambling on to the distillery.
Just so you know – the staff and the chefs here are more than happy to chat away about the source of all their ingredients, which is one of the main reasons I love this place. As a sustainable food fanatic, I am all about transparency in food source and production. That’s just the farm girl turned renegade in me, country lady turned city belle… You get the picture.
All Balm Myself
East London Liquor Co. Demerara Rum, Stellacello, Honey, Lemon Balm, Sparkling Wine
Sonoma Wheat Whiskey, Rhubarb, Horseradish
Umeshu Sake, Kumquat, Green Tea, Olive Oil, Melissa
Oh, and a recommendation from the wine list – Bulles d’Anges – £5.50 per glass. A sparkling wine that isn’t fermented and tastes better than any sparkling wine I have ever sampled.
Now – on to the pizzas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give you a picture of a whole one because I had already tucked in. The Tomato, Mozzarella & Fresh Basil (remember to add salami if you’re a meat-eater) is perfect.
Several lovely candlelit dinners later… and I can guarantee that two of the most atmospheric times to visit the distillery are autumn and winter.
The menu is seasonal, but some staples include:
Chicken & Anchovy, Marinara
Chorizo, East London Liquor Co. London Dry Gin, Honey Glaze
Fresh Bread Selection
Focaccia, Grissini, Flatbread, Olive Oil, Balsamic
Italian Cheese Selection
So -when the leaves are turning a little chilly outside and everything is ready for golden-brown you can always count on ELLC to provide the Christmas-infused punch and comfy sofas to snuggle down on in the bar. I’ll just leave you with a little travellers tip –
If you really love your libations, check out a private gin or whisky tasting at ELLC. They make their own gin in the massive copper stills that you can see above through the back of the bar ⇑ Options include a tour of the distillery (highlight recommended).
They make whisky too, and you can sample their wares at the bar, restaurant or private tasting of your choice when you get to chat away with fellow drinks enthusiasts to your heart’s content.
So listen – if you see a blonde girl with at least three different drinks to her name looking slightly wild & hunched over in a corner scribbling, come and say hi! Then again, we are in East London… so that description may match a few…
In Love&Light FS XOX