Review: Leytonstone Brewhouse & Kitchen

Miranda Eason wasn’t sure about home-brewed beers. But this expertly matched evening changed all that.

Chicken with papaya
Almost too pretty to eat: chicken with papaya. Photo: Erin Bunting
After quitting her job as Arts Project Manager for the British Council, earlier this year Leytonstone resident Erin Bunting went off to Ballymaloe Cookery School to retrain as a chef. Her wife Jo is a keen brewer, and in June they combined their love of food, beer and E11 by starting the Leytonstone Brewhouse and Kitchen supper club. Their twice-monthly supper clubs are usually themed, drawing on their travels for inspiration. Earlier this month they threw a Laos-themed super club, and invited Leytonstoner along.

Arriving at Erin and Jo’s lovely terraced house on a sunny Saturday evening we joined the other guests in the colourful Frida Khalo-inspired garden for a welcome drink of vodka, elderflower, lime and mint and pre-dinner Thai fishcakes. All the while their cats Gilbert and George looked on. It was a strong start, Thai fishcakes being one of my very favourite things to eat.

Drinks drunk we headed inside, taking our seats around the dining table. While Erin got on with the cooking Jo gave us an introduction to brewing. We learned that when it comes to beer pairing you need to keep the three Cs – complement (look for similar flavours), contrast (look for opposing flavours) and cut (look for flavours that will cut through the food) – in mind. Basically to see if the beer’s a match have a mouthful of food, followed by a sip of beer, if it makes the food taste better, then you’re sorted.

After our lesson Jo got us all to carve a tomato. Apparently vegetable-carving is a big thing in South East Asia. She gave us a demo, transforming a tomato into a rose. She made it look easy. Then it was our turn. It was not easy. But it made for a fun ice-breaking activity.

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National dish, Laap. Photo: EB
Tomatoes carved, with varying degrees of success, it was onto the starter, Laap, the national dish of Laos, a spicy salad of prawns and chicken minced with lemongrass, ginger, shallot, chilli, coriander and mint, seasoned with lime juice and fish sauce, and mixed with toasted ground sticky rice. Served in lettuce leaves, it was zingy and full of flavour, a lovely light summer starter and paired with a glass of Hoegaarden (the only beer of the evening not brewed by Jo).

The main course was barbecued chicken with papaya salad, a green bean, tomato and peanut affair decorated with nasturtiums (we were heading into too-pretty-to-eat territory with this dish), sticky rice and Jeow, a spicy dipping sauce. It was paired with a Respect Your Elders, an elderflower pale ale brewed by Jo. The combination of flavours and textures of the blackened chicken, crunchy salads, sticky rice and hot sauce was perfectly suited to the warm evening and the pale ale.

A sorbet of coconut, kaffir lime, lemongrass and ginger presented on prettily-patterned china spoons served as a refreshing palate cleanser ahead of dessert: chocolate, chilli and lime eclairs, with mango puree and fresh mango, a Laos/French mash up, as a nod to Laos’ French colonial history, which Jo paired with a chocolatey False Bottom Porter.

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Sorbet. Photo: EB
This wasn’t a type of beer I’ve tasted before but just the thing to have with a creamy, chocolately pudding. To finish? Jasmine tea served in a beautiful vintage 1950s tea set and chocolate and ginger petit fours (side note: the whole evening inspired major crockery envy of Erin and Jo’s collection of vintage tableware).

All too soon it was time to head into the night, clutching take-home gifts of jars of toasted ground toasted sticky rice to sprinkle on salads. It’s hard to believe Erin and Jo have been hosting their supper clubs for just a couple of months. The whole evening was planned to perfection and ran super-smoothly. The overall vibe was relaxed and fun, every course delicious and expertly matched with taste-enhancing brews. Consider this hoary old wine drinker converted.

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Tickets for Leytonstone Brewhouse and Kitchen supper clubs cost £32 for three courses with a taste of beer with each. Find out more here
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