Arepa & Co.
58a De Beauvoir Crescent N1 5SB
0207 923 3507
AKA: Save on the plane fare and get your new favourite world food snack here
The deal: OK, as much as Foxtons would like it, the 'Haggerston Riviera' isn't going to happen. Yes, it's Haggerston. Yes, it's by the canal. Yes, it's got numerous new media agencies floating around. But the only thing that's genuinely got a cool, bohemian feel to it in the stretch of glass-fronted office slash warehouse space is the Venezuelan cafe, Arepa & Co. Stepping off the towpath, you're greeted with splashes of vibrant colours, from the hammock seating and the art collection in the corner to the display of fresh, verdant veggies piled up on the counter. The staff are all smiles, the sun is shining through the canal-facing windows and the menu is waiting to be attacked with your mouth.
The food: For those not acquainted with traditional Venezuelan food (we weren't), there's just two things to grasp: the eponymous arepa and the cachapa. Arepas are 100% cornbread pockets (hello, gluten-free lovers), which are split, toasted and stuffed with an array of fillings that are bursting out of hand-held dish. We tried the Mariana (£6.5) which was a super tasty mix of chicken, guacamole, cheddar and plantains and is deceptively filling, especially when followed by their other speciality dish. A cachapa is a sweetcorn pancake - a little like a sweetcorn fritter - but more delicate and also comes with a variety of fillings. The Pabellon (£7.5) was a hearty choice of shredded beef, black beans, cheddar and plantain and knocked the gentle fog of a hangover out of sight. The Yuca/cassava chips (£3.5) made were thin enough not to be too starchy (as they can sometimes be) and were perfectly crispy, salty and served with a punchy garlic and parsley dipping sauce. The chalkboard outside boasts "amazing coffee" - and they weren't wrong, as the flat white delivered a beautiful jolt of java to finish off the meal, though we also had one eye on their Santa Teresa rum cocktails or the intriguing, traditional Coco Cuyagua (£7.5) - a double shot of whisky with coconut water. Volveremos...we will be back.
The signature dish: It's tough to choose between the arepa and the cachapa, so take a friend and get both.
The chef: Andreina Villabon
When to dine: Weekday lunches, mid-week evenings - but surely the sweet spot is the weekend as they serve up a killer brunch, 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Damage to pocket: Lovely and cheap. With arepas only costing £6 and cachapas slightly more at £7, you'll be hard-pressed to spend more than £20 a head, including a drink.
File under: Cheap chomps, Weekenders, Hangover-buster, Great with mates, Chomping Ground favourite