Thursday, 7 September 2017

Mason and Co.

Recently the Ewing and I found ourselves meandering down by the canal in Hackney Wick, whiling away some time before the evening session of the World Athletics Championships. While a great many of the spectators we saw amongst us were attired in athletic gear themselves, with many jogging or cycling along the water to the stadium, I saw it as the opportunity to exercise my elbow by sitting in the sun and drinking a few beers at Mason and Company.

Found at Here East - part of a campus on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park including broadcast facilities, office spaces and a state-of-the-art data centre and providing a home for the creative and digital industries – Mason and Co. is a swish - tiled and IKEA-esque Scandi wood - craft beer bar that also offers Italian-inspired food from street food traders Capish?

As it was the start of London Beer City, and Mason and Co. had hosted the opening event, it would have been remiss to not sample both of the festival's official beers.

The first, and the one I was most excited by, was Agadoo - a saison brewed with pineapple and northern hemisphere hops by a team led by Five Points. The second a Pacific Pale Ale, made with southern hemisphere hops in a collaboration led by Fourpure. In the end both were decent enough, if unspectacular, although I was a little let down by the lack of tropical fruit flavour in the former.

To eat I picked the meatball sub, which to some may sound a bit like the kind of American idea that should have remained just that. But, as I spent my teenage years eating slices of cold lasagne wedge in pieces of French stick after a night on the tiles, the idea of homemade pork and beef balls, in a rich tomato sauce and topped with taleggio definitely appealed.

I wasn’t disappointed, with the real standout in the piece being the polenta-crusted sub roll, that elevated the whole shebang to another level and also soaked up the sauce nicely, making it mercifully not as messy to eat as I first feared.

The jalapeƱo salsa, that comes as an optional extra with the sub, was exceptional. Ferociously, sinus-clearingly hot, yet you could still taste the sweet and fruity notes from the fresh chillies. Genuinely one of the best hot sauces I’ve tried for a long while, and I speak as someone who can barely shut my fridge without something with a slightly dodgy name and a colon clearing effect falling out.

The calco e pepe balls – orbs of deep fried spaghetti - were off the menu so I settled for a side of pickle slaw. While I love slaw as much as the next man, a little more perhaps, it is a little bit harder to get excited about shredded cabbage, especially as there are so many bad iterations out there, this, however, was very good;  crunchy and tangy and with the perfect amount of pickle-flecked dressing (although I couldn’t resist another squidge of mayo across the top #mayo4lyfe).

Despite my best attempts to get her to order the porcheta, The Ewing resisted and instead went for the beef braciole, braised steak, stuffed with garlic, parsley, pecorino and chili, then slow braised with onion and bone marrow. Served on a glazed buttermilk roll with melted Taleggio and pickled red onions.

Again, it was a pretty flawless sarnie, sweet tender beef, oozy cheese and the punch of chilli heat and pickled onions - and again it managed to maintain its structural integrity to the end, despite a decent application of rich gravy.

We also shared a helping of Italo fries that came topped with 6 hour beef shin ragu, provolone cheese sauce and pink pickled onions, which were quite as glorious as their description suggests.

Owner Ed Mason also owns Leeds legend, Whitelock’s Ale House, so they were also showcasing some of the best of the Yorkshire craft beer scene for the Beer City celebrations. Of the one we tried the Yorkshire Dale's Pale - a northern riff on Oskar Blues Dales Pale brewed in conjunction with Kirkstall - and Other PPL, a lactose IPA from Zapato Brewery, were the standouts.

Being well fed and even better lubricated made the evening an even more enjoyable one, even if the climax of the evening saw plucky Laura Muir being hustled into fourth place in the Women’s 1500m final. If only they awarded medals for beer-drinking….

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