Mason & Company, a hotly anticipated addition to East London’s drinking scene, officially throws open its doors to the public this weekend. Last Saturday, local residents were invited to preview the venue as part of the Here East Canalside launch. Promoted as East London’s newest foodie and cultural quarter, Here East is a new campus on the confines of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Situated alongside the River Lea, it has emerged from the framework of the Press and Broadcast Centre constructed for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
I’ve already lamented the draught of remarkable bars in the Stratford area. My current imbibing salvation is the Howling Hops tank bar or Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick – both of which are irrefutably excellent – however, the most fruitful spot in Stratford for a decent beer is Tap East, offering a rotating selection of beer on 16 taps and a selection of over 100 bottles in their fridges.
Despite this, Tap East suffers from two main drawbacks: its location inside the soulless behemoth that is Westfield Shopping Centre and its curtailed opening hours, which only extend until 11:00pm on a Friday or Saturday night. Further afield – two stops on the Central Line from Stratford – lies the illustrious Mother Kelly’s and Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green. There’s plenty of room in Stratford for another craft beer bar. And preferably one that isn’t within eyeshot of Westfield.
So the E20 postcode welcomes Mason & Company with open arms. It comes from a fantastic pedigree, after all: Edward Mason, founder of the Five Points Brewing Company, was first a successful entrepreneur with Mason and Taylor in Shoreditch. This was a trendy hub located on the junction at Bethnal Green Road and Redchurch Street - where, yes, Brewdog Shoreditch now sits. He sold the business to Brewdog to fund his foray into brewing in 2012.
On my recent visit to the Five Points brewery, the staff were teeming about the new venture. Although Mason & Company is run by Mason and therefore intrinsically linked to the Five Points Brewing Company, it intends to be a craft beer bar with an expansive rotation of beers from nearby and further afield. It boasts 20 taps – two of which will be devoted to offerings from the Five Points – but the rest will be exciting and fresh. The menu will be in constant flux and kegs bought on a single basis, meaning that when a keg runs dry, you’ve missed your chance.
This is London, so it’s a no-brainer that Mason & Company also features a permanent residency for a street food luminary. On site, Capish? will be purveying their renditions of classic Italian-American fare as they've dished out since 2012 at markets including KERB and Street Feast. The menu at Mason & Company features a range of their specialties, but it’s the sandwiches that are legendary. These have featured at both of the Five Points monthly yard parties to date, where I sampled the Eggplant Parma stack of breaded aubergine stuffed into a buttermilk roll with oozing pesto and mozzarella. I’ve also been advised that the Meatball Hero sub is a game changer. Both are thankfully featured on the in-house menu at the bar.
As a space, Mason & Company is bright, minimal and clean. Light wood features throughout, the furnishings included, and the walls are a pristine white. The generous front windows can be thrown open, letting the sun stream inside to create a breezy, welcome space. There’s ample seating that includes banquet tables, stools pushed up to perching ledges, smaller tables and group booths. Outside, there’s more seating where pundits can languidly observe the activity on the adjacent canal. The kitchen is located in the back of the bar, open and bustling with activity.
Finally, the drinks list. The pièce de résistance. On our visit, I opted for Hickey the Rake from Wylam Brewery – an excellent APA suited for a sunny afternoon with zingy notes of lemon flavours. We also ordered a Lervig Sour Yuzu, which was razor-sharp and tangy. While the menu that afternoon boasted a range of breweries and styles, it’s tentative. Who knows what it might look like this weekend for the launch. But I’m confident that it will appease even the most seasoned palate.
Watching the interactions between staff and customers, both were equally as patient and enthusiastic about the new venture. Despite the initial hiccups – mostly down to the fact that servers weren’t yet familiar with their surroundings – the atmosphere was casual, cool and inclusive. Undeniably a welcome addition to the neighbourhood for pernickety beer drinkers and casual patrons alike, Mason & Company is bursting with potential. And I was suitably impressed.
The arrival of Mason & Company seems to have finally rectified the E20 drought – and by throwing in a great kitchen and unbeatable canalside location, it seems that it was worth the wait.
Mason & Company is open for business from this Friday, the 17 June.