Address: 12 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR
Area: Earl’s Court
Nearest Station: Earl’s Court
Tel.: 020 7373 3840
Good For: Casual dining, Community feeling, Friendly conversation, Cheap and cheerful
It was the last weekend in October 2012; the first great chill of the winter, when you can really feel it seeping through your clothes and into your bones. Brrrrr. Why did I leave the warmth of my apartment?
Oh, that’s right, to go shopping. Whilst it is pleasing news that Tesco has finally got its act together and is selling select Filipino products (in places distant to me like Wembley and Harrow – booo), at the moment the best place to stock up on those hard-to-get treats is ‘Little Manila’ in Earl’s Court. It is little, and it’s not quite Manila, but there is still a smattering of shops and restaurants (okay, only two restaurants) that proudly fly the Filipino flag. I’d made the trek to Earl’s Court to chase down some ingredients (and impulse-buy a whole range of completely unnecessary yet absolutely yummy treats), and had timed my trip so that as I exited the shops, night was falling fast around me and dinner time was calling. So, here was an opportunity to try the newest (relatively speaking) restaurant on the block – Sunrise Café.
Sunrise Café is a family-run business that seems to have a real ‘part-of-the-community’ feel – which is good in a way, but also meant that I immediately felt like the only person in there that the owner did not know personally and was not talking to at the time. I would get to have a pleasant and short conversation with him as I left (“hope to see you again, salamat po for coming!”), but upon entering I stood around awkwardly, waiting to know whether I needed to be shown to a table or take one myself, whether I needed to grab a menu myself, or whether I should serve myself from the buffet on the side. Not the best of starts, then. Service finally did arrive with a smile, but alas it would remain relentlessly slow and haphazard the rest of the night.
Feeling the cravings of comfort food, I had opted for lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly) with a portion of rice. In retrospect I should have gotten the significantly cheaper meal deal option, but this was not brought to my attention at the time of ordering. Nevertheless, it was a good meal.
The pork was freshly-cooked – which may explain the lengthy time lapse between ordering and eating – and was all that I expected: real crunch of the skin, softness of the fat and chewy meatiness. A very commendable effort, helped along by copious amounts of Mang Tomas All-Purpose Sarsa. The rice was hot and sticky, adding even further to the comfort and homeliness factor of the meal. I washed it all down with a refreshing San Miguel beer (not the Spanish one, but the original Filipino one) – but only because they had forgotten my order of iced buko juice (ordering this on a winter’s night? You crazy?).
So I guess that you could sum up the real story of the evening like so: a rather enjoyable meal let down by a slapdash operation, which I feel means this in-the-end charming café may not become something a bit more than just a neighbourhood diner for the owner’s friends and family. Which is a real shame, as they have the potential to be better and become a ‘destination restaurant’ that even non-Filipinos will want to go to.
VERDICT – An okay experience. I rather enjoyed the food – when it eventually came. I rather enjoyed the hospitality of the owner – when it eventually came. In the end, I am willing to go back and try some of their other dishes; their breakfast section looks particularly enticing (meat/fish with fried rice, fried egg, vegetable ‘medley’ and coffee or tea for £5.50…. mmmmm). I just hope that Sunrise Café can show more of the renowned hospitality that the Philippines is known for.
Currently listening to: Arch Enemy – Night Falls Fast