So it’s been a while since I’ve done something like this. I mean, blogging… is it like riding a bicycle? I sure hope so!
A lot has changed since my last restaurant review in September 2014 – and I’m not really talking about my personal life here (as interesting as that is). Back then, I posted about Kalesa, a little neighbourhood Filipino restaurant in Battersea that had showed a lot of promise in a city still relatively lacking in decent Filipino food options.
Well, Kalesa is unfortunately closed now, despite my ringing endorsement. Was it the quiet location? Was it a lack of marketing? Was it the general public’s unfamiliarity with Filipino food and lack of awareness of what’s out there? We can speculate for the reasons, and remark on how Filipino food has not really “made it” since I last wrote about the scene here in London (‘The Future of Filipino Food in London?’)
But there have been other changes within the London Filipino food scene that far outshine the closure of one restaurant – changes that continue to make me tremble in excited anticipation that, yes, Filipino food will one day make it.
Since December 2013, it has been slow in coming: I still remember finding out in dribs and drabs about new Filipino foodies and then going out and finding them, in order to see who they were, what they did and why. Connections were made, food was shared and friendships developed. One by one, more appeared, offering their own take on Filipino food. More connections were made, more food was shared and even more friendships developed.
So now, we have what I like to call a new, primarily younger generation of Filipino foodies; Filipino foodies spearheading a dynamic movement to make themselves and their food known, not just to their friends and families, but to the wider public. The New Wave of British Filipino Food. This generation is hungry for success and confident that it has what it takes to make their mark on the gastronomic front.
The best part about this generation though is the collaborative streak that runs straight through it. We all recognise that a revolution in terms of Filipino food is not created by one person alone; we need everyone in the wider scene, new AND old, to continue to develop and offer the huge variety of choice that will make people take notice.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think it’s safe to say that there is now a Filipino food scene in London. You want to be a part of it? Come check us all out below.
Lee and Sinead are making it big – they’re in with the Kerb crowd and getting all sorts of plaudits and gigs all over the place. And deservedly so: their crispy baboy wrap is a scrumptiously tasty concoction mixing excellently grilled pork belly with pan-Asian salad flavours. And if you like offal, you should check out their lemongrass ox heart skewers.
Follow them on Twitter to find out where they’re trading; they’re also usually in the School Yard of Broadway Market on Saturdays.
Plucky Justice and his brother have set up shop outside Peckham Library to bring their absolutely delicious Filipino take on the burrito to south London: instead of the usual Mexican fare, the FiliShack burrito packs garlic fried rice and chicken inasal – oh, that chicken! That perfectly grilled inasal! – and are just delightful.
Follow them on Twitter to find out where they’re trading; you can usually find them in Peckham Tuesday-Saturday.
Although I’ve only caught wind of these guys recently, apparently they’ve been making their mark on Venn Street Market down in Clapham since 2013. Signature dishes include ‘twisted’ chicken adobo and beef pares.
Follow them on Twitter and check their website for their latest news; otherwise, find them at Venn Street Market on Saturdays.
Kristina has been rocking it down in Brixton and here, there and everywhere with her traditional fare that is hearty and delicious.
Follow her on Twitter for the latest Pinoy’s Kitchen news and whereabouts.
Pop-Ups and Residencies
“Where Filipino food lives in London”. Roni and Charl have embarked on the admirable goal of giving a platform for Filipino chefs to flex their culinary muscles and show off what they love best about the cuisine. Past events have included hosting Rex Le Happy Chef, putting on a hearty and delicious kamayan feast and throwing an ambitious and stunningly creative Christmas-themed Noche Buena dinner, laying out on the table the classically-trained talents of chef Tim dela Cruz of Caravan (and MasterChef fame). Ever wondered what a deconstructed buko pandan cheesecake looks like? Just ask Tim!
Check their website for their latest events.
Le Happy Chef and Luzon
Certainly one to watch – Rex de Guzman is a bright young thing seeking to bring contemporary Filipino food to the London restaurant scene. In his spare time, he has been putting on pop-ups and honing his skill. Whilst all of his dishes have their special little flairs that make them stand out, for me his stand-out dishes are his deliciously savoury and punchy sisig terrine and his delectably smooth and decadent leche flan.
Rex has just returned from an epic culinary tour the Philippines (you can follow his adventures on his blog), so now he and Luzon are planning further pop-ups as well as intending to establish a permanent restaurant by the end of the year.
Luzon, 07521 320 718 http://www.luzon.co.uk/
The one and only New Cross Filipino supper club! Since September 2013, my brother and I have been hosting supper clubs and pop-ups that provide a dining experience that we feel captures the best of the Filipino food culture we grew up with: the warm welcome, the social sharing and the festive feasting. Some of our well-received dishes include tuna kinilaw, chicken adobo arancini (arandobo), bistek tagalog wraps, laing lumpia, beef short-rib kare kare, pork belly adobo, sans rival, mango cake and calamansi posset. Sign up to the mailing list via the website in order to hear the latest news first.
Carla is an aspiring home cook, originally from Manila but finding herself now in north London. Whilst she scopes out the possibility of setting up a supper club, she’s making Filipino dishes like chicken adobo for home delivery via DishNextDoor – and receiving very good praise as a result.
Alas, for now DishNextDoor only operates in the N16, N15, E8 and E5 postcodes at the moment… so for the rest of us unlucky sods who live elsewhere, it looks like we’ll just have to wait until Carla launches her supper club, potentially in May.
Check out her Twitter for announcements as to when she has new dishes on offer; otherwise, keep an eye on her DishNextDoor profile.
Kusina ni Lola
These guys got off to a good start, hosting some well-received pop-ups in both Liverpool and London – but have taken a break for their first child. Looking forward to their comeback!
Masarap Supper Club
Considering that Filipino food could be seen as the first true ‘fusion’ cuisine, it makes sense that Filipino fusion would eventually hit London. Rachelle and friends have now run a handful of well-received pop-ups via Grub Club, serving fusion dishes such as adobo tacos, kare kare sliders and sisig fries. Very much looking forward to seeing what these guys get up to in the new year.
One of the earliest members of the New Wave of British Filipino Food, Mae started Pepe’s Kitchen in honour of her father, and has sought to do him and Filipino food proud with her monthly supper clubs, pop-ups, catering and cooking classes. I hear that her barako coffee ice cream has been making waves, and punters have been enjoying her exploration of some of the more regional dishes like pancit molo, humba and tyula itum. Proper home-cooking for the soul, all dished out in the extremely welcome setting of her home in Marylebone.
Sign up to her mailing list and follow her on Twitter in order to hear her latest news.
Restaurants and Cafés
Whilst the menu is reminiscent of the many little caffs that dot this fair country (cooked breakfasts, omelettes, jacket potatoes, panini etc.), further digging will find that under this rather typical exterior beats a very Filipino heart.
Having recently celebrated their first birthday, Benso Café seems to be doing a good job of dishing out the Filipino classics (with, I believe, a flavour of Kapampangan) to local Edgwarites.
If you do make it here, please do let me know how it is!
145 Deans Lane, HA8 9NY (nearest Tube Edgware), 07960 179 482 https://www.facebook.com/bensocafelondon/
A family-run restaurant near Tower Hill. Although it started life as a pan-Asian restaurant, as co-owner Juliet explained, it was because they felt the market wasn’t right for Filipino food back then. But now, they have really embraced their roots and the menu is now dominated by the classics, which they have tried to give their own twists. Check them out for their crispy pata, one of their Specials of the Day – it was pretty stellar when I had it!
4 Cable Street, E1 8JG (nearest Tube Tower Gateway/Tower Hill), 020 7702 2299 http://cirilonoodlebar.co.uk/
Central London’s only permanent Filipino restaurant continues to potter along, one of the unchanging (and dated) fixtures on Charlotte Street. It can be a bit hit-and-miss, but from personal experience their crispy pata and lechon kawali were well-executed.
4 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LP (nearest Tube Goodge Street/Tottenham Court Road), 020 7580 6551 http://www.josephinesrestaurant.co.uk/
Kamayan sa Earl’s Court
Formerly known as Sunrise Café (see my review here), ever since Lutong Pinoy (see below) rebranded and revamped itself, these guys decided to up their game and rename, rebrand and revamp themselves. Haven’t had a chance to go there since the change though. They’ve also gone ahead and opened up a new branch in Kilburn.
12 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR (nearest Tube Earl’s Court), 020 7373 3840 http://www.kamayansaearlscourt.co.uk/
227 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JG (nearest Tube Kilburn/Brondesbury), 020 3689 4727 https://www.facebook.com/kamayansakilburn
The chilled bubble tea lounge that made the Evening Standard sit up and announce that ‘meriendas are the new tapas’ back in 2013. Offers a smattering of – you guessed it – merienda snacks ranging from the pan-Asian to the decidedly Filipino. Check out my review here.
UPDATE: Lakwatsa has now unfortunately closed! They say they are still around for parties and events; let’s hope they keep doing what they need to do to keep doing the thing they do.
7 Blenheim Crescent, W11 2EE (nearest Tube Ladbroke Grove), 07900 266 080 http://www.lakwatsa.co.uk/
What was once Kabayan has now re-opened as Lola Sisay. Filipino food still lives on in east London! The menu covers breakfast staples such as the classic -silogs, and hearty favourites such as crispy pata, afritada and kare kare are well-represented. Let me know if you’ve been here!
12 Walton Road, E13 9BP (nearest Tube Upton Park) http://www.lolasisay.com/
One of the Earl’s Court stalwarts. I first tried this some nine years ago; since then, they have rebranded and revamped themselves under the direction of Marc, the scion of the next generation of the family. Now known for their kamayan evenings, they’re taking steps to make themselves known and heard around town as one of the places to go for traditional Filipino food. Their silog meals are also worth a shout – the Boy-Itlog meal certainly hit all the right spots!
10 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR (nearest Tube Earl’s Court), 020 7244 0007 http://www.lutongpinoyuk.com/
A Filipino coffee shop whose goal is to revive interest in quality and ethically-sourced Filipino coffee, one cup at a time (to think that the Philippines was once one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world…!). They’ve only just recently opened up their cute little premise on the Fulham Road, in a rather handsome location next to a Daunt bookstore (was this planned??).
The black Americano, made from their single origin coffee was delectable; the brownies, amazingly moist; the rest of the food menu, devilishly tempting (adobo toasties, tocilog for breakfast, pandan cheesecake, turon, polvoron and others). What more could you want from a coffee shop?
Well, the ability to buy their coffee online, of course!
166 Fulham Road, SW10 9PR (nearest Tube South Kensington) 07428 693 114 http://www.municoffee.com/
What was once known as Kusinaang Munti has undergone a rebrand into its current incarnation, but from what I can see it still retains its old neighbourhood canteen / carinderia ethos and feel, targeted primarily at the local Filipino community. They do a Sunday buffet for £9.99.
913 Garratt Lane, SW17 0LT (nearest Tube Tooting Broadway), 020 8672 4363
Word has trickled down out of Kilburn of a decent Filipino restaurant that goes by the name of Nilo’s. I am yet to make it up there, but I am eager to give their traditional Filipino offerings a good go.
11 Willesden Lane, NW6 7RB (nearest Tube Kilburn/Brondesbury), 020 7625 1118 https://www.facebook.com/Nilos-Restaurant-427641133948259/timeline/
This one is actually quite an exciting one – Romulo Café is a well-established chain of refined home-cooking back in Manila that is now taking its first steps into Europe. They have just opened their doors on Kensington High Street after a very busy soft opening, so get down there now!
I absolutely loved these guys when I visited them in Manila back in October 2013, where I savoured their signature dishes like chicken relleno, boneless crispy pata binagoongan and beef kaldereta with keso de bola.
Whilst the London menu is a slimmed down version of the Manila one and the presentation and ingredients does differ slightly (well, we are in the UK after all), you can still get that chicken relleno, that crispy pata and an absolutely delightful halo-halo, amongst a whole range of other delights. Well done to young Chef Lorenzo, who travelled out to Manila to learn the secrets of the Romulo family.
343 Kensington High Street, W8 6NW (nearest Tube High Street Kensington/Kensington Olympia), 020 3141 6390 http://www.romulocafe.co.uk/
Sunrise Jacket Potato and Oriental Food
This is an odd one, in that it appears to have started life as a shopping mall jacket potato stall, but has now morphed into a jacket potato, pan-European, pan-Asian AND Filipino vendor.
A staple of Filipinos in Romford, Sunrise can fix you up with adobo, bopis, sisig, lechon paksiw and other cheap delights.
Unit 103, Romford Shopping Hall, RM1 3AB (nearest station Romford), 07805 818 586 https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g580427-d5815718-Reviews-Sunrise_Jacket_Potato_and_Oriental_Food-Romford_Greater_London_England.html
Tapsilogan sa Tooting Express
A recent discovery in Tooting Market, this hole-in-the-wall kitchen specialises in the –silog breakfast dishes. At £3.50 for a plate of tapsilog that was actually rather more-ish, it’s hard to resist snacking at this south London secret.
Tooting Market, 21-23 Tooting High Street, SW17 0SN (nearest Tube Tooting Broadway)
The Philippines used to be well-known for coffee, and for one coffee in particular – barako. Roughly translating as ‘stud’, barako is the local variant of Liberica coffee, an exceedingly rare breed that has long been outshone by the easier-to-cultivate Arabica and Robusta beans.
Jovan and Omar were therefore pleasantly surprised to stumble across barako in Batangas, where it is prevalent, never having heard of it before. Keen to share their new-found love of this bean, they now import it and roast it here – all for home delivery. And, with the arrival of Romulo Café in London, Barako Bean have been given the opportunity to expand their wholesale operations, supplying Romulo with its very own supply of barako.
Check out their website for their latest deals.
Any Filipino restaurants / market stalls / pop-ups / supper clubs that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!
Currently listening to: Coheed and Cambria – You Got Spirit, Kid [TOTES AMAZING I’M SO EXCITED FOR THE NEW ALBUM YOU NEED TO CHECK THIS SONG OUT YES YES]