Posts Tagged With: Introduction to new cuisines

The London Filipino Food Scene

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.

Filipino - Foodies Collective1

Filipino Foodies unite! Thanks to Filipino Kitchen, Roni Bandong and Kitchie Umali for the photos (and to everyone else for the memories!)

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.


Market Stalls


BBQ Dreamz


The Mega Box from BBQ Dreamz – crispy pork belly and chicken satay on rice, all combined into a box of joy

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.



Filipino - FiliShack

FiliShack’s delightful chicken inasal on rice. Photo courtesy of FiliShack Twitter


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.


Kusina Nova

Filipino - Kusina Nova

Beef pares from Kusina Nova. Photo courtesy of Kusina Nova website

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.


Pinoy’s Kitchen

Filipino - Pinoy's Kitchen

Pinoy’s Kitchen’s heart-warming arroz caldo. Photo courtesy of Pinoy’s Kitchen Twitter

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.

Filipino - Noche Buena

Chef Tim dela Cruz’s Noche Buena delights – seabass kinilaw, salted duck egg salad, chicken relleno, deconstructed buko pandan cheesecake


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.

Filipino - LeHappy Chef

Chicken adobo with coconut milk from Le Happy Chef. Photo courtesy of Le Happy Chef website and Maynila

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


Supper Clubs


The Adobros

Filipino - Adobros

Some Adobros favourites: chicken adobo wings, laing lumpia, beef short rib kare kare, sans rival and arandobo

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.


Flipside Kitchen

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

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Masarap’s tocilog taco, kare kare slider and sisig fries

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.


Pepe’s Kitchen

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.

Filipino - Pepe's Kitchen

I sea food, I eat it! Photo courtesy of Pepe’s Kitchen website

Sign up to her mailing list and follow her on Twitter in order to hear her latest news.



Restaurants and Cafés


Benso Café

Filipino - Benso Cafe

Filipino Foodies unite! Thanks to Filipino Kitchen, Roni Bandong and Kitchie Umali for the photos (and to everyone else for the memories!)

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



2015-02-02 21.13.21

Crispy pata at Cirilo’s

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




Lunch at Josephine’s… just for the two of us

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


Kamayan sa Earl’s Court

Filipino - Kamayan sa Earl's Court

A kamayan spread in Earl’s Court. Photo courtesy of Kamayan sa Earl’s Court website

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

227 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JG (nearest Tube Kilburn/Brondesbury), 020 3689 4727



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


Lola Sisay

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)


Lutong Pinoy

2015-07-14 21.20.45

The mighty Boy-Itlog meal at Lutong Pinoy: lechon kawali, lumpiang shanghai AND tocino

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


Muni Coffee


Enjoying a coffee and a delightful brownie in Muni Coffee

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


Nayong Pilipino

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


Romulo Café

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!

Filipino - Romulo Cafe

Feasting at Romulo Café in Manila

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


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


Tapsilogan sa Tooting Express

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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)





Barako Bean

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.

Filipino - Barako Bean

The Barako Bean hamper. Photo courtesy of Barako Bean website

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]

Categories: Filipino, Pop-Up, Supper Club | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Riding Shotgun: Catching up over Filipino at Kalesa

Copyright of Kalesa. Sourced from Kalesa website

Copyright of Kalesa. Sourced from Kalesa website

Cuisine: Filipino

Address: 59 Lavender Hill, SW11 5QN

Area: Battersea

Nearest Station: Clapham Junction/Clapham Common

Tel.: 020 3417 5639


Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Cheap and cheerful, Comfort food, Casual dining, Taste of home, Introduction to new cuisines

You know how I am with my Filipino food. Always banging on and on about it, telling people how good it is, how it’s overlooked gabba gabba hey.

But without somewhere proper to actually take people to so that they can try the real deal, that doesn’t involve me having to cook it all (though The Adobros are pretty good BOOOM), it all becomes a bit problematic to convince the good people of London of the merits of Filipino food… we have a bit of a dearth of good Filipino restaurants in town.

And so here steps up Kalesa to give it all a good shot. Some friends had been here for a breakfast last year, and whilst we all know that Filipino breakfasts are automatically the Breakfasts of Champions and hence amazing (see shamelessly self-promoting photo below), these friends had relayed to me that Kalesa’s version was actually pretty decent.

Enlisting the help of two good friends of mine – an Irish couple who, though not being massively experienced in the ways of world food, are certainly game to try anything – I finally got myself into gear and made it down one fine and balmy August evening and made the long trek to the far end of Lavender Hill from Clapham Junction.

Even though from the outside, the place is nothing special (it’s got that very neighbourhood-café-on-the-cheap feel about it, with added tropical decorations), once through the door the welcome was extremely warm, if a little shy. The guys here are evidently doing their bit to show off the good side of Filipinos and the Philippines – apart from the Filipino hospitality, there are photos and brochures (courtesy of the Department of Tourism) all over the place displaying enticing scenes of white beaches, verdant hillsides, exotic wildlife, fresh produce… oh, to be in the Philippines right now!

But we are in the Battersea/Clapham borderlands, on the drab Lavender Hill. Will Kalesa’s food be able to transport us to the tropics?

Laing: First up on the menu is laing. A dish from the Bicol region, it is typically taro leaves stewed with garlic and chilli in coconut milk. As an aside, I’ve always wondered why chillies never took as big a hold in the Philippines as elsewhere in Asia – after all, chilli was ‘discovered’ by the Spanish in Mexico, and the Manila-Acapulco Galleon was the primary trade route between the Americas and Asia… I digress. Back to Kalesa, and their take on a Bicolano favourite. It was creamy, sweet, savoury and just the right level of spice; additionally, the taro leaves were of the right consistency – think creamed spinach. I was pretty happy with what we had, and so were my friends.

Laing and pakbet - so dainty!

Laing and pakbet – so dainty!

Pakbet: Pakbet, or in its longer form, pinakbet (which I am told is itself a shortened version of the Ilocano word, pinakebbet, meaning shriveled), is a vegetable sauté/stew, often including bitter melon (ampalaya) and flavoured with fermented shrimp paste (bagoong). Still interested? You should be. Again, the vegetables were the right texture, retaining some bite despite being stewed and steeped for some time, and the bagoong provided enough savouriness without being overpowering. And again, it was a hit with my friends, despite their having had no prior idea of what fermented shrimp paste should look, smell or taste like. Perhaps what helped was the liberal smattering of crispy pork belly (lechon kawali), which we ordered as an addition to the pakbet. Before you ask, pork and shrimp is actually a well-established food combination in the Philippines (you will see pork binagoongan i.e. pork cooked in bagoong on many a menu out there), and it’s a brilliant one. The lechon kawali was excellently crispy, providing a good and meaty texture to the stew in all the right ways.

Sizzling Pork Sisig: Ahh, sisig. How do we get the world to love you? After all, people readily eat ox cheek, they have crispy pig ears… so it’s really not that much of a leap to consider eating pig head, is it? Sisig is finely diced pig head – jowls, ears, snout and all – that is cooked with citrus, garlic and chilli, and often served very crispy on a sizzling platter. It is an unapologetic dish, packed full of flavour and texture. Kalesa had it all: the zing of the lemon, the piquancy of the chilli, the savoury depth of the pork, the crispy fried bits and the chewiness of the cartilage. Mix it all in with plain steamed rice, and what you have is good ol’ comfort food. However, I do prefer my sisig to be crispier (Kalesa falls short here), as I can understand how the cartilage can throw some people (myself included) off, but let me tell you: my friends LOVED it. Absolutely LOVED it. It was, in my friend’s softly-spoken and compellingly comforting Belfast brogue, “the best dish of the night”. I think that says it all, really.

Giving the sizzling pig head a good mix-mix

Giving the sizzling pig head a good mix-mix

Leche Flan: My friends may have spoken prematurely, for the leche flan of Kalesa was a brilliant way to end our gastronomic journey through the Philippines, which had so far taken in Bicol, Ilocos and Pampanga. For the uninitiated, leche flan is the Filipino take on Spanish crème caramels, except significantly richer – what, why wouldn’t you use condensed milk instead of regular milk or cream?? Kalesa’s version sat very prettily on its plate, the top that perfect caramelised amber colour and the rest a creamy yellow. Once that spoon went in, you could feel the dense creaminess of the flan, which just melted away in your mouth. It was delightful. It was rich. It was good.

Leche flan. Decadence!

Leche flan. Decadence!


And so we left Kalesa on good terms with the place; I felt pretty pleased with the restaurant’s efforts to provide a good introduction to the dishes (the menu descriptions read very well, and even indicate which part of the Philippines the dishes come from), and my friends were glad that I had brought a potential new ‘local’ to their attention.


VERDICT – A good place. With a cheery neighbourhood vibe and, most importantly, hearty and fulfilling dishes that are actually well-executed, Kalesa has propelled itself to the top of my list of Filipino restaurants to eat out at in London. Shame it’s not the best-located place; it is, however, definitely worth the visit.

Currently listening to: Protest the Hero – Mist

Categories: Filipino | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tales from the Old Country: Don Papa, a Filipino Rum

Back in October last year, my brother and I found ourselves chilling out in Manila, catching up with our old friend Art, who’d left London a couple of years ago. Whilst reminiscing over past good times and playing with one of my favourite cats ever (hello Fanta!), Art popped into the kitchen for a moment, re-emerging with a squat bottle filled with a rich, red-brown liquid.

There we go, I've done it - I've finally put a cat picture up on the internetz

There we go, I’ve done it – I’ve finally put a cat picture up on the internetz

“Dude, have you met Don Papa yet?”

My eyes lit up with excitement: I’d heard of this Don Papa previously on the Twitter grapevine, and now I had the opportunity to meet him in the flesh. Oh, I was giddy.

As a bit of background, Don Papa was one of the noms de guerre of Papa Isio, a revolutionary who fought against both the Spanish and the Americans during the tumultuous and ultimately unsuccessful Filipino wars of independence. Like many revolutionary leaders of the time, he came to a rather unfortunate end at the hands of the American conquerors.

But, for our purposes, Don Papa is also the name of the Philippines’ first premium small batch rum, made in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon on Negros Island. Given that the Philippines is awash with sugar and there are a large numbers of rums swilling around the country (including a good favourite of mine and staple of The Adobros Supper Club when we have it, Tanduay), this is rather surprising.

Mount Kanlaon towers above the sugar fields of Negros

Mount Kanlaon towers above the sugar fields of Negros

According to their blurb, Don Papa is aged in oak barrels for a good seven years before it’s blended and distributed, which means that this brainchild of Englishman Stephen Carroll has been a long time in the making.

And you can certainly tell that it makes a difference. Being used to the simple and cheap pleasures of Tanduay (best enjoyed with Coke or ginger beer, with a twist of calamansi), I really wasn’t ready for the much richer and more developed flavours brought to the table by the Don.

As soon as you pop that cork open and take a sniff, you are hit with smooth and delectable hints of vanilla. This velvety flavour really comes out when you have Don Papa on the rocks – something that I, as a relatively uncultured rum drinker, would never have done before. But, when added to Coke, you have a most amazing alcoholic vanilla Coke combination, all without the horrid cloyingness of actual Vanilla Coke. That night was a good one!

Welcoming Don Papa to our humble abode in London

Welcoming Don Papa to our humble abode in London

My brother and I were so enamoured of the Don that we just had to take a bottle back home with us. But every time we enjoyed a drop, it was always done so with a bittersweet feeling deep within: without a place to buy Don Papa in London, our joy would be ephemeral, like tears in the rain. Such sad times and disappointment awaited us…


Some months later, again word trickled along the Twitter grapevine concerning Don Papa, namely that this rum would finally be coming to London, with a glitzy launch lined up in May. This was très exciting…!

Say hello to the Don

Say hello to the Don

So, after getting our invites through the post, we made our way to Trailer Happiness on Portobello Road, the home of the Notting Hill Rum Club and hence the perfect place to be the unofficial UK HQ of the Don. Upon descending the steps into the darkened and moody cellar, we were introduced to Stephen, who welcomed us heartily and directed us straight to the bar where three different cocktails utilising Don Papa awaited us. Straight to the point!

And so, how does one enjoy Don Papa? In many ways, eh! The three on the night are below:

Don Papa Old-Fashioned

Don Papa Old-Fashioned

Don Papa Old-Fashioned

Venus Sour

Venus Sour

Venus Sour

Don Papa Julep

Don Papa Julep

Don Papa Julep

I think the Old-Fashioned was the best of the bunch, and as it was free flow all night (who thought that’d be good on a Tuesday night!?), we were certainly able to enjoy a large number of fine cocktails crafted by the talented bartenders at Trailer Happiness, who all seemed to be really enjoying themselves (see here about my views on becoming a bartender).

All in all, it was a fun-and-booze-filled night that gave the Don a grand welcome to this country. Judging from the fact that all of the goodie bags had been rifled through for the small giveaway bottles (whoever you are, I AM COMING FOR YOU), I think that the crowd of foodies, drinkies, industry types, trade professionals and everyone else very much enjoyed drinking Don Papa in its many incarnations. Or, at the very least, everyone just got really hammered.

All of this makes me very happy. As a promoter of all good things Filipino, I am DAMN excited by the idea that a product of such quality and character is gracing the UK and showing off a great side of the Philippines. I really want to see this Filipino product become a best-seller in this country and would happily develop cirrhosis if that would help the cause.

And so, if you want to actually boost the Don’s standing in this country without my having to resort to liver damage, I believe that you can buy it in Harvey Nichols, The Whisky Exchange and elsewhere. And, if you are being extra nice, you can send me a little commission payment too, you know, for the referral. Because we’re all friends here, right?


Currently listening to: Taken by Cars – December 2 Chapter VII

Categories: Cocktail Bar, Filipino | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future of Filipino Food in London?

It’s fair to say that Filipino food is still very much a Great Unknown for Londoners and the British in general. This is both a curse and a blessing – a curse in that people are always a bit wary of the unknown, and will always need reassurance to get them to try out Filipino food; but a blessing in that we still have that ‘wow’ factor, that there’s still a niche to fill and that it still provides an adventure for the average person. It is still an ‘exciting’ cuisine.

Does this get you excited? It should do

Does this get you excited? It should do

Certainly, this seems to be what I’ve learnt from my experience of running The Adobros supper club with my brother. “So give me the low down on Filipino food” is probably one of the most common questions people ask me when I tell them about The Adobros – followed by “Have you had any weird people come along yet?” For the curious, here is our brief explanation on Filipino food, and no, all of our guests so far have been lovely.

This relative obscurity has been perpetuated by the general lack of Filipino food available in London, and the UK in general. A cursory glance at reveals, non-comprehensively, only 8 recorded Filipino restaurants (compared to 88 Vietnamese) in all of London which, considering that the 2011 census recorded an estimated 44,199 Filipino-born residents in London (a good 39% of all Southeast Asian-born residents) – and who knows how many hundreds of thousands more UK-born of Filipino descent – is pretty poor.

But I do have the feeling that we are on the cusp of some big change in terms of visibility and availability. Earlier this year, Lakwatsa managed to get some prime coverage in an Evening Standard article that trumpeted the impending success of ‘meriendas’ over tapas, showing Londoners one aspect of good Filipino eating. I’ve also seen a few more Filipino restaurants opening up of late: Kalesa in Clapham Junction; Cirilo east of Tower Hill; and Kabayan in Upton Park – I am still yet to try all of these new ventures. Let’s also not forget that latest hero of the Filipino community, Joseph Apostol, who bantered with about Filipino food on The Voice.

Additionally, we’ve also seen a select few supper clubs popping up that are or have offered Filipino food in more intimate and familiar settings: the Kamayan Supper Club I ran earlier this year with Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen; Pepe’s Kitchen’s regular dinners and pop-ups; Kusina ni Lola’s one-off in Tooting (and hopefully more dates soon in both Liverpool and London); and of course our very own Adobros supper clubs – all of these have, as far as I’ve seen, been very well-received by a wide range of people. If all of these efforts are maintained and added to, who knows where Filipino food can go?

Hope. Strength. Love. What we hoped a charity dinner would bring to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan

Hope. Strength. Love. What we hoped a charity dinner would bring to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan

Perhaps we got a glimpse of this at the recent Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner that took place in the upstairs portion of Salvador & Amanda in Holborn. Initiated by Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen, the event eventually came to encompass the efforts of 6 passionate groups of chefs who whipped up a cracking eight-course meal for 40 people, primarily showcasing the tasty goodness of Filipino food – all in support of survivors of one of the most powerful typhoons in recorded history.

Showing some real inventiveness and flair, and more importantly calmness-under-fire in the kitchen (for many of us it was the first time working in a professional kitchen and cooking for so many people!), this merry crew managed to prove themselves as worthy chefs of Filipino cuisine… and more than a few confirmed for themselves that a commercial venture may now be more than just a fantastical dream. And, rather interestingly, one of our diners let slip that he was in the process of setting up a Filipino food truck that will tour London’s finest street and farmers’ markets (gonna keep my eyes peeled for this one!).

Manila Machine, one of the first Filipino food trucks in LA. Can we have more of them here please?? Photo sourced from

Manila Machine, one of the first Filipino food trucks in LA. Can we have more of them here please??
Photo credit:LA Weekly Blog

A perennial problem of Filipinos overseas that has been oft-discussed is that there seems to be an inherent sense of inferiority about our own food– it has not been shaped and influenced by an imperial or royal court cuisine as with many other Asian nations, and it was most definitely not favoured by the Spanish and American colonisers. But why this sense of shame?  I have seen a clear-cut demand for Filipino food – booked-out supper clubspacked and lively pop-ups, flyers snapped up by curious passers-by, that glint in peoples’ eyes when their interest is piqued; these are not the indicators of something shameful. People are genuinely interested; the people want something new to eat!

The Adobros in action at one of their supper clubs. Photo credit: Cristina Chacon

The Adobros in action at one of their supper clubs.
Photo credit: Cristina Chacon

And so perhaps, just perhaps – and I say this without any intentions of arrogance – those of us who cooked up such a feast at the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner, along with our more established restaurateur kababayans, can be part of the new wave of foodies bringing Filipino food to Londoners all over town. After all, it’s already happening in the USA.

That’s what’s key – we need a critical mass of options available to get more exposure. There’s a whole merry band of us who are willing to provide those choices. Now it’s just up to you – are you willing to step up to the plate?

Come along and eat with us. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it.

Some recommendations on trying Filipino food:


Bintang – primarily a pan-Asian restaurant, Bintang has enough Filipino flourishes such as Filipino BBQ Sundays as well as a smattering of Filipino dishes on offer. Additionally, Omar has been very supportive of budding Filipino chefs and took part in the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner

93 Kentish Town Road, NW1 8NY (nearest Tube Camden Town/Camden Road), 020 7267 2197

Cirilo – a new place near Tower Hill that nearly strays down the path of pan-Asian but brings itself back onto the path of righteousness with a wide range of Filipino specials. Happy to hear if anyone’s been there – do tell me!

4 Cable Street, E1 8JG (nearest Tube Tower Gateway/Tower Hill), 020 7702 2299

Josephine’s – Central London’s only Filipino restaurant. It can be a bit hit-and-miss, and it certainly feels a bit dated for Charlotte Street, but daaamn their Crispy Pata and lechon kawali are good 

4 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LP (nearest Tube Goodge Street/Tottenham Court Road), 020 7580 6551

Kabayan – these guys have got the East London and West Ham fans markets covered – maybe one day I’ll make it out there, but also happy to hear from anyone if it’s worth the journey!

12 Walton Road, E13 9BP (nearest Tube Upton Park),

Kalesa – Clapham Junction’s finest (and only) Filipino restaurant. Some friends went here for brunch and reported back that the Filipino breakfast (meat, fried egg, rice and pickle) was delightful – a big plus in my books!

59 Lavender Hill, SW11 5QN (nearest station Clapham Junction/Clapham Common), 020 3417 5639

Lakwatsa – a fun and chilled lounge where you pick up bubble tea and snacks, it’s a modern take on Filipino food for the youngsters and other cool peeps. Check out my review here

7 Blenheim Crescent, W11 2EE (nearest Tube Ladbroke Grove), 07900 266 080

Port of Manila – my embassy friends maintain that for smart Filipino dining, Port of Manila is the place to go to in London. It’s all the way in Hammersmith, but as the saying goes, the harder you work (or travel) for food, the better it tastes!

129-131 Brackenbury Road, W6 0BQ (nearest Tube Hammersmith/Ravenscourt Park), 020 8741 2099  

Sunrise Café – of the options in Earl’s Court’s Little Manila, this is the best one of the bunch. The food is lovely, but it could do with some improvement in, well, everything else, as seen from my review here

12 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR (nearest Tube Earl’s Court), 020 7373 3840

Supper Clubs and Pop-ups

The Adobros – mine and my brother’s supper club (a little bit of a hidden agenda here!), serving up hefty feasts from the comfort of our New Cross pad

New Cross area

Kusina ni Lola – judging from the positive reviews about her Tooting pop-up, this girl’s onto something. If you’re up in Liverpool, do give her a look-see!

Liverpool and London

MERienda – The lovely Maryanne’s imminent business venture, mixing up Colombian and Filipino flavours and recipes. Her empanadas at the charity pop-up dinner were exquisite, all crunchy crust and chunky filling. Keep an eye out for her!


Pepe’s Kitchen – my good friend Mae’s catering company. A talented and passionate lady, she does cooking classes, pop-up dinners and supper clubs. She did a lechon dinner once – I think that says enough! Visit her upcoming pop-up at the Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho (the pub helpfully reviewed here)

Marylebone area

Honorary mention for cooking such cracking Filipino dishes during the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Pop-up Dinner goes to James Jennings (saltfish laing was his thing) and Federico of Fooderico (some of the best lumpia I’ve had)

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The Kamayan Supper Club returns!

Have you been missing your Filipino food fix? Or have you never ever tried the wondrous flavours of Las Islas Filipinas?

Well, the wait is over! Thanks to me and Mae of Pepe’s Kitchen, the Kamayan Supper Club is making its return to a Saturday night near you! London’s first Filipino home-dining experience is back!

You can read how we fared the last time here, or you can look at the photos here. Over the course of three weekends in February, we managed to get our heads together and somehow serve enough food to satisfy some fascinating, interesting and funny people, until they were stuffed to the gills. And I mean STUFFED. STUFFED WITH DELICIOUSNESS AND GOOD TIMES.




Based on those experiences, Mae and I thought it would be absolutely criminal if we were to not continue on our mission to bring knowledge of Filipino food to the London masses. After all, that is why we are doing this. Along the way, we will make our acquaintance with friends both old and new, but ultimately, we want to do our cuisine proud and make the bold statement that yes, Filipino food is damn good, and it is damn good for you too.

So, with new menus showcasing new dishes and taste sensations developed just for you, we hope that the next run of the Kamayan Supper Club will entice and delight you.

Look to your calendars then, and make sure you are free on Saturday 27th April and Saturday 11th May.

Once you have done that, click here to find out how you can make a booking and bag yourself some seats.

What are you waiting for? Mae and I are just here, waiting to welcome you and feed you. Let us be your friends and your chefs.


Mabuhay! Kumain ka na?

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