Posts Tagged With: Okay Experience

Land of the Western Sun: A West London Filipino experience at Sunrise Café

View of Sunrise Café. Sourced from Local Data Search website

View of Sunrise Café. Sourced from Local Data Search website

Cuisine: Filipino

Address: 12 Kenway Road, SW5 0RR

Area: Earl’s Court

Nearest Station: Earl’s Court

Tel.: 020 7373 3840

Website: N/A

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

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.

Grated ube, embutido, puto, calamansi concentrate, hopiang baboy, patis, canned laing, pandesal, frozen calamansi... all the things I did not *really* need

Grated ube, embutido, puto, calamansi concentrate, hopiang baboy, patis, canned laing, pandesal, frozen calamansi… all the things I did not *really* need

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.

Lechon kawali done properly. Sunrise Café was not too far off the mark. Sourced from pinoyfavrecipes.blogspot.co.uk

Lechon kawali done properly. Sunrise Café was not too far off the mark. Sourced from pinoyfavrecipes.blogspot.co.uk

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

Categories: Filipino | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Two Stones, One Dog: The Dogfather at The Sun & 13 Cantons

Copyright of The Dogfather. Sourced from The Dogfather website

Cuisine: Hot Dogs

Address: Usually North Cross Road Market; two-week residency at The Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street, W1F 9NG (NOW FINISHED)

Area: The Sun & 13 Cantons – Soho

Nearest Station: The Sun & 13 Cantons – Oxford Circus/Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: The Sun & 13 Cantons – 020 7734 0934

Website: http://www.dogfatherdiner.com/, http://www.sunand13cantons.co.uk/

Pricing: The Dogfather – Medium, The Sun & 13 Cantons – Cheap-Medium

Good For: The Dogfather – Lunchtime fix, Filling meal, Interesting toppings. The Sun & 13 Cantons – Loitering over drinks, Friendly conversation, Victorian setting, Natter with mates, After-work drinks

Some time ago, in the not-so distant past but still beyond the mists of memory, I’d heard tales of a brilliant hot dog dispenser going by the name of the Dogfather, who based himself in the relatively unknown – to me, at least – market of North Cross Road. Not being a Londoner at the time, the thought of making a trip into deepest and darkest South London was a bit daunting for me. Now, as a South Londoner, the thought of making a trip into deepest and darkest Dulwich is still just a bit daunting for me. So, when the Egg Boss tweeted that his good friend, the Dogfather, was just about to set up shop for a couple weeks’ residency in November 2012 at the curiously-named Sun and 13 Cantons pub in not so deep and not so dark Soho, I realised that this was my shot for glory.

It was therefore very fortunate that I’d chosen the first Tuesday of the Dogfather’s pop-up to be suit-shopping day on Oxford Street with mia madre. Keen to get more freebies out of her (what a son I am), I suggested that maybe we re-visit her childhood memories of eating copious amounts of hot dogs back in the Philippines by, well, eating hot dogs in Soho.

Now I’d never heard of the Sun and 13 Cantons pub before, but I think that they now have a new customer – thanks going to the Dogfather for getting me through the door. It feels like a typical London inner-city pub, what with the big windows, wooden flooring and high tables and chairs in the main bar. But it’s the addition of a ‘dining area’ of sorts at the back with lots of mirrors and marble-top tables makes this place stand out a bit in my mind. Not only does lots of places to sit = good place for a natter with friends, but I like the Victorian vibe this room really gives off. Should I mention the decent range of beers and the cute bar girls who are happy to chat? Think before I speak? Oh, too late…

The haute dogs on offer

Mia madre chose the Dogfather (chorizo clices [sic], grilled onions, melted mozzarella, roasted red pepper marinara, chopped jalapenos, grated parmesan and a beef dog). I wanted the Slum Dog of which I’d read much about on the internet, but as it was not available that day I settled for the Snoop Dog (streaky bacon, BBQ sauce, cheddar slices, grilled onion, cream corn mayo, green onions, chopped jalapenos and a beef dog). It took some time for them to arrive, even though we were one of the few dining groups there. And when the dogs did arrive, the accompanying fries were just warm and unremarkable. I attributed these timing issues to the teething problems of settling into a new residency i.e. still getting used to a different kitchen/staff etc. (things that a residency is valuable for teaching) but we were still a bit disappointed.

Mr Snoop Dog and his friends the Fries Gang

Now as for the dogs… curiously enough, mia madre declined to offer me a bite of hers, which suggests that she enjoyed it enough to not want to share (more on that later). I similarly enjoyed my Snoop Dog, as all the flavours melded together pretty well, demonstrating excellent teamwork and maximising of strengths. However, the melding also helped to hide the fact that some of the individual components were not quite there in terms of quality: the streaky bacon was the right level of saltiness but not crispiness (my ex was adamant that the only reason streaky bacon existed was to be fried into crispy crunchiness); the cream corn mayo was, in my opinion, rather lightly applied, and by itself did not distinguish itself from any other mayo I’ve had; the bun did the job adequately if not spectacularly; but most importantly, the beef dog in isolation was… okay.

Snoop Dog lookin’ right at ya

By no means was it bad (I can think of many, many worse examples… don’t make me go there), but in the face of competition from the likes of the Big Apple Hot Dogs, I just felt that the beef dog just didn’t really hold its ground. There was just something lacking, a particular spark that would motivate me to make the trek to the Dogfather’s spiritual home in North Cross Road. I would happily have the Snoop Dog again if it were given to me on a plate/camping tray/plank of wood, but if you just handed me the beef dog by itself… oh, I’d still eat it.

Mia madre, after some reflection, came to a similar conclusion, and as an out-of-towner she is even less likely to want to make it over to Dulwich. Which is a bit of a shame, as I wouldn’t mind having her along as a companion for when I try to hunt down the renowned Slum Dog, and see if the Dogfather is really in his prime on his home turf.

VERDICT for The Sun & 13 Cantons – A good place.

VERDICT for The Dogfather – An okay experience.

I enjoyed my lunchtime in the Sun and 13 Cantons, and if I am in the area again I will readily go back there for a drink. As for my first experience of the Dogfather? I did enjoy it, but the hype I’d read about it had given me extremely high expectations which were unfortunately not met; whilst some of it may be down to the teething problems of setting up a residency (but hey, these things are not just great business opportunities but also valuable learning experiences), at the same time the individual ingredients in the Snoop Dog did not wow me. Still, the man has built up enough of a positive reputation, so he must be doing something right. Maybe one of these weekends, when I have the time, I will get down to North Cross Road to dine on the Dogfather’s own terms, on his own turf.

Currently listening to: La Ruda Salska – Du rififi chez les branques

Categories: Hot Dogs, Pub | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments