By David Hughes
Philippine food does not have much of a distinctive profile in London, but Rowena Romulo would like to change that. She is the granddaughter of one of the Philippines most famous diplomats, and after a long interlude in the banking world has returned to being involved in running a restaurant, but one with a very personal stamp.
Philippino cuisine has had many influences wrought upon it over the years, from the early Spanish invaders to Japan’s wartime occupation and America’s post war emancipation, and there are over 7000 islands that make up the nation. You would think this would give license to be very adventurous, but, a bit like the Italians, Philippinos sometimes have a very strong idea of what is “authentic” for their region!
For that reason, I’m briefed that the menu consists of a mix of family interpretations of classics such as the Adobo, and others dishes where the chef has cast off the shackles and allowed himself a bit more free reign. Whilst I’m all for a bit of authenticity, in some areas it can be a bit stifling on the creativity, so I’m looking forward to see where the boundaries are going to be pushed.
Having been let down by my guest (I’m looking at you, Jack!) I decided to treat myself to a not-quite-sharing selection for 1, starting with a Tuna Kilawin and Chef Lorenzo’s Pork Sisig. The Tuna ceviche was a refreshing bowl of hearty tuna chunks, red onion, cucumber, pepper & radish, made distinctive by the punch of the cane vinegar, which set the ‘Tigers Milk’ (the juice /marinade) quite apart from the usual South American flavours.
The Pork Sisig might puzzle the average islander, using belly of pork, leaving out the ears and cheeks, and being topped with an egg, but don’t let that put you off. The presentation and thin sliced apple make this a delight, and one that shows that it’s possible to successfully update and adapt even the most prescriptive of recipes. Another little departure from the norm is the Twin Treats bit of the menu, where you can mix and match a mains plate from 11 choices, however I plumped for the Romulo’s Surf & Turf which consists of Prawns in Aligue sauce, a mix of garlic, olive oil, coconut milk and crab roe on a bed of green beans, and the rightly famous Crispy Beef Short Ribs Tadyang which are topped with a honey and chilli glaze and served with kamote, or sweet potato fries to you and me.
Somewhere during the middle of this feast my beer had run out, so in keeping with the more adventurous house style I reverted to a cocktail, the very appealing Passion Fruit Margarita. I could happily have drunk several, but that would have been a little too indulgent for a Monday afternoon. I couldn’t leave without a local dessert, and the sticky rice was better than I ever remembered it being served when I was in Manila, and you can’t have a better endorsement than that. Go for: great family style restaurant with the best welcome in town!
Bookings on 020 3141 6390 or bookatable.co.uk, opentable.co.uk
343 Kensington High St, W8 6NW