Continuing with my exploration of global cuisine, I found myself with a bunch of food bloggers one evening at Romulo, a café and restaurant in High Street Kensington. They specialise in Filipino cuisine, something which I have never tried before.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the interiors, which were fresh and very contemporary. The whole place had a relaxed feel to it. I particularly liked the striking lime green and charcoal grey palette.
There is an informal café feel at the front whilst the main restaurant space is at the back, with a service bar tying the two spaces together. They also have a small dining space downstairs which is available for private hire. Romulo was established three years ago in March 2016, but has recently been given a face lift by CADA Design.
Prior to dinner, I had a quick chat with Chris, who owns Romulo along with his wife Rowena. He gave me a bit of background to the restaurant and about Filipino cuisine in general. Rowena is the granddaughter of Carlos P. Romulo (renowned diplomat, statesman, soldier, journalist and author) and the restaurant is the London branch of an already successful boutique collection of restaurants based in Manila. Filipino cuisine has evolved over the years and has Spanish, Malay, Chinese and American inflections.
I was offered a refreshing Filipino Lemonade to sip whilst I perused the menu. It was sweet and fizzy and I can imagine this drink would be very sought after on a hot, sweltering day!
Their signature cocktails list looked rather enticing and one in particular caught my attention – Imelda’s High Heels | Stolichnaya Vodka, Strawberry Puree, Crème de Framboise, Crème de Mure topped with Prosecco. The presentation was pretty spectacular and the content lethal, although I could have done with a bit more of the liquid, as the shape didn’t lend itself to massive quantities of the cocktail.
Across the table, the Pinoy Mai Tai | Don Papa Rum, Disaronno Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Pineapple Juice, served in a flaming Tiki mug; Boracay Dreams| Don Papa Rum, Malibu, Coconut Cream, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Calamansi (native lime) in a coconut glass and Smokey and Stormy | Woodford Reserve, Elderflower Liqueur, Grand Marnier served in a Whisky Flask were some of other firm favorites of the evening.
Chris kindly ordered us some CRISPY SQUID (PRITONG PUSIT)| Julienne sliced strips of deep fried squid, served with a chili honey and garlic glaze topped with spring onions and Tuna Ceviche to munch on. I really liked the squid; it was quite crunchy, sticky, sweet and went swimmingly well with the aforementioned cocktails. The tuna, especially flown in from the Maldives, was sashimi grade and really fresh.
The menu is divided into small plates (Platitos) and large plates (Platos). As it was my first time, I decided to opt for two small plates to try a range. The small plates were in name only, as the portions were quite substantial.
Some of the main dishes we shared across the table were:
SIZZLING CHICKEN INASAL SISIG
Jack Brand diced chicken thighs marinated in annatto, ginger, green chili, garlic, and lemongrass
CHAR GRILLED STUFFED SQUID (RELLENONG PUSIT)
Squid stuffed with tomato, cheese and onion, flavoured with garlic and annatto oil, served on a bed of squid ink rice
DINGLEY DELL PORK BELLY ADOBO (ADOBONG BABOY)
Slow-cooked in soy sauce, garlic and cane vinegar
STEAMED SEAFOOD RICE NOODLES ‘’PANSIT PALABOK’’
Steamed rice noodles with annatto, prawns and minced pork sauce, topped with smoked fish, pork chicharrones, crispy squid, Chinese cabbage, boiled egg, mixed seafood and garlic chips
SHRIMP PASTE “BAGOONG” FRIED RICE | Shrimp paste fried rice with eggs, mangoes and tomatoes
MILKFISH (BANGUS) AL AJILLO
Popular seafood dish with traditional butter, parsley and garlic jus
BRAISED GRASS FED BRITISH RIB OF BEEF (CRISPY BEEF TADYANG)
Slow cooked and seasoned with honey chilli glaze served with our home made jicama slaw
My pork was particularly delicious and I liked the addition of purple potatoes to add some colour and vibrancy. It was my kind of dish: chock full of meat and carbs. The rib of beef was really tender and fell off the bone with the slightest prod. The shrimp rice was a universal favorite and could have been a meal on its own. I wasn’t a big fan of the fish, as it had loads of minute fish bones, but the flavors were banging. All the food was tasty, but if I had to pick one highlight, it would be the stuffed squid which was a stellar dish. Seafood and cheese have never looked so good together!
If the mains were impressive, then the desserts blew me away!
Purple yam cheesecake topped with sweet young coconut
FILIPINO BANANA SPLIT
Ube, mango and coconut ice cream nestled in broiled plantains and crushed pineapple then topped with whipped cream, nut and native chocolate sauce
Unrivalled modern Filipino dessert made with dulce de leche buttercream, cashews, chewy and sweet meringue
A merry mix up of flavours and textures from the exotic islands – ube (purple yam) ice cream, banana puree, jackfruit, leche flan, pandan jelly, milk granitee and coconut
My pick was the cheesecake. Not only had it had a delicious creamy yet firm texture, but the deep indigo colour from the yam looked very attractive on the plate.
It was my first time trying Filipino cuisine and boy was I impressed! The menu is based on the family heirloom recipes passed down through the generations. It is a wonderful marriage of hearty, heritage and homespun, but served in a refined setting. For someone who has never been to the Philippines or tried Filipino cuisine before, I can’t fully vouch for the authenticity of it all, but we did have someone amidst us who is familiar with the food and she was quite happy with the spread, so that says something.
For me, it is definitely a restaurant I am returning to, as it offers a whole lot of dishes that I naturally bend towards to: noodles, meat and seafood. The concept of sharing makes Filipino cuisine ideal for group dining. The dishes are well-proportioned so you will definitely be fed. Service is genial. All in all, I would happily bring my friends and family here for a lovely evening of fun and convivial feasting.
Location : 343 Kensington High Street, London W8 6NW
N.B. I was invited to review as part of a bloggers event and my meal was complimentary. All photos and opinions are solely mine.