Fili-pining for more — Romulo Cafe
Filipino cuisine isn’t exactly well-represented in London. Or, in fact, in any other place I’ve ever visited.
As such it was with some trepidation but a large amount of curiosity and excitement that we set off for Romulo Cafe on Kensington High Street.
The place first caught my fancy before I realised it is on the Time Out Black discount list, so it was a most pleasant surprise indeed when I came to that revelation.
It seems a bit odd to call special attention to the free bread at the beginning of a meal — although as such a rare occurrence these days it should deserve a mention — but this was a remarkable taste sensation all of its own; before the meal even began in earnest!
After placing our order we were brought a piece of bread each, which turned out to be homemade pan de sal. You could tell from the warmth and feel of it that it had been freshly baked, and frankly it was once of the nicest things I’ve had the pleasure of eating in a long time — and that’s not just comparing to other bread.
Light and fluffy, sweet and salty, warm and scrumptious. What a note to start on.
Following an extended debate over what courses our meal was going to consist of, I settled on the queso de bola dip to start. I can’t recall ever having baked edam previously and the prospect sounded too good to resist.
Served with crostini (that, as it transpires, come from the same praiseworthy pan de sal) and a dollop of jam (possibly strawberry?), this was a novel and tasty dish.
The texture of the baked cheese made it surprisingly easy to spread, so this course primarily consisted of bites as you see above — crostini with edam and a bit of jam on top — and it went down a treat.
The cheese was warm and creamy (and thankfully not runny) whilst retaining that characteristic edam flavour, and the bread not over-crisp, which is often my complaint in scenarios like this. Looking back on it I’m not sure how much the jam added to the dish, particularly as it was clearly of quite basic quality, but it worked somehow.
We ended up deciding on a sharing dish for the main, with these larger plates making up the bulk of the menu. Specifically this is the chicken & pork belly variant of Philippine adobo, Romulo style — “twice cooked meat marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic with glazed shallots and sweet potato mash”.
When flicking through the menu online prior to our visit I stumbled across a photo of this item, not too dissimilar to my own, and decided it had to be done.
Once again a great dish. The meat was cooked very well and served up in generous portions, and the marinade made for a nice combination of flavours — you may well be able to conjure up the taste just by reading the ingredients!
Interestingly enough the sweet potato mash might be my standout contributor here. Living up to the “sweet” in its name and wonderfully soft — to the point of melting away in the mouth — it served to compliment the rest of the dish perfectly, both in flavour and texture.
The traditional garlic fried rice on the side was decent too, but proved to be pretty much unnecessary!
Although I most definitely did not require further sustenance that evening, the dessert menu boasted such exotic delights that I couldn’t help but indulge. I opted for the incredible-sounding “sans rival — unrivaled modern Filipino dessert made with dulce de leche buttercream, cashews, chewy and sweet meringue with vanilla ice cream”.
Understandably my partner didn’t join me. The staff assumed we were going to be sharing dessert and I thought this was because we only ordered one, but when it arrived it became clear that sharing this beast might be standard practice — it’s massive.
It is hard to come up with a frame of reference by which to describe this dish. Perhaps you can picture a lighter, airier and much, much richer version of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream? Still doesn’t quite do it justice.
This was a fantastic dessert, and I am very glad I got the chance to try it as it was so different to anything I’ve had before. However I would definitely recommend sharing if you do order it — it is not often that I am overwhelmed by the richness of sweet treats but on this occasion I most certainly was, due to the sheer quantity.
All-in-all a delightful experience. Even putting aside the brilliant food, the service and the atmosphere were both fantastic. Romulo Cafe might have just rocketed to my top spot from that Time Out Black list.
As is often the case on this blog, I had no complaints about the value due to receiving 50% off food. Whilst on the face of it things may seem quite pricey — with sharing dishes coming in around £15–18 — I would say that this might be deceptive due to the large portion sizes. I think we could have been comfortably sated merely by sharing one starter and one main between us.
The real challenge is in settling on just one dish to try…
We visited Romulo Cafe on 01/05/2017 and I paid £13.50 (including service and with 50% off) for the baked edam starter, half the shared main and the unrivaled dessert. The phenomenal bread was complimentary.