Matthew Steeples reviews Romulo Café in Kensington; it serves the finest Filipino cuisine and is well worth trying
Romulo Café bills itself as providing “a taste of the Philippines in the heart of Kensington” and that it certainly does. Here you’ll find not only authentic cuisine but also a truly warm and welcoming atmosphere and an experience that is genuinely unusual.
One of four restaurants – the other three being in the Philippines – owned by the same family, Romulo Café is inspired by the owner’s late grandfather, Carlos P. Romulo, a Pulitzer Prize winner, president of the United Nations General Assembly and ambassador to the United States of America. Framed portraits of “Mr United Nations”, as he was affectionately known, guide the décor of the building and a neon caricature of him stands proud at the entrance.
Owned by former Citibank and J. P. Morgan banker turned restaurateur Rowena Romulo, Romulo Café seats 70, is situated close to the newly opened Design Museum and opened in March 2016. It serves food that combines the culinary traditions of Spain, America, Malaysia and China and aside from the pork and rice dishes one links Filipino cuisine to normally, there are such things as Lola Virginia’s chicken relleno (£14) – roasted chicken stuffed with ground pork, raisins, chorizo and peas; Tito Greg’s Kare-Kare – beef (£16) or seafood (£18) stewed in a peanut based sauce with steamed vegetables and artisan shrimp paste. Homemade Filipino ice cream is a must try for dessert and for those looking to sample a selection of starters, be sure to go for ‘The General’s Combo Platter’ (£17.50). It features barbecued pork, chicken inasal, tinapa rolls, camaron rebosado and patotim with atchara.
Aside from a substantial and varied wine list, it is for cocktails that Romulo Café excels. One, ‘Imelda’s High Heels’ pays homage to Imelda Marcos and thus, naturally, comes served in a vessel shaped as a shoe; another, the ‘Batangas Bad Boy’, is accompanied by a cigar. Filipino spirits including Don Papa Rum, made from cane sugar from Negros plantations; Calamancello, homemade limoncello made with Philippine lime, and San Miguel Beer Pale Pilsen, the “original Philippine beer” are also available.
Of the restaurant, Rowena Romulo concludes:
“We set up Romulo Café as a way to honour and help continue my grandfather Carlos P. Romulo’s legacy through food, as he and my family have always been so proud of Filipino cuisine and how food forms such a central part of Philippine culture, transcending class or creed. It’s true that every single Filipino loves to eat”.
“Now that we have expanded Romulo Café to London, we hope it will help to raise the profile and appreciation of the Philippines through our cuisine. And maybe it will also help to introduce my grandfather and his amazing work to a new generation”.
Romulo Café, 343 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6NW. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3141 6390.
While living in mainland Europe I had a Filipino friend (Gloria) from Manila who taught me how to cook rice properly and pork adobo. Essentially belly pork slow cooked in a pot. The sauce used was a thick, dark and very glossy one in appearance and tasted heavenly! However, we couldn’t buy it where we lived so we used to drive to Paris and stay with her sister Lou Lou in 18th arrondissement for a few days and buy the special sauce (a few bottle) from a Filipino outlet there. Well I will most certainly try Rowenas’ place. Love the decor, the Imelda shoe and the food looks incredible!!