What's the draw
Although it's certainly on the uptick, Filipino cuisine remains vastly underrepresented in London. Romulo Café is somewhere to get a real taste of what the island nation has to offer. Owner Rowena Romulo is the granddaughter of General Carlos P. Romulo – a former Philippine Ambassador to the United States and President of the United Nations General Assembly – and has based the menu at Romulo Café around the Filipino home cooking of her upbringing. The restaurant, unsurprisingly, delivers on that familial atmosphere in spades. Entering the Kensington High Street premises is like walking into your own living room. Expect to be warmly greeted by a waft of adobo and a lively chorus of much-belated catch-ups between cousins, aunts, uncles and godmothers.
What to drink
Cocktails kick off the night's bon viveur adventure. A 'Sour Passion' muddles Hendricks gin, passion fruit liqueur, egg white, and lime juice to give your tastebuds a roll call the General would be proud of. 'Pinoy Mai Tai' is a Hawaiian-themed grog that's had its passport stamped en-route at Ninoy Aquina Airport. Plonked on the table in a Tiki mug (before being promptly set alight) the syrupy preparation whets the appetite and reminds us that dining in Kensington can actually be fun. A glass of 3 Wooly Sheep Sauvignon Blanc makes for additionally dry and acerbic company to the meal with welcome plummy undertones of just-ripe stone fruit.
What to eat
Most of the menu is split into sharing platitos – a system in which passing plates across the table is heartily recommended. Unless, of course, it's the sizzling-hot chickensisig which comes on a sputtering cast-iron platter that would erase your fingerprints in a flash. Tinapa spring rolls, rammed with shredded cured fish, are delightfully smoky and best eaten piping-hot and dunked in a pool of lip-pursing pinakurat (spiced) vinegar. Dingley Dell pork belly adobo is slow cooked in a simmer and arranged on a trio of potatoes. The belly at Romulo Café earns its spotlight with a sharp soy, garlic, and rice vinegar base that cuts through the meat's richness like a knife through, well, pork fat. Ginataang langka (jackfruit and coconut stew) is a veggie-friendly delight. Jackfruit, chilli, and ginger are stewed in coconut cream with a drizzling of annatto oil; a far-cry from the meat substitute you'll all-too-often find slathered in barbecue sauce and pressed inside a pappy bun. Full to the brim, we still find room for ube cheesecake. The luminescent purple yam pudding arrives with a scoop of coconut ice cream and a graham cracker crust that simulates the pleasant biscuit dregs of a perfect cuppa. Finishing our meal with a dessert the shade of Barney the Dinosaur, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the people behind Romulo Café must be a very happy family.
Platitos from £6; cocktails from £8.50. 343 Kensington High Street, W8 6NW; romulocafe.co.uk