Tucked away in a Georgian Townhouse just a minute from the Design Museum is a ‘Café’ that you would probably walk past if you didn’t know what absolute treasure lies on the inside… One of only ten Filipino restaurants in London – Romulo Café. Romulo Café is something seriously special. Not only because of its links to the Filipilo President Romulo (the restaurant is owned by his granddaughter Rowena Rolumo), but also in the exquisite fine Filipino food it serves (Executive chef Jeremy Villanueva was trained by Michel Roux at Le Gavroche) in a stylish setting evoking a beautiful Filipino home.
The Romulo restaurant group was founded in Manila in 2009 by Rowena’s sister and brother-in-law as a tribute to their illustrious grandfather. The late General Carlos P Romulo was a renowned gourmand and many things besides, including diplomat, statesman, soldier, journalist, publisher, author and sometime president of the UN General Assembly. Not to mention the first Filipino to win a Pulitzer Prize. Romulo Café serves heirloom Romulo family recipes so you are literally eating the very same dishes that President Romulo himself would have eaten.
Romulo Café offers a number of menus designed for different palates, appetites and eating preferences and the ambiance is friendly, buzzy and has a ‘New York’ feel with its stylish dark green interior, marble tables, jazz music and attentive waitresses. The restaurant aims to ‘bring fine Filipino food to London’ and is so popular the owners are already looking for a second location in the city. The quality of the food at Romulo Café is exceptionally high. Filipino food is a huge melting pot of influences from the Pacific Rim, Malaysia, China, South America and Spain, the legacy of a rich history and colonial past. The Filipino classic made more famous by Royal fan Meghan Markle is the Chicken Abodo and each Filipino family has its own way of cooking it. All the meat at Romulo Café is sourced from the Dingly Dell Farm which is the only RSPCA endorsed farm.
We dined at Romulo for lunch one Saturday. I started with a tuna ceviche (pictured above) and my partner had the confit duck with steamed buns (image below), all served by an attentive waitress. The ceviche had generous chunks of fish and the sauce wasn’t too tarte with just the right balance of citrus flavour. I opted for the ‘Flying Fish’ as my main which is a real showstopper. The fish is deep fried and beautifully presented on the plate with the back of the fish being split into three sections and was perfectly tender. The aubergine dish was ‘melt in the mouth’ perfection and my partner’s ‘Dingley Dell Pork Belly Adobo’ was outstanding. The menu also features dishes such as Chilli King Prawns (Sugpo Sa Aligue), Blue Swimmer Crab Meat Soufflé (Rellenong Alimango) and Slow Cooked Lamb Empanada (Lamb Kaldereta Empanada). There is a traditional base to all of the dishes but each have a modern or current food trend twist.
Romulo Cafe’s deserts are also a massive highlight so make sure you save some space. I opted for one of the most popular dishes – the Ube Cheesecake. It’s a beautiful looking bright purple cheesecake created using the superfood ‘purple yam’ and absolutely delicious. My partner had the Banana Turon which are little banana spring rolls served with homemade jack fruit ice-cream. I’ve never tasted jack fruit ice-cream but it worked so well with the banana and had a rich vanilla quality. We also sampled the toffee pavlova, a family recipe, which was very light and deliciously sweet but not too overbearing.
Romulo Café has a carefully curated selection of Old and New World wines, and filipino-inspired cocktails, as well as featuring a tea menu where each tea blend has been paired with each desert dish from the menu. Another brilliant initiative by Romulo is the ‘Romulo Wonder’ which is where a donation of 50p is added your bill and goes towards helping vulnerable Filipina scholars to gain skills and high quality employment in the hospitality and culinary sectors.
If you have never had Filipino cuisine then a visit to Romulo Café will show you why it has stormed the US and is now taking over London. This is a real hidden gem of a restaurant that you will find yourself recommending to friends time and time again.