A Filipino specialist at the ‘wrong’ end of Kensington High Street might not sound like a recipe for foodie success but Romulo Café is well worth putting aside your preconceptions for. For a start, it’s not a Café – this is a proper restaurant, complete with marble-topped tables and charming owners who are happy to talk newcomers through the long menu.
Then there’s the family pedigree. Carlos P Romulo was a Pulitzer prize-winning Philippine ambassador to the USA and Romulo Café is the brainchild of his grandchildren. This London outpost is the first beyond the Philippines and follows three well-established Romulos in the Metro Manila area.
And of course there’s the cooking itself, which is miles away from the fast-food ethos of Filipino fried-chicken sensation Jollibee down the road in Earl’s Court. The cooking is best described as South East Asian food with Spanish and American influences. Some of it might sound strange, but for every smoked fish spring roll or taro flan there’s hot-smoked Scottish salmon or tofu and enoki salad – plus fried chicken, as crisp-skinned as you’d hope and with a punchy adobe mayonnaise for dipping.
Elsewhere, we enjoyed pork hock spiked with a tomato shrimp sauce and spicy vinegar, bao buns filled with confit duck leg, and vanilla cheesecake dyed purple with yam. And while some of it might taste a bit odd – grilled aubergine encased in tomato and drizzled with a salted egg-yolk dressing was a taste we didn’t acquire – it’s never less than interesting.
Afternoon tea, set menus and quick lunches broaden Romulo’s appeal, and rest assured that if you over-order, the very friendly staff will box up any leftovers for you to take home.