A Tale of Filipino Feast: Philippine Embassy London Supper Club

Filipino food has recently been making waves in London foodie scene — thanks to  Rowena Romulo of Romulo Café, and many others who are raising awareness for Filipino cuisine in the UK. Evidently the trend is growing; supper clubs like Adobros, Pepe’s Kitchen, and many others are popping up all over the city in the last couple of years. Taking advantage of the current growing Filipino food craze, the Department of Foreign Affairs spearheaded a project called ‘Kulinarya: A Guide to Philippine Food‘ and sent a team of famous Filipino chefs and food writer to ‘formally’ introduce Filipino food to the world. It has never been done by the Philippine government before, at least not that I know of. For Europe, the team composed of renowned chefs Myrna Seguismundo, Jill Sandique, and Raul Ramos, together with notable food writer Michaela Fenix Macabenta. They are currently in London, and will be traveling to a few other European cities in the next few weeks.

Kulinarya is the Philippine Embassy’s participation in London Food Festival, a month-long foodie event sponsored by London Evening Standard. To kick-off the event, there was a Photo Exhibit: Kulinarya: A Guide to Philippine Food held at the Philippine Embassy on the 30th of May; and on Thursday afternoon, there was a talk and demonstration on ‘Adobo’ at Sosharu restaurant. Regrettably, I missed both events. Pictures below show the canapes served at the Supper Club — ‘Adobo Pâte’ (made earlier at the cooking demo) with savoury biscuits‘ — I tried one and it was very nice.

Now on to the ‘Supper Club’ — sometime in February or March, my friend Emma Sarne, one of the officers at the Phil. Embassy London who’s given the special task to lead this project, told me about it, and invited me to the event. It wasn’t publicly announced because they can only accommodate 50 guests. So about a month ago I asked my beloved J if I could take him out on a special date and explained to him what the event was all about. He smiled and said, “Oh, it’s not very often I get asked for a date by my girlfriend so yes, I’d be happy to go with you.” 🙂 Last Monday however, after I went over with him our schedule for the week, I mentioned the Thursday night supper club, and he had second thoughts about going — only because he says, ‘he’ll be pigging out again’. 🙂 We just returned from Shetland you see — and we overindulged ourselves during the trip, and he claimed to have added an unwanted fat on his belly, and eating a 5-course Filipino meal is just going to add even more extra fat on his mid-section. 🙂 Anyway, he promised to go with me simply because he didn’t want to disappoint me. And I must say that even though the two things my beloved J hates almost more than anything in the world are ‘crowds’ and ‘hot days’, and even worse, the combination of the two — and Thursday night was exactly that — he was determined to accompany his girlfriend to this event. A good thing for me, you see, since I happen to be the afore-mentioned girlfriend. 🙂

Little did we know that the best part of going to the event would turn out to be not just the food but meeting new people and getting to know more of some old friends. And yes, we were so happy that Emma did put us on a table with people we know except for one — Aimee’s guest, Gavin Blake.

Naturally, ‘Pampagana’ (Appetiser) was served first — Chicken Inasal (Grilled), Oyster, Kinilaw na Isda (raw fish marinated in vinegar and other spices), Prawns with avocado and herbs, plus Molo Soup. Interesting combo, each one has a different taste and texture on its own, and amazingly good. We shared all these light and lovely appetisers, and with appetite satiated, we wanted more. Jared and I both agree though that our number one favourite was the ‘kinilaw na isda’ (raw fish marinated in vinegar and other spices) — the taste of kalamansi stands out but it’s not overpowering  (Philippine lime is acidic but has a hint of sweet flavour). Chef Myrna’s Kinilaw was a real winner! I must say though that I am partial to the Samar-Leyte version that has the right balance of saltiness-sourness plus the addition of minced red onions, scallions and a dose of pure coconut milk really makes the ‘Waray’ version of ‘Kinilaw’ very unique and utterly delectable.

FullSizeRender 11Next was ‘Ginataang Isda’ — Cod with coconut cream and crab fat with greens — it was  flavourful and perfectly cooked that despite our almost full-belly, we couldn’t resist talking about rice craving — how every Filipino meal isn’t complete without this carb-laden food.

They offered different drinks throughout the meal — Don Papa Rum with Kalamansi and other cocktails. With the fish, they served Lambanóg (a Philippine wine made from the sap of unopened coconut flowers); and it wasn’t colourless, but a rather gleaming red concoction, and topped with chilli or green olive — whichever you prefer. At first taste, it was incredible! I never had Lambanóg before, and I have to say it’s a potent drink. The after-effect, at least for myself, is quick and brief — after taking small mouthfuls I felt like the restaurant was spinning. But it went away as quickly as it occurred without a pain-killer. And no, there was no headache that night or the following day (I didn’t drink much to warrant any hangover. FYI, I only drink socially, just very tiny though so haven’t had any hangover). Also, I must mention that Lambanóg tasted different from Tubà (fermented coconut wine), the latter is quite popular in my province.

And then Emma, the lady of the night, interrupted us by making an announcement that a ‘Dalandan Sorbetes – Sherbet’ will be served before the beef steak. (Dalandan is a variety of citrus fruit native to the Philippines; it has a refreshing sweet taste like orange but also pungent like lemon.) By this time we were getting full, or at least I was, but that did not impede our cravings for the Sherbet, and we seriously were looking forward to the beef steak and rice. (There’s 3 Filipino ladies in our table, myself included, and 3 Caucasian men who shared stories at how their ladies can’t live without rice haha!) The Dalandan Sherbet was indeed refreshing; never had it before but I did like it a lot. It has a very distinct flavour — invigorating and unusual — but a perfect little entr’acte before the very pinnacle of the game, if you like. 😉

Then the ‘Bistek Tagalog’ came — Roast Prime Ribeye of Beef with soya glaze and caramelised onions served with black rice (which the chefs brought all the way from the Philippines) and a couple of Lumpia (spring) roll. The steak was incredibly flavourful, tender and just plain good, perfect with the soft but slightly nutty black rice and the crunchy spring rolls. As you bite into each one, it fills you with happiness and well-being, and Jared, being a normally laconic man when eating (take note, only when he’s eating 😉 ), was moved to blurt out their deliciousness. And I must mention, my steak was massive but exchanged it with Mavy who got a smaller piece (She suggested it and I was a bit hesitant but relented. Evidently, Mavs has larger belly than I do! 😉 ). I’m glad I did it though. Otherwise, I’d probably have no room for sweets.

Kulinarya_29Having a sweet tooth, I couldn’t wait to get to the dessert table. 🙂 Top and bottom picture is Canonigo with Natilla and Mango — it was utterly divine!

FullSizeRender 17Queso de Bola Cheesecake wasn’t too sweet but just as good. I am not fond of cheesecakes, but I enjoyed the little piece I got.

Kulinarya_28The Torta de Tablea Con Muscovado topped with whipped cream and edible flowers was very rich and scrumptious. It’s basically a cake with a tablea —  a fermented pure (100%) cacao beans made in the Philippines.

FullSizeRender 15We all had a plateful of dessert.

FullSizeRender 10That’s my first portion. Went back to the dessert table to get another serving of Canonigo with Natilla and Mango. Soooo good! I can still taste it in my mouth.

Of course we had ‘Kape Barako’ (Philippine coffee) with the sweets! Though ‘Salabat’ (Ginger Tea, which I also love) was also offered, I was too stuffed to even consider trying it. Don Papa Rum and other fine Philippine liquor and spirits were served throughout the meal, and though I’ve only tried a couple of cocktails, those that had all of them told me that everything was good. Since I am not a food critic and therefore not obliged to review all the different dishes served, it’s worth mentioning though that the stand-out, in my humble opinion, are four dishes namely, from appetiser to dessert:  Kinilaw na Isda, Ginataang Isda, Bistek Tagalog and Canonigo with Natilla and Mango. 

KuliaryaLangkaBarChef Jill, who I had no idea is also from the south like myself, asked me where I was from, and we started talking Bisaya. Told her how full I was already but loved all the desserts she made, and that I was about to get another portion of my favourite — Canonigo. She was delighted to hear about it and even asked me to get some more of the Caramel and Langka Bars to take home with me. I grabbed a couple but she pressed a plateful of them on me saying, “Eto, iuwi mo” (Here, take it home with you). I went back to our table, and off they went straight into my handbag! Jared had a good laugh and took this picture. 🙂

KulinaryaCaramelBar
Thanks for the bag, ‘patud baysay’ – Lynn Syliangco! 🙂

That’s us all, diners in table number 1, from L to R: Michiel, Jared, me, Mavy, Aimee and Gavin, before the meal. 🙂

FullSizeRender 5Although only 50 people were invited to the Supper Club, 60 people ended up attending, and there was a long waitlist, Emma told me later on.

Chef Myrna came over to have a little chat with us, as well as Michaela Fenix who, as a food writer, has some very interesting tale to share about Filipino food (found out she is married to a Waray).

Of course, the ‘Burlington Ladies’ (minus Precy and Dynah) were there. 🙂 Pictures above is with Kristine (she’s in-charge of the Political Affairs at the Phil. Embassy London), Marj (she works for the Phil. Tourism Office London), and with Chef Jill and Emma.

I’m not sure I can remember when I’ve actually eaten a five-course Filipino dinner, or at least parts thereof, but Thursday would have been the day.  We weren’t eating Filipino food back in the Philippines, not that day; but in far-away place, and who knew when we would have a chance to eat these specialties again. And I suppose there might have been a little bit of that Filipino nature, or rather human nature, of inability to honor prophets from our own country (when do we ever appreciate Filipino talent?) — after all, does anyone take Filipino food seriously? Not even every Filipino does but I do. And many Londoners have evidently started to appreciate Filipino cuisine. I do my part, in my own little way, to promote our native cuisine. Anyway, massive congratulations to the team: chefs Myrna Seguismundo, Jill Sandique, and Raul Ramos, and food writer Michaela Macabenta. Well done guys! I can’t wait to read Ms Macabenta’s write-up about this event and the rest of the ‘Kulinarya Euro Tour!’ (My previous question, when do we ever appreciate Filipino talent? Sadly, back in the Philippines, only after they get recognition abroad. And don’t even get me started on this subject haha!) 

w Emma Sarne, Kulinarya London
I was asked by three Filipino ladies, including my table mate Aimee, and more than a handful of Caucasian ladies about my necklaces. Told them that they were ‘proudly Philippine-made’ by a Filipino accessories designer, Ann Ong. Thanks you for my necklaces, Ann.

As we were leaving Emma came over to see us, and Jared, knowing that Emma and I belong to a little foodie group, asked if he could take a snap of us together. Our faces on the photo says it all — happy but absolutely stuffed and tired from overeating (I am speaking for myself, btw). 🙂 As mentioned earlier, Emma was given the special task to lead this project in London, and she worked tirelessly to make this event happen. Well done, Philippine Embassy, especially to Emma and others, who helped make this event a huge success. 

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In front of SOSHARU where the Supper Club was held. Just before we left Jared insisted on taking a picture of myself. I was half-asleep, in total daze from stuffing myself silly. 🙂 

Note: The venue, Sosharu, is a fairly new Japanese izakaya-style restaurant and bar in Clerkenwell, owned by Jason & Irha Atherton — she is a Filipino, and he is an English Michelin starred chef. Although it opened a year ago, it was my first time there, and can’t wait to go back and try their Japanese food.  Having lived in Japan, the izakaya-style food is one of my absolute favourites! Here’s the link to the restaurant — Sosharu — please go try it.

  • Forgot to mention that Charl Asuit, Roni Bandong and Steve McSorley of Maynila helped Emma and the Philippine Embassy London to make this event a huge success. They’re also doing a great job in promoting Filipino cuisine in London.
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