Romulo Café and Restaurant is now a proven winner. It has awards, stars and accolades aplenty and they are all well-deserved. Since its launch it has garnered loyal followers from locals as well as expat Filipinos. Those folks know more about the dishes here than most of us Londoners, and they enjoy many happy returns, and have evidently stamped it with their seal of approval. These have been challenging times for most restaurants, but Romulo’s have weathered the storm better than many.
This is a leafy corner of the capital. It’s not a neighbourhood of steel and glass. This is the preserve of people who actually live here, and those who choose to visit this end of Kensington High Street to seek out a little charm and calm and some exceptional food. Covid regulations have been appropriately introduced but they are unobtrusive. Tables are well-spaced in this attractive restaurant with its appealing ambiance.
Carlos P. Romulo served as the President of the Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly from 1949 to 1950, and as chairman of the United Nations Security Council. He had served with General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific, and under eight Philippine presidents, from Manuel L. Quezon to Ferdinand Marcos, as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. He was the first and to date the only Filipino winner of the Pulitzer Prize! He was a respected writer, statesman, soldier and historian, and even co-founded the Philippines Boy Scouts. A true man for all seasons.
Romulo’s is authentic. We have pubs called ‘The Shakespeare Arms’ even though the Bard never crossed the threshold. There are other hostelries named ‘The Queen Victoria’ even though we can guess that royalty never pulled a pint within. But there truly is a family association at the Romulo Café and Restaurant, and it couldn’t be stronger. The celebrated man’s descendant Rowena Romulo and her fellow manager Chris Joseph now head this London venture.
Little-known culinary landscape
Chris Joseph has enjoyed a successful and multi-national career in the food industry before this present London-based adventure. Rowena Romulo, a former senior banker and now restaurateur, persuaded her family that Romulo Café and Restaurant would be a well-received addition to London’s vibrant international gastronomic scene. This is as yet a little-known culinary tradition. Not many of us know much about Filipino food but in fact it ticks all the popular epicurean profile boxes. We in the UK love Indian food with its complex spices. Filipino cuisine offers just as many flavours, but the palate is perhaps more subtle. Spanish food in London has long been popular; Filipino cuisine offers hints of its historic Spanish connections and heritage. We enjoy Chinese and Malaysian food with their exotic combinations of ingredients. Filipino cuisine also has truly unique ingredients but nothing to excite fear in the diner – one is first curious and then becomes appreciative of these new dishes.
Romulo family photographs
Romulo Café and Restaurant is found in a converted Georgian townhouse, and it does retain the charm of a home. Its main ground floor dining room is welcoming and intimate. The ‘at home’ theme continues with the Romulo family photographs giving a sense that this is more than just an anonymous business project. The name ‘Romulo’ is writ large over everything and that must surely elicit expectations of excellence and attention to detail.
The dishes at Romulo’s might be unfamiliar but they are all flavourful, well-crafted and delicious. The Tasting Menu offers a wonderful overview of Filipino cuisine. There are choices for every taste and the portions are famously generous. Try prawns or chorizo for starters – but vegetarians are not forgotten.
Chicken and Shrimp with Rice Noodles is one of my favourite main courses, and the Dingley Dell pork in any fashion is unmissable; don’t forget the pan de sel which is a light and airy Filipino bread. Garlic rice is comforting and works well with so many of the main dishes. A signature dessert is Sans Rival which is perfect in both form and creamy sweetness.
There is a well-priced wine list here with a good selection of wines by the glass or carafe. The cocktails are also very reasonably priced, and they have some unique ones with striking presentations. Smokey and Stormy is served in a whisky flask in, as the name might suggest, a smoking glass. Woodford Reserve is one of Kentucky’s oldest and smallest distilleries and provides the base for this dramatic cocktail, which also includes St. Germain, made from elderflowers, and Grand Marnier.
Romulo Café and Restaurant in London demands more than one visit. I have enjoyed my meals immensely, but I also notice periodic changes in the menu, and they hold temptations for the future. I assume they will be just as delicious, just as exciting and just as authentically Filipino. It’s a journey of discovery and I continue to take mouth-watering steps. This is the perfect destination for family gatherings, casual get-togethers or intimate dinners. We love dining at the restaurant, but over these past strange months we have taken advantage of ordering Romulo’s take-aways and deliveries – both first-class.
Mondays – Closed
Tuesday To Thursdays – 5:00pm To 10:30pm (kitchen closes at 9:30pm)
Fridays To Sundays – 12:00pm To 11:00pm (kitchen closes at 9:30pm)
Romulo Café and Restaurant London
343 Kensington High Street
London W8 6NW
Phone: 020 3141 6390