Modern Filipino @ Luzon London Pop-Up

I know very little about Filipino food – the food of the Philippines – so I was intrigued by Luzon, a 3-month pop-up restaurant serving a modern take on Filipino cuisine. Named for one of the 7,107 islands that make up this island nation, it’s the first joint project of chef Rex De Guzman and entrepreneur Nadine Barcelona, both eager to popularise contemporary Filipino food in London.

Housed in Generator London – a funky, modern and welcoming hostel in Bloomsbury – Luzon is open for lunch and dinner on Thursdays and Fridays only, with three courses priced at £22 for lunch and £34 for dinner.

Luzon Filipino Restaurant Popup Aug 2015 - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9301

De Guzman has taken the food of the Phillipines, a “culinary conglomeration of traditional cuisines like Malay and Chinese with bold influences of Spanish, the Middle East and the New World” and presented it with a modern twist; his plating more suited to fine dining than rustic home-cooking. I can’t comment on how true to Filipino cuisine the resulting dishes might be, having never tried traditional Filipino food, but I can tell you that every dish was beautifully presented, utterly delicious and a delightful blend of familiar and unfamiliar flavours.

A short wine and cocktail list is very affordable – wines are £3.50 to £4 a glass and cocktails are between £5 and £6.50. We enjoyed our Mango Mojito (£6.50) and Apple Virgin Mojito (£4.90).

Luzon Filipino Restaurant Popup Aug 2015 - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9305

Neither of us could look past the Pork Tocino starter of 3-day marinated and pressed pork belly, spiced mango salsa, crackling and sweet tocino glaze. Tender pork with fat properly rendered into wibbly submission, sweet and fruity mango salsa, properly crunchy but not tooth-breaking crackling and fresh spring onion, all pulled together by the incredible sweet sharp glaze.

Other starters on the menu were the vegetarian Ensaladang Talong – aubergine salad – and Mackerel Kinilaw – fresh mackerel in a lime-chilli marinade.

Luzon Filipino Restaurant Popup Aug 2015 - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9314

Chicken Adobo has seldom looked so good; I may not be hugely familiar with the taste but know that it’s usually a brown stew served family-style. Here, a leg of silky chicken on the bone and a tiny breaded drumstick was drenched in a glossy adobo sauce, which skilfully balanced soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. On the side, garlicky green beans partially hid smears of dark, heady and intense spiced coconut sauce. A fried slice of chayote – a gourd related to melons, cucumbers and squashes – finished the dish. Utterly delicious.

Luzon Filipino Restaurant Popup Aug 2015 - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9310

I know we both had pork belly to start but we didn’t hesitate to order Pork BBQ as one of our shared mains. Two skewers of pork, this time with a little less fall-apart but just as well cooked, coated in another sticky glaze, these came with crunchy sweet sharp pickled vegetables known as papaya atchara. Like the chicken, these were served with a portion of steamed rice – both of us commented on how fragrant and tasty the rice was; you know it’s good when the rice raises an eyebrow for its flavour!

Two other mains were available, a Red Mullet Escabeche and Vegetable Laing – a stew of taro and tofu in a spiced coconut sauce.

Luzon Filipino Restaurant Popup Aug 2015 - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9317

As with the mains, we shared our desserts, choosing two out of the three available.

Peanut butter ice cream with coconut tuile may not sound that exciting but it was beautifully made – firm but smooth and not overly sweet and wonderful against the crunch and toasted flavour of the coconut tuile and crumbs.

Luzon Filipino Restaurant Popup Aug 2015 - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9320

Last but not least, a phenomenal Leche Flan – like a dense crème caramel – served with a mouth-puckering lime sorbet (which we virtually licked off the plate) and a cashew nut praline. Full as I was at the end of the meal, I could have eaten another one of these on the spot!

The third dessert available was Turon served with plantain spring rolls, salted caramel cream, plantain puree, pineapple and snapdragon.

The restaurant space at Generator London is fairly spacious, comfortable and well lit and with tables decently spaced out – not always the case in other pop-up venues where communal tables pack chairs in so tightly it’s almost impossible to get in or out let alone eat without squashing one’s bosoms with one’s elbows! Not an issue at Luzon, I’m happy to say.

For both my friend and I, our meal at Luzon has sparked an enthusiasm to find out more about Filipino cooking and flavours and we’re both keen to visit again next month when the menu changes, and perhaps again the month after that!

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Luzon restaurant.

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26 Comments to "Modern Filipino @ Luzon London Pop-Up"

  1. Sally - My Custard Pie

    So interested in this, particularly after my recent trip to the Philippines. Adobo is a catch all term for many different recipes and traditions of stew. Filippinos do love their pork and cook it really well. Luzon looks like a really interesting and delicious place to dine.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Aah interesting, yes I think it’s a case of flavours used in stews and bbq glazes being translated to more elegant sauces etc.

    Reply
  2. nazima

    what lovely pictures. I keep heating Philippine food is the new trend though not going to expect such inventive popups outside of London.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I think there are a handful of restaurants in London but it’s just not been on my radar at all — it is now though!

    Reply
  3. Arman @ thebigmansworld

    I love the idea of a pop up restaurant- And such a unique country to share the cuisine of. I’ve had some Filipino food before but none of the ones you’ve highlighted- Although anything with bbq, I’m game!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I seldom blog about popups that will only be running for a couple of weeks or less, as by the time I do so, readers would not likely have the chance to book tickets for themselves, but I felt as this one is going for 3 months and I visited in the first week, hopefully lots of people will have the chance to go. I’m hoping to go back myself for the menu change!

    Reply
  4. Jen

    I know virtually nothing about Filipino food but seeing these photos makes me want to find out more. The adobo chicken and the pork BBQ both look delicious. I think I might have been tempted by a second pudding too, that leche flan looks amazing.

    Reply
  5. Yvan

    Posh Filo food?! Gotta go see this some time… it’s amusing. Posh adobo… SRSLY? 🙂

    Adobo is usually sort of a simple braise in vinegar & soy. Odd ice-cream flavours are authentic, *cheese* is a popular one! My fav is the taro (purple yam). In fact I’ll eat anything taro flavoured until I burst. Purple food FTW.

    It’s actually a rather interesting cuisine, definitely unique and quite unlike what folk used to Chinese/Thai/Malay/Vietnamese cuisines might expect of South East Asian food. The Spanish influence is definitely there and important, which is unique in and of itself, albeit the food is mostly far from recognisably Spanish. (The Spanish is more evident in the culinary language of the Philippines.)

    Quite interested in going to try this place. The food looks and sounds good. Modern cuisine with a strong Filo theme I suppose, as opposed to an authentic Filipino dining experience. Hope Kat and I can make it to the place, sadly it is unlikely.

    Only “Filipino Restaurant” I’ve ever been to was in Edinburgh and the dishes we enjoyed there were more authentic: http://rice-terraces.com/

    (I’m not Filo, the other half is and I practically lived in Filo households for a large chunk of 7 years living in Sydney. Only Filo thing I seriously draw the line at is rotten shrimp paste on unripe mango. Gah.)

    Reply
    Kat

    If sushi commonly represents Japan, then the Philippines has adobo. My mum’s was a simple affair involving pork and/or chicken with garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, a bay leaf and a touch of sugar and was always ready within half an hour. According to Marvin from Burnt Lumpia (whom I have a lot of interwebs-respect) there’s quite a lot of variations abound and I personally fall into the camp that coconut milk should never be involved.

    From personal experience many traditional or quintessential filipino foods aren’t great to look at (I can’t find a video of it but a guy spoofs a newbie’s reaction: “Eww, what is that? It looks like someone’s thrown up on a plate!” “… That’s pinakbet”) so I am intrigued with this pop-up concept. (Though there are things I doubt would ever pass muster – I’m looking at you filipino spaghetti!)

    BTW: turon are plaintain spring rolls. Being a rare commodity back in ‘straya she substituted youngish bananas (the slightly greenish and hard ones). My preference excluded the slithers of (tinned) jackfruit.

    Reply
  6. Elizabeth

    I do love reading your foodie adventures Kavita, what wonderful flavours you have on your doorstep! This sounds like a fantastic place!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thanks Elizabeth, yes London really does offer a whole world of dining options!

    Reply
  7. kellie@foodtoglow

    I have never tried Filipino food but reading this wonderfully descriptive (you really do have a way with words) review I will have it on my list of places when next in London.

    “…beautifully presented, utterly delicious and a delightful blend of familiar and unfamiliar flavours” sounds perfect.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thank you, how kind of you! When the food is this good, it’s easy to find the words to share it!

    Reply
  8. Prateek D

    I haven’t tried out Filipino food before, however this post is quite helpful in understanding it better. There seems to be an influence of Spain in the cooking as mentioned in the post, and the usage of coconut is quite enticing as I personally love cooking with coconut and coconut based sauces! Thanks for the informative post!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes I didn’t know much about it myself, I did a little light web reading after our visit but I’m definitely keen to learn and try more now I’ve had this taster.

    Reply
  9. Luzon Filipino Restaurant in London | Restaurant Review from Kavey Eats - Luzon Filipino Restaurant in London

    […] London food blogger Kavey recently wrote a restaurant review entitled “Modern Filipino @ LUZON London Pop-Up”. Having sampled our August Menu, Kavey’s dining experience at LUZON has sparked an enthusiasm for Filipino flavours and she described our dessert, and we quote, “…Full as I was at the end of the meal, I could have eaten another one of these on the spot!..” If you want to read the rest of her delightful story, click here. […]

    Reply

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