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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.