Romulo Café branches out
Following its success in Manila, Romulo Café has now introduced itself to London, offering a taste of the Philippines in the heart of affluent Kensington. The 70-seater restaurant presents surroundings that are both chic and casual, with comfort and style in mind.
Filipino food is a captivating combination of four culinary traditions – Spanish, American, Malay and Chinese. Not only does the cuisine at the family-owned Romulo Café offer an authentic Filipino experience, but the décor has also been thoughtfully chosen to do the same, with attractive interiors that complement each other.
Premier Hospitality caught up with the person responsible for realising and executing the Romulo family’s vision, Karen Soriano, Creative Director and Interior Designer at True Collective, who commented:
“This was a truly exciting project. We were aware that we were creating what would not be just a restaurant, but something symbolic for the community. Romulo Café aims to elevate Filipino cuisine and the space in which our food is enjoyed; it has to blend in with contemporary London, but it also had to preserve the essence of our heritage and the greatness of the man who inspired it.
“The whole Romulo Café concept begins in the Romulo ancestral home in the Philippines, translated to the kind of house Carlos P Romulo, the Philippines’ greatest statesman, would have lived in, if he were stationed in London – which is partially why there are different areas within the restaurant aptly named after him, the General’s Bar, the Ambassador’s Lounge, the Diplomat’s Dining Room, the UN hallway and CPR Library, which can function for private dining. Each area pays homage to his life and the interior elements have been carefully selected to be the backdrop to this. Separating the spaces also allowed the restaurant to offer casual, semi-formal and private dining.”
The Romulo Café brand has continued from the restaurants in Manila to London, maintaining the brand’s basic design concepts, however with a refreshing twist. Instead of the statement black and white of the Manila restaurants, now there are only hints of this and the Kensington outpost seems to rely on a wider palette, although one colour remains distinct.
“The one colour I wanted to bring to the London restaurant was the colour green – it tied in with the concept from the Philippines; it is a nice and soothing colour that can be quite dramatic but not off-putting when done right. We stuck to keeping it simple by having the walls painted the same colour, to create a cosy effect; I believe it grounded the concept for the restaurant.
“I also started to look into how I could make the interior space more residential through the walls and the furnishings. The panelling with inset wall-covering also defines each space. So you have the refreshing pale green with the shagreen texture for the lounge, the palm leaf motif for the dining room reminiscent of coconut trees in the Philippines, and the bookbinding paper for the library to bring-out memories of old books we have once read. (The library was named as such as CPR was an accomplished writer himself). It really made the venue feel homely and relaxing, and all of this is fairly symbolic.
“Soft and natural materials have been integrated to the space such as natural rattan, wood elements (including the existing timber flooring) Capiz lighting and neutral metals with brass accents. Table tops are all in Italian marble for a touch of luxury.
“The bar in the lounge area was very important, as it is the first piece you see upon entering the restaurant. From that point the customer needed to see something unique and distinct. We developed an impressionistic finish to the front of the bar almost like a work of art, faintly reminiscent of a Jose T. Joya painting, a Filipino National Artist, who was a favourite of Carlos P. Romulo.”
Mouth-watering Romulo Café signature dishes, from heirloom recipes, feature on the menu such as Adobo Romulo style – twice cooked chicken and pork belly with glazed shallots and sweet potato mash – and Lola Felisa’s crispy all vegetable canton, crispy canton noodles topped with shitake mushrooms, baby corn and bean sprout. Irresistible desserts include Suman Latik, a rice cake with coconut cream and dark coconut sauce.
“I felt passionate about being involved in this project – especially since I am from the Philippines. I came to London from Manila as a designer, moving here to do a Master’s Degree at Chelsea College of Art. Following this I worked on a number of hospitality projects with a prestigious London design studio and soon after that I was working on mostly residential projects. In 2013, a friend and I envisioned working on projects that would help uplift our heritage and the local craftsmen, this is how True Collective was born, which led to working on Romulo Café.
“For me, it means so much that the first project I’ve worked on for myself here in London represents my heritage and an opportunity for the Philippine community to be proud of – I have been really lucky and I have thoroughly enjoyed it!”
A distinct person in Filipino history, Carlos P. Romulo’s career as a public servant included 17 years as secretary of foreign affairs, and ten years as the Philippines’ ambassador to the United States. Subsequently he was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1949. By the time Romulo died in 1985, he had received over 100 awards and decorations, in addition to more than 60 honorary degrees from universities all over the world.
Established in 2015 as a sister company of IMKO London, Volute London has taken on the works on smaller projects for private individuals and developers. This setup allows both companies to utilise their capacity more effectively as well as to expand the boundaries of their market coverage.
Most recently, Volute was appointed as a prinicpal contractor on the Romulo Café fit out project that had been successfully accomplished meeting the target budget and fixed ‘go-live’ date requested by the client.
Describing the work undertaken at Romulo Café, Volute London Director Roman Mykytyuk said: “The Romulo Café project has been great for us as it is unique, vibrant and is a home feel cosy fit-out with a different and adventurous approach to colour schemes and patterns.”
Volute London works on various aspects of projects from traditional form to design and build. As a company, Volute prides themselves on the service that they provide to their customers, as they believe that despite being a small company, they use the knowledge of a larger construction business. Having over 15 years’ experience and knowledge in the industry, they understand their client’s needs and sensitivity. They do not treat projects as work, but as a design creation that has to be enjoyed by others. They are white collar builders that are aiming to change the overall appreciation of the building industry, at their level to all of their clients.