The Luzon Pop-up at Generator, Fine Filipino Cuisine:
Luzon according to Wikipedia is the largest island in the Philippenes. Despite the fact that it is the fourth most populous island in the world, after Java, Honshu and Great Britain, I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of it. Now, I know it is home to around half of the total population of the Philippenes and to Manila, the capital (I’m not sure if I save a little grace by having already known that particular fact). Filipino food isn’t particularly well known in Europe , something that appears to be simply because it’s rather hard to describe; the food is a blend of a myriad of traditional cuisines from Malaysian and Chinese through to Spanish, Middle Eastern and New World.
The eponymous restaurant, housed in the stylish Generator Hostel in Bloomsbury, serves an excellent value three course lunch and dinner, priced at just £22 for lunch or £34 for dinner. The aim – to highlight some of the wealth of produce from the Philippenes, the sustainable, organic and wild ingredients from Visayas, Midanao and Luzon itself to an audience of unsuspecting travellers and visitors to the hostel.
Co-founded by chef Rex de Guzman and entrepreneur Nadine Barcelona, Luzon is somewhere to try the unusual food for yourself. A good match,perhaps, for the design led hostel with industrial interiors and furniture that you might find gracing some of the hippest bars in Soho. I joined a group of food writers to try for myself.
After a welcome glass of fizz we settled down to eat.
I’d ordered arroz caldo risotto, a Filipino chicken congee with ginger garlic and lemon. It’s not really a risotto – closer to the prosaic description I’ve seen elsewhere ‘rice porridge’. Warm, comfort food, it arrived topped with egg and spiced with fish sauce and a lot of garlic and ginger. Very delicious and beautifully presented, even if it was closer to a porridge for me;)
The alternative dish at the table was the vegetarian option of pinakbet salad. We were offered an extra plate so that we could all try and I really enjoyed the crunchy grilled vegetables. Once again, immaculate presentation of a dish that could easily have looked tired.
The mains on offer for our party had me procrastinating. I yearned for the Beef Kare Kare, but, Inihaw Na Seabass, a grilled whole seabass: marinated and then wrapped in banana leaf served with lime, toyomansi (a kind of filipino soy sauce with lime) and tomato relish, sounded a lot healthier. Next time I’m going with my heart because the beef when it arrived was a stunning collection of three versions of the basic oxtail and peanut butter stew; croquette, pulled and in a cannelloni.
Of course the sea bass was wonderful too – my photo doesn’t really do justice to the fresh, tender and moist fish.
All my good intentions, of course, were lost by the time I got to dessert. Sans Rival Millefeuille was probably the richest of the desserts on offer – a chewy cashew nut meringue with a rich buttercream icing and crunchy roasted cashews. Very delicious.
Somehow at this stage a bottle of Don Papa rum appeared on the table. A sweet, caramelly sipping rum it rounded the evening off perfectly.
With many thanks to Luzon and Generator Hostels for the chance to try the food and visit Generator London. The concept of luxury hostels wasn’t new to me, but to date, I had only visited one (in Zadar), so I was curious to see what the alternative to the London hotel scene was. And, at least on the face of it, Generator does seem to offer something a lot more fun for travellers than a budget hotel, with a real focus on providing a safe and comfortable space to stay in major cities in London.
If you’d like to try the food at Luzon for yourself, it’s open for another month and you can book through the website.
Luzon at Generator
37 Tavistock Place
London WC1H 9SE