With London being so ethnically diverse I’ve often wondered what people think of restaurants cooking food from their home nation. It’s not often I come across Filipino restaurants and I’ve never eaten at one outside of Philippines, but having returned from visiting the motherland, I was in desperate need of some deep fried pork fat (undoubtedly Philippine’s favourite food).
I had my reservations and was already making judgements when I had entered and seen the painted walls of Filipino sceneries and dozens of picture frames hanging towards the back of the restaurant. But hanging high near the ceiling was a framed picture of a familiar face; content and smiling Manny Pacquio with the restaurant owners. Well, I guess if it’s good enough for Manny, its good enough for me.
Filipino cuisine lends itself to a variety of influences; Spanish, Chinese and Malay styles of food and cooking and it’s clear to see in the different dishes. Spanish style stews and their insatiable appetite for pork, the Chinese classics of spring rolls and noodles and the cooking styles and ingredients used in East Malaysian cooking.
Josephine’s makes classic Filipino dishes which would not be out of place in a good restaurant in the Philippines. Lechon Kawali, twice cooked, deep fried pork belly slices covered by a golden crunchy fleece of crackling is their star dish; I would even go as far as to say that it was better than some I tried in the Philippines. My friends were impressed with the kare kare, stewed meat cooked in a peanut curry sauce and a whole fried tilapia cooked with a sweet and sour sauce, minus the radioactive orange colouring. I was disappointed by Josephine’s version of Philippine’s most famous dish, adobo, stewed chicken or pork cooked with soya sauce and vinegar which turned out to be a just an average chicken stir fry. There was also the absence of some Filipino greats-chicken fried in pandan leaf and pata humba, a slow cooked pork leg in a sweet soya sauce style gravy.
I think most people might say that restaurants like Josephine’s will never cook as good as their mum’s home cooking but it’s fair to say that many of the dishes here awaken delicious memories in my taste buds. As General MacArthur once said, ‘I shall return’ (for my fix of deep fried pork fat).