Bristolians with a taste for different cuisines from around the world are pretty well served; we can enjoy food from a bewildering array of nations fairly easily. This week though, something new caught our eye, Filipino food is available for a few weeks in that splendid Kingsdown institution “The Hare on Hill”. It’s part of their regular series of guest chiefs taking over the kitchens. From now until Sunday 8th May Ana’s Kusina is providing the food and we heartily recommend that you make plans to visit.
Considering the size of the Philippines it’s odd that their food is not as common in the west as those near neighbours such as Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea or Japan. Having sampled the selection of delights, which were offered to us last night, the lack of Filipino food offerings in Bristol is even more of a surprise.
The temporary set up at the Hare on the Hill provides a perfect introduction to food that we have been missing out on. There is a selection of ten different dishes served tapas style, as small (but importantly not too small!) plates. In addition there some nibbles which you could eat as bar snack or starters, some steamed rice buns with a variety of fillings, a few side dishes including rice and if that isn’t enough there are a couple of dessert options as well.
We ordered a portion of each of the three nibbles on order and set to work. So, what to choose from the range of unfamiliar names on the menu? Well help is at hand in the form of Ana, the friendly and engaging chief behind the venture, when she came to our table and offered to guide us through the menu. Names such as, Chori, Bicol, Lumpla, Bagoong and Lechon meant little to us but the in-depth descriptions had already more than piqued our curiosity and our taste buds were alert and preparing for action. There were a few of us, so we decided to dive fully into the experience and ordered a portion of all the tapas dishes plus a small selection of the other dishes.
A few minutes later, the bar staff kindly offered to move us to a some seats with more table space, obviously worried that our two relatively small round tables would struggle to contain the plethora of food that was heading our way. A small point but indicative of the excellent but undemonstrative service form the staff.
Our decision to go for a bit of (almost) everything fully paid off, as a series of tasty treats sped towards us for the next hour or so. Where to start then with descriptions of the food? Well it’s rich in taste and texture, not as spicy as some of its Asian counterparts, maybe more akin to say Japan than Thailand. Soy, garlic and delicious banana ketchup add depth to the beautifully cooked offerings.
Favourites were difficult to select from the excellent range of treats we were given. If pushed I would highlight the following: Adobong Mani – a finger food snack of fried peanuts with chilli and garlic that was bursting with flavour. Chicken Adobo – tender chicken in beautiful piquant sauce including peppercorns, soy garlic and bay leaves. Pork Bicol – pork in a lovely sauce of coconut, bagoong paste, chilli and garlic. Lechon – rolled belly pork with a fantastically crispy, tasty exterior and melt in your mouth interior. Coconut rice - a perfect side dish along with Komote Fries made from Sweet Potato and reminiscent of tempura in their crispy but soft melt in the mouth goodness.
We just about managed to find room for some coconut cake served with ube ice cream (in a subtle shade of purple) and Banana spring rolls served with a coconut caramel sauce. Both of which were subtle and delicious.
The food was perfect for sharing and quantities worked out well with us all being able to have some of every dish that came our way. We hope to make a return visit before Ana moves on from the pub and will certainly keep our ears open for news of future occasions when her wonderful food will be available. On the evidence of last night, the time has come for Filipino food in Bristol.