Ancestral Houses-Turned-Restaurants Near Manila


Ancestral houses restaurants manila

Philippines is known to be a very cultural country. Evidences of history remains. Some of which are ancestral houses now turned to be restaurants that everyone can visit. In this article, we’ve listed 9 ancestral houses turned restaurants near and within Manila.

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Food and History

If there is a list of things that the Filipino culture is rich in, among the top of that list for sure are Food and History. Food and History are very much interconnected, especially in our journey as a country, being influenced by more than one colonizer throughout our history. Let’s add to that the hordes and hordes of overseas Filipino workers who absorb as much culture from their host country as possible, and put their ‘Filipino’ spin to it because as we all know, the best cure for homesickness is cooking up a dish which reminds you of your home.

Filipinos are also known to be in-born foodies, so to speak. We have such a deep relationship with food that we study not only flavors but techniques, ingredients, cooking methods, and other ways to prepare and enjoy food. Our whole arsenal of knowledge about food stems from our journey as a country, like for when we were colonized and were exposed to new flavors brought to our islands, like when we were taught to eat whatever’s available, or like when we had to maximize whatever we had at hand during difficult times. This pandemic has also expanded our food vocabulary through the internet, however locked in we were in our own homes.

It is an understatement that Filipinos have a very strong sense of family, we’re always one to share our personal experiences to our loved ones. One way to separate us as Filipinos when we are able to go to a new country and experience a new culture is that we always think: “what would my family think if they see or experience this, too?” We deem it important to share our experiences in order to enjoy it, especially with our loved ones. Being able to experience something with our whole family, if not our whole clan, makes things more enjoyable–so much so that we want even the next generation to experience the same.

One way we have embraced and kept the heritage of food and history is by elevating the dishes from our childhood but keeping them classic, not only on the plate but in the ambiance as well. This is one way to ensure that our family legacies live on, not only to be enjoyed by the next generations but by other people as well. Modernized homes-turned-restaurants have now emerged in various parts of the country, serving classic dishes that cater not only to locals but even local and foreign tourists as well. Since these restaurants are ancestral houses, it isn’t difficult to locate, as these are mostly known to the locals. With the advent of homes-turned-restaurants, we are assured that there’s always that place that will always feel like home.

Here are a few crowd-favorite ancestral homes-turned-restaurants (house-taurants, if we may be so bold to call it that), which offer classic Filipino cuisine with their own personal and modern twist, plus that historical and homey overall vibe we all know and love.

1. Cafe Apolonio and Restaurant sa Bahay Na Bato

               Popularly known as bahay na bato, and named after Apolonio Perez, the great grandfather of the owners; is known for its hand-carved concrete columns which date back to the 1850s. It is currently serving as a café, but it has also opened its doors to cater for special events, and as an events space. Mostly serving family-style dishes (for sharing), it is home to classic Filipino and Spanish dishes. They also have Unli-meals (served with unlimited rice and drinks), with the selection ranging from Bagnet sisig to Beef pares.

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2. Camalig Restaurant, Angeles, Pampanga

               Originally a grain “shed”, this ancestral house has been converted to a restaurant in the 1980s. The owners re-decorated and landscaped the place, but were very considerate in keeping the history intact. Photographs and artifacts are thoughtfully strewn in the mix of modernizing the venue, to balance keeping the history, and keeping up with the times. Even the menu is a mix of modern and classic, with traditional Kapampangan dishes, while also boasting on the “Pambansang Pizza”. Staying true to local food and ingredients, this historic museum-slash-restaurant has been a landmark for locals and tourists as well, as it gives a homey vibe while enjoying great food and appreciating the history of Angeles City.

3. Casa Roces, Manila

               This restaurant is owned by the Roces clan, now operates as a full-service restaurant featuring Filipino and Spanish dishes whose recipes are handed down from generation to generation. It isn’t difficult to find as it is situated in front of the Malacañang Palace. The place is garbed with old newspaper photographs, old furniture, and original Machuca tiles which will remind diners of the rich culture of Old Manila. The food is centered in the Commonwealth era when the family is reminded of meals shared inside the home, the table abuzz with conversations and memories of the olden days. And while the original menu is still hinged on classic Filipino cuisine, the kitchen team is constantly offering innovative dishes to keep up with the time, carefully enticing and satisfying their diners’ cravings in food and heritage and embracing their guests like they would embrace family.

4. Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant, Intramuros

               Inside the Walled City of Manila sits this ancestral house-turned-restaurant made with two banquet halls for a variety of events. This house is a replica of a San Nicolas House, built with adobe blocks and a white lime finish, characteristic of 1850s architecture. It is a tourist attraction all in itself, with a museum and gallery, a bed and breakfast, and a restaurant, which offers classic Filipino dishes that we have grown up to love. For the past decade, the complex has also been host to the Kultura Filipina Dinner Show, a local dinner buffet that offered local Filipino cuisine and catered to locals and foreign guests alike. The Abesar Rondalla and Folklorico Filipino dance troupe also used to perform pre-pandemic.

5. Romulo Café, Quezon City

Nestled in the heart of Quezon City, is a quaint house-restaurant, this property used to be the place where Carlos P. Romulo entertained diplomats while his wife, Virginia, whipped up magic in the kitchen with her signature dishes. Today, these dishes are shared with the dining public along with a whiff of history in Romulo’s Café. Wherever in the metro you may be, there is a Romulo Café near you, even reaching as far as Kensington High Street in London. The goal of the grandchildren in putting up the restaurant is to honor their grandparents, introduce and highlight Filipino food to the world, to show that the flavors we know and love in our own homes can be a source of Filipino pride, as their grandparents are. Their menu is good, old-fashioned Filipino food that stayed true to their Lola Virginia’s recipes. These are the food they grew up in, the food they feel most at home with, the kind of food which reminds them of the expression of love of their grandparents, the kind of love they want to share with their diners.

6. Limbaga 77, Quezon City

Logging through their Facebook page, you are greeted with “Welcome Home. Tara, kain na tayo!”. If this doesn’t sound across as homey, I don’t know what will. This restaurant will make you feel even more at home with authentic Filipino dishes that will surely remind you of your own family’s cooking. Classic Filipino dishes are the centerpiece of the menu, but the kitchen team is sure to put in their own modern twist to invite guests of all upbringings. You may be having a family dinner, with friends, or an intimate dinner, Limbaga 77 will welcome you in all of your celebrations.

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7. Mama Lou’s, BF Las Piñas

Opened in 2010, this restaurant has grown into a hospitality group that aims to make each of their members feel like family. Growing up and through the pandemic, this group has made their impact in the community by not only serving good comfort food but in sharing their means as they share meals to the heroes of this pandemic, the front liners. Their restaurant in BF Homes is built out of their passion for cooking, welcoming guests of all shapes and sizes (pet-friendly, even!), thriving on their brand of hospitality that embraces everyone like family.

8. Aurora Filipino Cuisine, Sta Cruz, Laguna

This ancestral house is owned by the Salonga family since the Japanese War and is almost a hundred years old. This house is a trip down memory lane, and with a rich Filipino heritage cuisine on the menu, this place is a go-to for those who want to soak in the ambiance of this ancestral house. With a staff very willing to tell the diners a story of every nook and corner, the littlest details will make you appreciate how the history is preserved with much love and care. On the other side, the modernization of authentic heritage dishes as prepared by the grandchildren of the restaurant’s namesake, Aurora, are what will draw diners even more to this restaurant. It’s a road trip rich with food and history which will leave both your hearts and stomachs full.

9. Purple Yam, Malate, Manila

               This old home sits on the corner of Nakpil and Bocobo Street in Malate, is home to the Besa family. Basking in the popularity of their Purple Yam pie, this has expanded to a full-service restaurant offering a wide range of classic Filipino dishes, from viands to desserts. The humble beginnings mirror the look and ambiance of the restaurant while keeping their guests coming with the feel-good flavors of their food offerings. You will surely be satisfied with the history and the delicacy they have to offer, from the appetizing furniture and memorabilia to the delectable courses during your meal, up until the last morsel of sweetness with their sure-fire desserts.

               There is no second-guessing how rich our culture as a country is, especially with food. In every corner and alleyway in many of our provinces, there lies a family recipe, a personal take on a classic Filipino heritage dish. We have come so far in enriching the experiences and influences we have come across that we share a very deep and personal relationship with food. In the same way that our love for food runs in our blood, we love feasting and celebrating with our families, making sure they are with us in each of our experiences. This led us to having personal stories and versions of food that we pass on from family to family, generation to generation. In true Filipino fashion, we even have versions of our traditional adobo as many as the islands the country has!

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At the end of the day, however wide and big the world has gotten, however rich our experiences have become as we have seen the world through different spectacles, the only thing we want to come to is the place we call home. We will always want to go back to what we know and love the best–the flavors of home. The flavors we grew up in, the scents we wake up to in the morning to the sound of our mothers sweeping the yard, the taho vendor shouting, the morning sun forcing us to get up as we go straight to the kitchen and get a whiff of whatever is on the stove. From the little child we were, playing around the house and being in all the family meals and reunions growing up, to being the person we have become who has seen the world, been through so much, and experience so much, the flavors or home are what we want to come home to. The memories which tug on our hearts the most are the ones that are complete sensory experiences, the ones we associate with home. And with having all these homes-turned-restaurants in full bloom in the hustle and bustle of the Metro, offering a hug which feels like a home away from home, we are never really far.

Written by Gene Llanes