A couple of weeks ago, we shot Urban Zone at this “new” restaurant called Casa Roces. My producers told me it was near Malacanang. They said it was an old Legarda house. I had to double check to ask if they were referring to Cocina de Tita Moning, which is known as the Legarda mansion. I’ve eaten there too many times. It’s a place you have to go fasting for before eating there.
Well, it was a pleasant surprise to see another house, also within the Malacanang neighbourhood. This one has a view of the Palace gates. It is literally across the street from the palace. The entire house was recently renovated to be converted into a restaurant and cafe. I interviewed the architect of the renovation, Tina Bonoan. It’s amazing that they respected the integrity of the structure but gave the place all the comforts of contemporary living.
The cafe is named Cape Chino after Don Chino Roces. Everywhere in the house there are reminders of the family’s heritage – prints of La Vanguardia and the old Manila Times news papers, photos and memorabilia from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I ran into Peachy Prieto who runs the business and she told me the story of the house, which her great aunt lived in. I forget the details of how the Prietos, Legardas, Roceses and all are related. Basta they are. Peachy pointed out that this wasn’t a mansion. It was just a regular house built in Commonwealth style. I thought it was gorgeous.
The restaurant is run and managed by the Cravings group. I enjoyed my meal. But please do not expect a full blown food review. You know me and food.
This post is picture-heavy so I split it. Please click on “Read more” to read more…
Interviewing the architect of the renovation/restoration Tina Bonoan. It is a perfect example of adaptive re-use. The main entrance of the house used to be off to the side (left photo). This is now the valet drop-off. Pedestrian guests can enter through the garden side, which Tina opened up to give a more dramatic entrance. They also knocked down walls in exchange for tempered glass picture windows. There’s a big Impy Pilapil sculpture and water feature out front.
The cafe reception is actually an extension from the original structure. It also opens up to a cozy outdoor bar with stone tables. Tina displayed memorabilia from the family. I love how un-stuffy the antiques look. Credit that to the chic/contemporary shelves painted in sunny yellow.
Everything here is original. The wood was just refinished. I love long curtains that drape and gather over the floor. It’s the only way to do drapes. I’m loving the light that comes through in this stairwell. The upper floor has private function rooms.
This is the terrace over the driveway of the old main entrance. Most old homes kept this as an outdoor balcony or smoking area. It was like a sunroom for the old family. Tina converted it to a private dining hall.
I loved that old homes had generous windows and huge eaves. Lots of natural light came in but no direct sunlight to make the rooms a living hell. I hope new architects never forget how our old homes were built. There’s so much wisdom in the bahay kubo, bahay na bato and their types.
Here’s what I remember from the food: Ceasar Salad with crispy lengua (The entire UZ staff died over the lengua bits but unfortunately I skipped it. I wish they never told me it was tongue.) Linguini carbonara with blue cheese. Baked mussels. Kare kare.
There are a lot of nooks and crannies in this place. Apparently they’re also open for breakfasts. I’m still trying to convince Patrick to take the whole family here one weekend morning… if we get up early enough.
The UZ team and I were very inspired. I hope to see more re-use of old homes and buildings. We don’t always have to have new and foreign. And did I mention that the food was yummy and very affordable?
Watch Urban Zone this Friday (ABSCBN after SOCO) to see the rest of the story.
1153 JP Laurel cor Aguado St.
San Miguel, Manila
It is literally across the street from Malacanang palace.