NAME: Kinilaw & Buko
WHAT IS IT?: A modern take on Filipino cuisine and experimental artisan ice cream.
MY PICKS: Mustasa Cradled Duck Egg Kinilaw (£5.50), Kilawin Coconut Fire Kinilaw (£7.00), Pop Star Buko (£3.00/£5.00)
CAN I TAKE MY VEGAN FRIEND?: Definitely! With two vegan kinilaw choices, sweet potato seasoned rice and three vegan buko choices, they’ll be well fed.
HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND?: £130.00 between 3 including alcohol (before discounts and service charge)
WHERE IS IT?: 104 Hoxton St, London, N1 6SG
CLOSEST TUBE: Hoxton/Old Street
Filipino cuisine is not my specialty, but with its unique double concept this opening piqued my interest.
A new venture from the team behind 100 Hoxton next door, not only did their food sound exciting but it’s low in carbs and saturated fats, and a lot of the choices are vegan, vegetarian and gluten free friendly.
I also thought it’s pretty brave to be opening a restaurant serving only cold food right at the start of Winter!
So, erm, what exactly are kinilaw and buko?
Kinilaw (which translates to ‘eaten raw’) is the Filipino take on ceviche. A cooking process using palm vinegar and kalamansi (instead of lime in a ceviche) to break down enzymes and denature protein. Basically it uses science to cook!
The menu features nine kinilaw dishes (of which two are vegan and another one is vegetarian) priced between £5.00 and £8.00. All the choices are gluten free. Kinilaw & Buko recommend two to three dishes per person.
Whenever pork belly is on a menu it’s my go to, so of course my first choice was the Baboy Bounty (pork belly, diced cucumber, chilli and chicharron), £6.50. A generous portion of not too fatty diced pork, kept light with the cucumber, and with a real kick to it, this was really more-ish.
I also went for pork seasoning for an extra 80p on my steamed rice, £2.00. Other choices are chicken, sweet potato or fish. Or plain. It was a perfect portion for one, served in a baby coconut shell.
Our server was knowledgeable and infectiously enthusiastic about the new venture, so I just had to take his recommendation of the Kilawin Coconut Fire (bream, mango, red pepper, jalapeno, coconut, vinegar), £7.00. No regrets, this raw sea bream was fresh, fruity and light, and I can see myself coming back here for this a lot in a few months – this is exactly what I want to eat when it’s warm outside!
The Mustasa Cradled Duck Egg (salted duck egg, heirloom tomato, mustard leaf, grated cured yolk), £5.50, despite not being what I expected, was my favourite of the three I tried. Unless you knew it contained egg, I wouldn’t have said it did, but it was a delicious salad with high quality ingredients and a good amount of tasty heirloom tomatos. It’s rare that a salad-like dish is my highlight of a meal, so this speaks volumes!
The buko is a fusion, artisan Filipino ice cream, here served in a baby coconut shell. Or pandan or purple yam cone if you prefer, for a 30p surcharge. A single scoop is £3.00, or £5.00 for a double scoop.
Between three of us, we tried each of the nine flavours of buko, with a bonus tenth off menu flavour thrown in! Three of the options are vegan and all but one are gluten free.
The highlights for me were Pop Star (lychee ice cream, sumac popping candy, crystalised ginger), Ube Buko (pineapple yam and coconut, tapioca pearls) and Red Bean Butterscotch Bomb (red bean ice cream, miso butterscotch sauce, ginger anzac biscuit).
Last year 100 Hoxton, for one week only, hosted a halloumi pop up in collaboration with the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, with a menu featuring halloumi ice cream. So Filipino Head Chef Francis Puyat is no stranger to exciting and experimental ice cream flavours.
That’s not to say they all taste good. Or, at least, some are an acquired taste.
Our opinions were divided on Stardust (smoked blackberry and star anise sorbet, raspberry and cinnamon dust).
And the only flavour we didn’t finish was Pig Out (lechon, kalamansi lime, condensed milk, sea salt and black pepper caramel popcorn). The key ingredient of Pig Out is the lechon. Now, I’m not adverse to a bit of bacon with my ice cream but on this occasion there was a little too much of a gravy flavour for me. The taste wasn’t bad as such, but for me it didn’t work as an ice cream.
As you’d expect from their older sibling, Kinilaw & Buko have an excellent drinks menu, with creative cocktails, including hard bubble teas! I regret not trying one. Next time.
I did give a few of the cocktails a go. Despite my initial reservations, given that I’m not a fan of cognac or port, my favourite was Portentous (cognac, port, curacao, blueberry preserve, yuzu, lemon), £9.00 – it was surprisingly refreshing and easy to drink.
Having not known what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by Kinilaw & Buko. More than pleasantly surprised in fact, I’ve already recommended it to my friends! With reasonably priced, inventive food that doesn’t scrimp on taste or quality, and an intimate, trendy but not too trendy atmosphere, it’s definitely one I’ll be going back to. And it’s a fantastic choice for a date night!
*All food and drink paid for by ourselves, although we did receive 20% off our bill as we dined during the soft launch.