Café Fleur: Chef Sau’s Pandemic-Born Resto in Poblacion for Brunches and First Dates
April 18, 2022
Like a flower that blooms through the cracks, Café Fleur emits a homey ambiance that stands in stark contrast to the lofty skyscrapers just a stone’s throw away. It is the brainchild of chef Sau Del Rosario and is the counterpart of the now-closed restaurant in Angeles City, Pampanga. Born at a time when the pandemic was wreaking havoc across the restaurant industry, Café Fleur in Poblacion, Makati City is the product of chef Sau’s monthslong experiments in the kitchen while stuck at home during the lockdown. It is also an homage to his mom’s recipes and a reflection of his childhood in the culinary capital of the Philippines.
“As a child, I witnessed my mom on how she calls our kitchen as her stage. Like a true conductor of an orchestra, I remember on how my mom waved and flicked her hands and each a stroke of the baton was very fluid to make sure every piece is synced and harmonized,” chef Sau wrote on Café Fleur’s website.
Café Fleur joins a throng of dining spots that have mushroomed in the Poblacion neighborhood, where brightly lit restaurants and coffee shops are sandwiched between low-rise apartments housing 9-6 hustlers working in Makati’s central business district. But despite nestling in one of the busiest parts of the city, Café Fleur has managed to maintain its cozy and rustic vibe that juxtaposes the urban jungle where it is located.
The restaurant-café is divided into two sections: an indoor dining space that can seat around 20 socially distanced people and a semi-alfresco area decked with air plants and covered by a sunroof. We visited on a Friday morning and was welcomed by one of the staff named Jeffrey who gladly ushered us in even though the rest of the team were still preparing the café for the official opening time at 10 AM.
Café Fleur is located along the street so parking can be extra challenging. We scored a spot a few steps across the establishment and were asked to fork out P100 pesos by the property’s owner.
Food and Drink
Jeffrey told us that Café Fleur is overhauling its Filipino fare-dominated menu to make way for another restaurant venture by chef Sau. Bidding goodbye to our craving for the much-talked-about sisig paella, we relied on his suggestions instead.
First, we had the Wild Mushroom Ravioli Truffle Cream (P575), a plateful of thin pasta dough drowned in cheeses, butter, truffle oil, cream, and pepper. The chopped mushroom filling oozes with earthy flavors that linger longer in your mouth, while the truffle broth yields an aromatic appeal courtesy of the richness of the butter and other seasonings.
Next, we delved into Lemony Squid Ink Aglio Olio (P475), a generous serving of pasta topped with garlic-smothered prawns. Not only does the squid ink lend the pasta its standout color, but it also provides a briny flavor with sea saltiness undertones. Nope, it won’t stain your teeth. Even if you are watching your carbo intake, these two takes on pasta dishes are hard to resist.
Extending our carbo quest, we devoured a slice of Brown Pizza (P725; six slices), soft dough slathered with tomato sauce and flecked with prosciutto, pepperoni, and cheese. The sour-sweet undertone of the tomato sauce complements the salty hints of the meat and the sweetness of the dough. We recommend pairing this carnivore pizza with light pasta like aglio olio. If you want a healthier version, you can go for the Red Pizza (P725), a medley of burrata and cherry tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic syrup and pesto.
For the mains, we tried the highly recommended Cereal Salted Egg-Yolk Prawns (P750), which we dare say is one of the highlights of Café Fleur’s seafood lineup. We were served around five giant prawns that were sprinkled with salted egg-flavored cereals and herbs. The prawns are juicy when cracked open from their shells and best paired with the umami-filled cereals. The crunchiness of the cereals will keep you interested as you munch on one piece to another, while the curry leaves offer a nice kick to accompany the milky notes of the cereals. If we were to go back to Café Fleur (and at this point, we can say we will), this dish would be on top of the agenda.
Then, we capped off our brunch with a slice of the lockdown cult-approved dessert: burnt cheesecake. Contrary to its name, burnt cheesecake tastes less burnt and more caramelized. Chef Sau’s version—San Sebastian Burnt Cheesecake (P395 per slice)—has a softer texture than New York-style cheesecake although less gooey than traditional tarts. Cutting through the crustless, scorched exterior reveals a creamy middle that melts in your mouth on each bite.
Choosing a busy semi-residential area over a swanky location inside a mall yields interesting trade-offs. If you are seated in the alfresco area at midday, you would likely hear barks from the neighbors’ dogs or the roaring engine from the vehicles passing by—tricycles, jeepneys, cars—although not loud enough to disrupt your chatter. This white noise emanating from the locale lends Café Fleur a raw and authentic atmosphere that makes you feel at home.
As for the interiors, rustic meets tropical at Café Fleur. Rattan chairs with white cushions dot the alfresco and indoor areas while lush greens add a nice pop of color to the establishment’s brown-dominated palette. The transparent sunroof allows natural light to flow through and we can just imagine how extra romantic it would be at night. Those who cannot stand Manila’s punishing summer heat can opt for the airconditioned indoor area.
There was a steady stream of people through the course of our meal: regulars from within the neighborhood, expats, friends out for a brunch, and a lovely pair of couple. Expect thicker foot traffic during lunch time and dinner on weekends.
We were curious to visit Café Fleur because of the Instagram-worthy interiors and plating splattered across social media. But barring the buzz and fuzz, we’ll definitely come back for what Café Fleur does best: serving good mood and even better food. For its price point, Café Fleur is quite reasonable as each dish comes in generous serving. We recommend the Wild Mushroom Ravioli Truffle Cream (P575) for starters; Cereal Salted Egg-Yolk Prawns (P750) for mains; and Lemony Squid Ink Aglio Olio (P475) for your carbo kick. For dessert, you will never go wrong with San Sebastian Burnt Cheesecake (P395 per slice).
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