Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of Lolo and Lola, however all opinions are my own.
The popular Lolo and Lola by Waterhouse Bakers at Westside Acton Park recently introduced monthly pop-up dinners. I was kindly invited to the October dinner and didn’t know what to expect. The tables in the enclosed outdoor dining area had been decorated with small jars filled with fresh flowers, candles, the set menu for the night, and cute paper packets filled with plastic cutlery. Each packet had the person’s name on it so the seating chart had already been set.
After a brief spiel of the night, we were informed by co-owner Kim that the focus that night was on the Filipino underdogs of cooking – the side salads. Here’s a clip of Kim talking about the food for the night.
Course 1 – lumpiang togue – vegetable spring roll filled with bean sprouts accompanied by a spiced vinegar dip. This was one fat spring roll and I had trouble eating it gracefully. It was easier to cut with a knife and fork. The spring roll pastry was crispy and there was plenty of crunchy filling inside. The vinegar dip wasn’t overly spicy and I loved the sourness of it with the spring roll. A great start to the night.
Course 2 – ampalaya at hipon – bitter melon salad with chilli-calamansi dressing and garlic prawns. I’m not a fan of bitterness so this wasn’t my favourite dish. The bitterness really came through, as well as the sourness of the calamansi dressing. Probably too powerful a combination for my palate but J seemed to like it. I loved the prawns and wanted more of them.
Course 3 – manga, singkamas at manok – grilled chicken with mango-jicama salad in shrimp paste dressing. The grilled chicken was my favourite protein of the night. It was so succulent with a delicious charred BBQ skin. More please! The salad was also refreshing and tasted just like papaya salad with a bit of onion and tomato mixed in.
To our surprise, fresh coconuts were given to every diner to drink the juice. The smarter of the pack asked the kitchen staff whether the coconut could be hacked in half to scoop out the yummy coconut meat inside.
Course 4 – talong at bagnet – grilled eggplant salad with crispy fried pork belly. After the palate cleanser of coconut juice, we headed into the heavier dishes. There was plenty of pork crackling on my plate. A lot more crackling to meat ratio in fact! I’m not a huge fan so I left most of this on the plate for others to pick at. The eggplant salad was very different and like nothing I’d tasted before – quite smokey, not too slimy and a unique accompaniment to the pork.
Course 5 – labanos at sardinas – fried sardines with soy-pickled radish. Three crispy fried sardines were piled on the plate, head and all. We were encouraged to eat the whole thing. Even though I tried the whole sardine, the thought of eating the head put me off, so I only ate the middle bits of the next two sardines. I loved the crispiness and the not-too-fishy flavour. The pickled radish was delicious with a nice balance of sweet and sour. Put together, the dish worked really well.
Course 6 – itlog na maalat, kangkong at tapa – salted egg and water cabbage salad with pan fried garlic soy marinated beef. This was my least favourite dish as I found it far too salty for my liking. The saltiness of the salted egg was just too powerful for me to enjoy it. The beef was also heavily salty so I left most of this on the plate. It doesn’t help that I’m not that into salty food.
Course 7 – abukado – creamy avocado flavoured ice candy. I had no idea what to expect. Out came a green icy pole. We snipped off the top and began to lick. I can’t describe it. It was very creamy from the blended milk and sweet so that I could only taste a hint of avocado. This is a popular Filipino dessert and I’m glad I got to try it that night. There were also plenty of jokes that night about it looking like an alien condom when finished.
Course 8 – leche flan – a Filipino version of creme caramel. Surprisingly, I could only finish a quarter of this small dessert. It was quite rich, thick and extremely creamy covered in a wonderful glaze. I loved the flavour and the others at the table had no trouble polishing it off.
The wait staff were friends of the owners who kindly gave up their night to serve us food and collect dishes. How nice is that? I loved the whole setting from the beautiful flowers to the personalised name plates. There were also heaters inside to keep us warm. Kim was so welcoming and hilarious on the night.
The pop-up dinners are on once a month. Check their Facebook page for upcoming dinners and for bookings. The November dinner was already sold out and there were a few spots left for December 14 dinner at the time of writing this post. The dinners are $65 per person and the menu changes each month so you won’t know what you’re going to get.
Lolo and Lola can be found at Westside Acton Park (shipping container village) at 3 Barrine Drive. Open Thursday to Sunday from 11.30am (and there’s usually already a queue at opening time) to 5pm unless they sell out. The menu changes daily.
If you like your Filipino food and don’t mind being surprised, it’s worth trying 🙂
If you want more random photos and updates about food, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram