I remember reading once there are two types of people in this world: people who think Christmas begins on November 1 and people who think anything before December 23 is too early. And they inevitably end up together.
While this social media musing is definitely not in the realm of any real demographic discovery, as we stepped into Lolo and Lola during the first weekend of November, nothing felt more accurate than this statement.
With Christmas carols playing on a loop and decorations filling the walls of this Watson Filipino eatery, the festive season has arrived early. Much to my delight. And my partner? While he was happy I was happy, he was questioning the festive tone. A quick Google and we discovered the Christmas season begins in September in the Philippines.
One thing my partner and I can agree on, however, is that we are keen to try some great Filipino food. We've both heard great things and are eager to cross Lolo and Lola off our bucket list of Canberra eateries.
We sit down at our table and pull out our phones to scan the QR code to bring up the menu and order. I'm always in two minds about society's newly found appreciation for the QR code, especially in the hospitality industry. Every time I use one, I think back to a time pre-COVID when it was an outdated technology. And now - well it's come back stronger than a '90s trend. And I can see the use for it in some eateries - places like Lolo and Lola where there is a casualness to it.
Where it really works in Lolo and Lola's favour, however, is in highlighting just how quick the service is. My phone has just finished - slowly - loading the "your order is now complete" page (perhaps a sign of the Optus outage that was soon to follow?) and all of our food has landed on our table.
I start with the Pinoy barbecue ribs ($25). Slow-cooked and grilled, these pork baby back ribs with thick banana barbecue sauce look exactly how mouth-wateringly good ribs should look. The type with a slight sheen on them from the sticky sauce that just makes you want to dig in with your hands. Being pork ribs, there's not a whole lot of meat on these bones but what is there, is cooked beautifully. The sauce has a nice sweetness to it, with just a hint of smokiness that makes the ribs moreish.
I move on to the atchara salad ($18) - a mix of pickled green papaya and vegetables on a bed of salad greens. It's a fairly simple salad - the pickled elements are maybe outweighed by the salad greens which is a little disappointing, but this is still a great salad for anyone who loves a pickled element in their food. It has that zingy tang and goes well with some of the richer food on our table.
Next up we have the chicken barbecue skewers ($15) which are marinated in that same banana sauce used on the pork. However, what I think the ribs had going for it over the chicken was the quantity of the sauce. Those same moreish elements in the ribs were a little lost on the chicken and it was slightly tough. That being said, it was served with a spiced vinegar dip on the side which helped to elevated it.
Rounding out our savouries for this evening is Lola's Kare-Kare - braised beef with vegetables in peanut-annatto sauce with a side of shrimp paste ($21.50). This dish was a little perplexing and didn't mesh quite right for me.
Firstly the beef itself was overcooked and didn't seem to take on any of the flavours of the stew's sauce. And while most of the vegetables worked quite well in the sweet nuttiness of the sauce, the bok choy tasted as if it had been pickled before being put in the stew and it was a little jarring. The hero here, though, was the shrimp paste. When added to the beef and vegetables it added this brilliant saltiness that went some way to saving the dish.
We finish the night with buko pie crumble ($9.50) which I notice is not on this week's menu - one of the downsides of a restaurant that changes its menu weekly. If it ever makes an appearance again, make sure to get it. It's a slightly warmed creamy coconut custard and young coconut meat-filled pie topped with streusel.
I'm a big pie fan and wholeheartedly believe that pies are better than cakes. But this is one of the most surprising pies I've eaten. Coconut always feels like a cold, tropical-type dessert, but used here felt like a bit of a warm hug in dessert form, while still not feeling too heavy in the flavour profile.
Perhaps it was just the Christmas decorations that were surrounding us, but it almost felt like something you could have as part of a festive feast.
Either way though, next time I want to celebrate Christmas early, I'm going to be heading to Lolo and Lola.
There's a little bit of Christmas magic here that I'm sure must last the whole year round.
Address: 3 Watson Place, Watson
Phone: 0487 908 485
Hours: Lunch, Saturday and Sunday, sittings at 11am and 12.30pm; Dinner, Thursday to Sunday, sittings at 5pm and 6.30pm
Chef: Jay Prieto
Noise: Not too bad
Dietary: Limited options
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