Dining in style and comfort at Cafe 1771

Posted at 07/07/11 12:31 PM

Cafe 1771's Whimsy (left) and Lounge (right) aim to suit different moods. Photos courtesy of Cafe 1771 

MANILA, Philippines - Cafe 1771 may be the ideal place for people with fickle minds and ever changing moods.

Not that I'm saying it's a bad thing, though -- I've always enjoyed eating in this refurbished restaurant at El Pueblo (which used to be the classy and sophisticated Chateau 1771) in Pasig City since it opened around March last year.

Chateau's newest baby has 3 beautifully designed areas, allowing customers to have a different experience in each visit. The main room, called Whimsy, is done in blue, white and pink, and is dotted with cute chairs and an artful display of plates.

To the left is the Lounge, an area that looks like a quaint library complete with different kinds of books, long green curtains and an assortment of chairs.

Occupying the second floor is the dimly lit Winebar where customers, mostly employees at nearby offices such as the Asian Development Bank, can hang out late at night and sip good wine.

"We wanted a multi-concept property so if you get tired of one, you still have a choice," said Chef Vicky Pacheco, one of the major forces behind Cafe 1771. She has been with the Chateau Group for more than 2 decades.

She added, "We want to create an experience [so customers will] come back. We want to target every mood."

Pacheco called the one-year-old restaurant a "cafe with an attitude," reiterating her disdain for cookie-cutter operations.

She said it's highly unlikely that Cafe 1771 will have another branch as this may cause it to "lose its soul."

Comfort food

Pacheco's menu, a combination of 1771 signatures and new items, is just as comforting as the restaurant's high grandfather chairs.

The walnut chicken salad and the organic chicken in potato crust, she said, are among the restaurant's bestsellers -- and rightly so.

The 2 dishes are simple yet satisfying, and it's no surprise that people, including myself, can order these again and again.

Cafe 1771's organic chicken in potato crust. Photo by Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com 

Other noteworthy dishes include the salmon lasagna, sauteed sea bream and the Valrhona chocolate ganache tart, which, unfortunately, is no longer served here.

"No, but we have Rose Noire," Pacheco said, adding that Chateau 1771 at Greenbelt 5 in Makati City still has the said dessert.

The chef was referring to Rose Noire which, I learned later, is rich Valrhona dark chocolate cake with Cafe 1771's signature glaze on top of a delightfully crunchy crust.

The description alone made me want to try it out and see if it matches the restaurant's heavenly ganache tart. Maybe on my next visit.

Cafe 1771's Rose Noir cake. Photo courtesy of Cafe 1771 

Speaking of dessert, Cafe 1771 has a lot of them: apple crumble, banana cake, strawberry cheesecake, choco-caramel mousse cake, St. Honoré cake, madeleines (small sponge cakes in shell-like shapes), palmiers (puff pastry in palm and butterfly shapes), cookies and macarons (a sweet confectionery made with egg whites and sugar, usually filled with buttercream).

"We change our cakes every day," Pacheco said.

Charming breakfast

Pacheco also gave her own twist to morning treats as she showed Cafe 1771's new breakfast items.

The menu, which mainly targets busy executives and people on the go, is a mix of Filipino and Western tastes. The most popular dishes include hole-in-one corned beef, tinapang bangus flakes (milkfish smoked and finely flaked), huevos rancheros (a Mexican egg dish) and egg Florentine in a boat (a puff pastry boat stuffed with spinach and topped with ham or smoked salmon, poached egg and hollandaise sauce).

Pacheco's favorite, however, is the thick sour cream pancakes smothered with caramelized bananas and candied walnut.

"That has got to be my favorite," she said, smiling.

Clockwise from top left: huevos rancheros, hole-in-one corned beef, freshly baked breads and fruit parfait. Photos courtesy of Cafe 1771 

Pacheco said El Pueblo has a good market for breakfast customers, especially since more and more people are looking for quiet places to eat and fill up.

She admitted, however, that plenty of work needs to be done to attract people to their restaurant to start their day, thus the new offerings.

"Not many people eat breakfast here for routine...Maybe we'll have a Sunday brunch," she said.

Within a year, Cafe 1771 has managed to attract a lot of old and new customers with its bright, stylish interiors and homey food, and it's no surprise if the restaurant will soon succeed as a breakfast destination in El Pueblo.

E-mail the author at [email protected] Visit her food blog at http://asliceofkeix.blogspot.com.