If you’re looking for a good reason to drive down Beach Road one day soon, how about brunch at a new cafe called Mantecado in the beachside suburb of Black Rock in Victoria?
The name takes a bit of practice for Aussies to say. Try it: Man-te-ca-do. Notice how the mouth moves with every syllable? There’s a charming staccato rhythm to it.
Mantecado is the Spanish term for a variety of shortbread cookies that include the popular polvoron (raise your hand if you love the Filipino version in plain, crispy rice, cashew, cook-ies and cream, and other flavours). It is also the name of a classic butter-and-vanilla ice cream not only in the Philippines but also Cuba and Puerto Rico.
My husband and I have chosen to name our cafe Mantecado as a nod to our Filipino-Span-ish heritage. We were born in the Philippines, which was a Spanish colony for 400 years. Mollet hails from Cebu, now an international destination known for its exotic dive sites and sweet, golden mangoes, while I am from Manila, the premier city famous for its glorious sun-sets.
We would love for Filipino food to be a part of the culinary mainstream in Australia. I remem-ber writing to the producers of SBS’s Food Safari TV program many years ago about the lack of Filipino food in its content even as other Southeast Asian cuisines were being well represented. I’m happy that such neglect has since been rectified and the show has featured our dishes in several episodes, even publishing our more popular recipes, such as kare kare and halo halo.
There also seems to be a growing appreciation of Filipino food, thanks to influencers on YouTube who have traveled to the Philippines and have shared their delicious discoveries from our city streets and island kitchens. But with international travel seeming to be a remote possibility at the moment, how do we keep up this momentum that has been sparked off in social media?
Well, that is precisely what we aim to do through Mantecado. We want to replicate some form of that foodie experience for Melbourne.
But while a big part of our motivation for Mantecado is to introduce dishes from kitchens in neighbouring Philippines and distant Spain – with a modern Australian twist where appropriate– we also want to appeal to a broad market and bring out new flavours for Aussie food lovers to taste. For this, we find inspiration in the Chinese, Malay, Mexican and American influences on Filipino cuisine, in addition to the Spanish.
Mollet had always dreamed of sharing with others his passion for good food and coffee, so he started out with a small coffee kiosk with no kitchen in Mornington. Now he is feeling really blessed because, in Mantecado, he has a full kitchen where he is teaming up with UK-born head chef Daryl Chapman (formerly of Mercetta) and chef-in-training Michael Silagan, who is from Davao on the southern island of Mindanao.
All three are excited to create an array of delightful creations from fresh ingredients that don’t just look good – Instagram worthy, as they say – but actually taste great, too. From the modern Fish & Chips and Chicken Burger to the scrumptious Lemon & Garlic Grilled Salmon and my favourite Reuben Sandwich, the lunch menu also has something for the vegetarian or healthy eater with the Green Bowl, Warm Mediterranean Salad and the Healthy Stack. The cafe serves all-day breakfast from the seriously Big Brekkie and the most beautiful and fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes to the Smashed Avo, Zucchini and Corn Fritters and the Brekkie Burger.
As we like to say, Mantecado is where east meets west in the south. Our doors are open for dining in, but we also offer outdoor dining options out in front and soon in our done-up court-yard.
As the mouth moves with every syllable when you say Mantecado, so it must with every bite you take of our food – con gusto, we hope. See you soon!
593 Balcombe Road, Black Rock
M: 0452 490 593
Facebook & Instagram: @mantecado.au
Photos in this article: supplied by author