For those looking for a cozy place to spend with their family while having an amazing meal, Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe has the perfect, homey atmosphere and a menu that will surely not leave you wanting. It’s the perfect mix of “like Grandma used to make” combined with high-class quality food that is appealing to both the eyes and tongue.
When you pull up to Mateo’s, you’ll see that the restaurant is built inside a house. With real plants outside and vines hanging around, it’s a great break from the usual chaotic concrete vibe of Manila. It feels like you’re coming home, and it’ll be a place you want to come home to.
Entering the cafe, the first thing that I noticed was the mismatched china plates. It made me remember my grandmother, who had a collection of these pretty plates hanging on the wall, and I absolutely loved that every plate was unique. The restaurant itself somehow was both homey and high-end, and with the subtle Christmas decorations placed around the area, it really is the perfect place to have a nice holiday dinner.
The menu is primarily a mix of Spanish and Filipino food, with a few unique offerings that you won’t find anywhere else. I was curious about the reason behind the menu choices, so I got a little bit of backstory on the restaurant. Named after the grandfather of the chef, Mateo was a Spaniard who came to the Philippines and fell in love with a Filipina woman. He ended up staying in the Philippines and even served in the war as a member of the Hukbalahap. He passed away a long time ago, but his memory lives on through his family who loves to cook and have combined the two cultures, Spanish and Filipino, into one delicious cuisine.
To start off, we had a couple of drinks. My husband had the Dalandan Basil Juice(120php) while I had Mateo’s Frozen Sangria(200php). Of course, I stole a sip of his unique beverage to taste and even though it had seemed like an odd combination, the combination of herb and citrus flavors made for a very refreshing beverage!
The sangria, on the other hand, was a rich, fruity blended wine that had just enough sweetness to it.
Next, to start off our meal we had Mateo’s Garden Salad(250php). Far from boring, this was a beautiful salad that had cherry tomatoes, peach slices, kesong puti, and was drizzled with a soft raspberry vinaigrette. I really enjoyed the flavor of the juicy tomatoes, and the sweet peaches really rounded the whole dish out. The raspberry vinaigrette was absolutely perfect for me as well, I’ve always preferred light vinaigrette dressing for salad to thicker dressings like ranch or thousand islands. The flavors balanced out perfectly and it was absolutely delicious!
After the salad, we were served our tapas, Spanish appetizers. We dug into the Baked Oysters(250php) first of all, and were delighted! There was a thin layer of cheese melted into the oyster, and it complimented the meat of the oyster well.
What I appreciated about this dish was that the cheese had a very light flavor and didn’t overwhelm the taste of the oyster like another choice of cheese might have.
The Spinach and Mushroom Quesadillas(195php) were next, and one of my favorite dishes of the day. Served with fresh salsa and sour cream on the side, the quesadillas were perfect. They were just thick enough to be filling, but not too much to be considered as more than an appetizer.
When I saw the sour cream on the side, I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant. A lot of restaurants in Manila serve a garlicky sour cream type sauce that doesn’t really taste like sour cream is meant to, and I was so used to that by now that I was expecting this to be the same. Much to my delight, this was real sour cream, no strange garlic spin-off of it, it was exactly the flavor that I hope for when I eat it.
Finally, our main courses started arriving! We were amazed by the presentation of every dish. The food all looked so beautiful that it almost hurt to start eating it. Usually, when it comes to food presentation, your average restaurant will do one of two things – either the food will look great and taste bland, or look messy but taste great. That was certainly not the case here as the food truly tasted as good as it looked.
For our rice, we had the Spanish Chicken and Seafood Paella(875php). The menu says good for 3-4 persons and you can actually believe that, there was just two of us dining here and we were only able to finish half of it, as much as we wanted to eat more. It was very aesthetically pleasing and topped with shrimp, mussels, clams, and more, it was even good enough to stand on its own without being paired with a main dish. The Spanish rice dish was filled with rich flavors and yummy spices and it was thoroughly enjoyed, easily the highlight of our meal.
Go on to page 2 to see what other delicious food Mateo’s Restaurant Cafe offers!