New Brunch Hub on Katipunan Guarantees a Good Meal Post-Drinking
A brunch invitation from Chef Francis Lim feels a dream. It’s not because the food will most likely be too good to be true—the seasoned chef has, through the years, proven his mettle—but Francis Lim is the hype man/chef behind the kitchens of nocturnal millennial watering hole Tipple & Slaw and the haven for enduring Gen-Xers, the recently reopened Xymaca. He usually wakes up at noon and that's with prodding.
But at 9:30 a.m., the partying chef was already at the premises, apron and burners on. Tipple Café, the naturally lit, flowers-on-the-table departure from the smoky dark halls of the usual Tipple brand, is equal parts industrial and graceful. The large kitchen takes a third of the space, leaving the L-shaped dining area to absorb maximum sunlight. Occupying a two-level corner at Katipunan’s container van complex The Pop Up, the ground floor is made up for brunch while the bar is contained to the second floor—his attempt to separate the drinking crowd from the dining.
The menu is the same, wherever you sit or whatever time you go, however. Lim’s famous shawarma rice can be enjoyed any time of the day—whether it’s with a few bottles of beer or during the wee hours of the day when you’re nursing a headache.
The new menu is a mix of brunch and bar. The chef brings out his signatures: the shawarma rice, of course, and the fried chicken, of which he’s had many variations through the years (from the original Tipple & Slaw to the Birdhouse franchise with the Relish Group). The Katipunan Fried Chicken, or K.F.C., is an old favorite, large pieces of sweet and salty chicken encased in a golden crust and paired with chunky mashed potatoes and chicken rice—as rustic as it is reliable. Lim takes a decidedly more modern turn in the Boneless Peri Chicken, a juicy thing of beauty, patiently marinated in homemade peri-peri sauce and flanked by sheets of addictive chicken skin. It’s hard to argue which one is better.
It’s not the most conventional brunch. There is elote as well as an eggplant salad—which are all excellent options for those who want to stretch their imagination beyond bacon and eggs. He has also come up with a garlic baby squid dish: the squids are as tiny as thumb tacks—and, for a second, it feels almost cruel to eat them, but the salty rich flavors are compelling, especially over a bowl of steaming hot white rice (an extra order).
The brunchiest of the bunch is the Steak Rice, a kind of play on steak and eggs where the usual limp breakfast meat is replaced by generous pieces of sliced hanging tender, a lean cut cooked to a perfect medium rare to guarantee a tender bite. Served in a bowl, the steak comes with umami rice, torched egg yolk, and homemade furikake. There are poke bowls, too, reflective of whatever fish is fresh from the market, but the tuna is an event, should you be able to catch it: fresh and juicy with aioli and roe, and perfect proportions of rice.
By 11 a.m., brunch is over. Ordinarily, Lim's day would just be starting right now, but it's a good thing he's woken up to the realization that morning people need his food too.
Tipple Cafe and Tipple & Slaw are at Pop Up, Katipunan, Quezon City; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.