The proliferation of coffee shops in the metro makes it difficult for one to stand out among all the others, especially the cafés with the big, green umbrellas dominating the scene. One has to be really special to be noticeable. Such is the case of The Room Upstairs, which is an all-in-one design-retail-coffee shop—probably the only one in the whole city.
This idea came about with the merging of two passions. The husband and wife team of Ari and Pinky Peralta combined their interests in food, as well as furniture and interior design, respectively. I had a chance of setting foot on the store recently, thanks to the generous lunch invitation from the couple, and the store’s marketing head Karla Licuanan. Even if The Room Upstairs has been around since 2006, it was my first time to check it out and to try their café specialties.
The design space
At first glance, the store’s interior might look intimidating with its fine furniture pieces and home accessories. But as I stepped inside, I noticed that some people were seated at the dining sets that were on display. Apparently, the store uses some of the sets for its café customers and furniture clients. It’s not the typical furniture store where most of the items have a sign that says “For display only”; people can actually touch and feel the display items in The Room Upstairs. I chose a table that was near the café counter and settled there so I can get an almost full view of the space.
Simple and elegant decor
Furnishings on sale
While I settled down and waited for my hosts to join me for lunch, I glanced around the room and observed the pieces on display. I saw a couple of elegant chandeliers, classy living room and dining sets, lovely lamps, magnificent mirrors, and other modern-looking décor that would make any home fashionable. I thought that it was a really nice setting for my lunch that day.
The cafe's signature sandwiches
(Organic) lunch is served
The attentive waiter handed me a one-page menu that has a simple food list of classic pasta favorites, signature sandwiches, paninis, soups, salads, and desserts. Aside from the simplicity of its menu, what impressed me about the café is that it serves organically grown produce from the couple’s own farm in Alfonso, Cavite. Pinky tells me that she regularly goes to their farm every weekend, which earned her the moniker “The Weekend Farmer.” They grow their own vegetables, herbs, and even raise their own chicken. Knowing this information helped me decide on what to eat for lunch then.
Freshly prepared kani salad
To start off, I ordered two highly recommended appetizers—the Kani salad (P190 single serving, P290 for sharing) and the assorted bruschetta (P140). The salad has a good mix of Grand Rapids lettuce, Kani sticks, corn kernels, and cucumber, which was served with a Japanese-inspired dressing on the side. Although I was given a full plate of salad, I find myself finishing every morsel because the dressing made a lot of difference. It went perfectly well with the fresh veggies; it wasn’t too sweet, nor too tangy, it was just right.
Assorted bruschetta appetizer
The bruschetta is something that’s definitely meant for sharing, as I couldn’t finish six slices of toasted baguette with different toppings. To whet my appetite I opted to taste the one with the milkfish paté. It was creamy and it had a nice mild flavor. The other slices were topped with pesto and tomato marina dip. In between bites, I was able to chat with Pinky who mentioned that they do change the furnishings and décor from time to time. It’s possible that there might be some modification in the set-up next time I go there. She also said that she handles the design and retail aspect of the store, while Ari takes the lead with the café’s food. Despite having no formal culinary training, he was able to conceptualize the entire food menu on his own.
It's all about the presentation, and the herbed chicken sandwich is the star
I was barely able to catch my breath when the waiter brought my main dish—herbed chicken sandwich (P190). I felt like eating a light lunch, which is why I ordered one of their signature sandwiches, not to mention the fact that the chicken came from the family farm. The meat was placed in between two slices of ciabatta bread that was soft and chewy to the bite—just the way I like my bread. The flavor of the roasted chicken was enhanced by the aioli, and the cassava chips that came with the dish gave a crunchy feel to the meal. Throughout lunch, I kept on taking sips of my citrus lemongrass iced tea (P90 glass, P225 pitcher), which is actually made with organic lemongrass.
Refreshing lemongrass iced tea
Of course I cannot leave without ordering some dessert. I always need to end my meal on a sweet note. Even though I felt like I didn’t have room for dessert, I just had to try their sugar-free cherry cheesecake. It was light and fluffy so I felt less guilty for indulging in such sweet treat.
Sugar-free cherry cheesecake
Coffee and dessert--the perfect combination
What’s nice about this particular place is the experience of eating dishes inspired by local farm produce while amidst nice and elegant furnishings. If I didn’t feel so full, I would’ve tried their other pasta favorites like the Vigan longganisa in cream sauce, but I suppose there’s always next time.