We can never get enough of cafés especially when they serve all-day breakfast. There’s comfort in knowing that you can order an Eggs Benny after 10:30 a.m., and if there is one place that serves a killer Eggs Benedict, it’s The Social, an Australasian/European café with dishes that have equally great quality and quantity.
Portions are massive in this spacious restaurant on the roof deck of Ayala Center Cebu’s new expansion area; it has an eclectic menu from appys and handmade pizzas to share-over drinks, to pastas and burgers for power lunches.
Our favorites include the crispy calamari and pizza bread basket with homemade dips for starters; chicken curry with okra, potato and steamed rice; seafood risotto; and the fittingly named Three Little Pigs pizza, which is packed with home-cured bacon, honey-baked ham and pepperoni.
No matter how stuffed we are, we always leave room for dessert, and rightly so, because the resto’s banana fritters coated in cinnamon sugar served with ice cream, and the chocolate fondant with rocky road ice cream and caramel, are simply glorious.
Just a bit of advice, though: dress roomy when you go. You’ll need the extra waistline when you leave.
The Social is Singapore-based Tadcaster Hospitality’s first venture in the Philippines, the same group behind some of the Lion City’s trendiest establishments such as the casual all-day dining mecca Café Melba, Molly Malone’s Irish pub, and the fun and vibrant gastrobar Bull and Bear.
Tadcaster Hospitality Group executive chef and New Zealand native Kacey Whaitiri-Roberts designed The Social menu, inspired by childhood memories of his homeland and Sydney, where he also spent some time. He has also incorporated a bit of local flavor in the menu, including crispy pork belly done his way. It’s served on a bed of pickled purple cabbage, lentils and applesauce.
Leading the open kitchen’s 16-person team is bright-eyed senior sous chef Joan Elaine Chiang. Born in Malaysia to a Chinese-Filipino mother and Malaysian-Chinese father, Joan is a refreshing sight in a male-dominated culinary industry.
“Both my parents were in the hotel and restaurant industry so I was always exposed to good food,” says the cheerful 29-year old. “My mom is a good cook, even if she doesn’t think so. I love her chicken and pork adobo as well as her tocino. When I was 11, I made up my mind that I wanted to be a chef one day. Now, I cannot imagine a life without cooking.”
At age 24, with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism from Taylor’s College in Malaysia (affiliated with Academie de Toulouse, France), Joan moved to Singapore, where she began her professional culinary journey. She joined the Tadcaster group as junior sous chef for Café Melba before she was offered to take the lead at The Social.
“I’m really proud of the menu at The Social,” she says. “The food is fresh and wholesome… I really believe in making good, nourishing meals, and that always starts with using the best possible ingredients which we source locally from farmers and vegetable markets. We buy our seafood directly from local fishmongers. Our lentils and fresh herbs are organic.
“The most rewarding thing about being a chef is being able to bring people together at a table and letting them have a great time. Without good food and drinks in front of them, they wouldn’t be sitting together, talking for hours.”
Overseeing the service for The Social’s mixed clientele—ladies who lunch, power brokers, the trendy set, curious tourists, shoppers who are taking a break—is operations manager Jimmy Domingo, who also supervises the bar.
“We put as much importance on our beverages as we do on the food,” says Jimmy. “Aside from carefully crafted coffees, we spent a lot of time developing our signature cocktails like the Cebu Cosmos, which is made with Stoli cranberry, Cointreau, mango juice and soda water, and the Social Butterfly, which packs a punch with Malibu rhum, crème de cassis, calamansi juice and soda.”
A restaurant and café by day, The Social transforms into a lounge after dinner with softer, sexier lighting, and Cebu’s best DJs taking turns at the decks.
The urban industrial feel of New York is the inspiration for The Social’s interiors, brought to life by Cebuana architect/contractor Elise Ezpeleta-Demiar. Concrete slabs and distressed bricks surround the walls, and black-pipe chandeliers punctuate the raw ceiling of cement beams and exposed airconditioning ducts.
A graffiti wall made by the local street artist collective UBEC crew adds color and character to the masculine interiors, while sleek chairs and bar stools in tomato-red upholstery add warmth to the otherwise cool industrial feel. Both ends of the multilevel space offer plush, tufted leather benches along the walls, and a well-stocked, two-sided bar is easily accessible to patrons inside the restaurant and those at the large al fresco area.
The Social, 4/F Ayala Center Cebu Business Park; open 11 a.m. to 12 midnight Sundays- Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays; tel. 2310679