According to the real estate and business website Restaurant Brokers, 90 percent of independent restaurants close after the first year due to insufficient operating funds and an increasingly competitive environment.
Thus, style maven and restaurateur Trish Panlilio had reason to celebrate. She recently raised her champagne glass as Mulberry Door at 8 Forbestown hurdled its first year.
“Fortunately, we have been received very well and (we) continue to do so,” she said. She explained certain factors had worked in Mulberry Door’s “favor,” such as the “manageable space (that was) easy to fill up,” private bookings such as birthdays, showers and corporate meetings since “people love the interiors and the charming ambience.”
“Most important,” she added, “we have had continuous favorable feedback of clients both regular and new enjoying luxe comfort food at its finest.”
The interior suggests a French country house, replete with moldings, plants, trompe-l’oeil finishes and subdued hues.
Old World hurricane lamps, crystal chandeliers, country cabinets and wooden-cane backed chairs play against the sophistication of striped velvet sofas and round-backed upholstered chairs.
Food is served in floral-printed plates. The ambience is elegant yet imbued with home-spun coziness.
The cuisine is about time-honored favorites slathered with indulgent ingredients. Mulberry Door is famous for its paella dishes, particularly the crab fat and chicharon crumbles and the squid ink or “negra” version.
Guests clamor for familiar “luxe comfort food” such as the rich garlic and crab fat linguini, Matteo’s lamb burger and Nawwty rib-eye.
Guests are welcomed with refreshing juices such as cucumber apple and watermelon.
Among the new dishes are spaghetti puttanesca, embotido pan de sal, grilled ham sandwich with raspberry sauce and homemade taro chips, chicken galantine with mashed potatoes and buttered vegetables.
The cocktail menu is popular among the young. The herb-infused frozen sangria with lychee liqueur and the fruity vodka-infused lychee martini are best sellers, while the pumpkin, dude with coffee and pumpkin liqueur and chocolate caters to chocoholics who want a kick.
On a quiet dinner, you can have a roasted marrow onion soup, followed by lemon carbonara or porcini pasta and prawns thermidor with sensuous cream cheese sizzles on a hot plate.
The osso buco and risotto are for people who want their meat and rice.
The homemade flan from Nawwty’s Kitchen, and the sticky toffee pudding evoke memories of intimate family dining at home.
Panlilio said cooking vegetarian meals and healthy options was challenging. “As a carnivore, I confess to indulging in decadent, hearty and, at times, unhealthy choices,” she said. “Hey, you live one life! Eat what you care to eat and practice restraint at times.”
Still, the restaurant is flexible enough to modify the recipes to the guest’s requirements. One vegetarian diner had a filling dish of couscous with mixed vegetables and micro greens.
“Nevertheless, our dishes are simple,” Panlilio said. “We are neither fine dining nor fusion. We are familiar, homey and comforting. There will always be something for someone to enjoy.”
Panlilio explained that Mulberry Door is under its mother company, Nawwty’s Kitchen, an a la carte food service which branched out to catering.
Panlilio also organizes the Gourmand Market, a weekend market of products from upcoming cooks and bakers. She also maintains her Papillo Fine Stationers, which offers personalized paper products for all occasions, and Lavender Porch Flower Shop.
Aside from dining well, travel is one of her favorite indulgences. Panlilio enjoys shopping for tableware in quaint places.
“When we started catering four years ago, we introduced china, glassware and styling options which weren’t conventional,” she said. “They were colored, patterned, vintage and novel.”
Her best travel memento? Cliché as it may sound, but the best are the memories that I bring back home, especially when I travelled with my boys.”—CONTRIBUTED