New eats: Bench Cafe puts a stylish spin on Pinoy food

Photo by Jeeves de Veyra

By Joko Magalong-De Veyra/abs-cbn.com – The food business is not new to Bench, having brought foreign concepts like French patisserie Paul, Japanese cheesecake purveyor Pablo, and tonkatsu shop Maisen to our shores.

As one of the known “game-changers” in the Philippines, it wasn’t surprising that Bench would eventually create a homegrown food concept, and last month, it launched the Bench Café at its flagship store at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City.

What was surprising was that Bench actually attached its name to this new concept, which can either boost or damage one of the country’s most iconic brands.

Bench, however, padded the odds to its favor by finding a partner in Foodee Global Concepts, the group hehind Tim Ho Wan, Todd English, Fo’od, Pound, and Tsuta Ramen, among others.
The cafe’s menu was created by Foodee’s new corporate chef (and former “The Biggest Loser” contestant) Carlo Miguel of Draft Gastropub.

In line with Bench’s “Love Local” campaign, it offers Filipino food. But chances are the dishes are nothing like the ones served at your favorite Filipino restaurant.

So what would food from a café by Bench taste like?

Truthfully, I half expected them to serve hipster food that looks good but doesn’t really hit the spot, especially in terms of the comfort that Filipino food brings — all fluff, no substance, and usually at a hefty price too.

That’s why when I was handed a clipboard menu with an introduction that read, “Bench Café updates our favorite dishes by fusing Filipino with Filipino, bringing traditions from all over the islands to create a bold character that is undeniably distinct,” I squirmed a little.

Guests are greeted by a bright room, light wood all around, white brick walls, hip artwork of pigs, fish and other ingredients with backgrounds of pinks and blues, a checkered floor, drop lights in gold and black, and in one corner, you see the back part of the store’s LED sign — Bench in mirror reverse. This is indeed a very trendy-looking restaurant.

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