Almost a two-hour drive from Manila, Antipolo is a town nestled in the Sierra Madres that’s perhaps best known for being home to a Catholic icon called the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. A Mexican black Madonna who arrived on board a galleon in the 17th century, it’s now one of the most venerated religious statues in the Philippines.
Antipolo also happens to be my hometown. I’m aware that its tourists have changed from rosary-clutching pilgrims to upwardly mobile visitors in search of Instagram-worthy eateries. One of the buzziest new openings that is attracting the latter group is the two-month-old underground eatery Burrow Café, a cozy place that attracts both families and smartphone-toting millennials.
Finding the café is painless, even without relying on Google Maps. It’s located along a quiet street in a gated community known as Beverly Hills Subdivision, an appropriate name for a place that used to be thought of as the home of Antipolo’s rich families. Located adjacent to an events venue, it overlooks a narrow stream that — at least for Filipinos’ standards — looks relatively clean.
However, walking to the café from the parking lot is a challenge. Customers have to climb down from a meandering and slippery flight of stairs where the only means of support is a rickety handrail. Senior citizens and children under the age of seven should be extra careful, and wearing heels is a no-no.
And, note to the parents among us: It’s going to be really tough carrying a baby and walk down those stairs, especially on a drizzling day. I only had to carry a handbag where I kept a small camera, phone, and wallet, and yet I feared for my life and limbs.
Sadly, persons with disabilities will be at a disadvantage because there is no wheelchair ramp leading to the café.
If guests can manage to navigate those stairs expertly, they will find themselves on grass-covered grounds, where another flight of stairs could be found that would lead to the underground café. This time, however, there are no railings to hold on to. Customers should use the adjacent wall for support as they walk down the stairs — or risk falling flat on their faces.
As soon as I walked in and saw the interiors of the space, I thought the trouble getting here was worth it. The café is a pleasant-looking space that’s brightly lit, cozied up with warm orange hues, and dotted with those outdoor steel tables and chairs that were once all the rage in 1980s Philippines. The columns and floors were left untreated, and the timber-covered ceiling adds more oomph to the rustic feel. Children — if they survive that dangerous flight of stairs — will enjoy hanging out at a section where hanging fabric swings and a bamboo mat could be found.
It’s certainly a comfortable space. Unlike other cafés that are cluttered with too many tables and chairs, guests at the Burrow can move around freely, unencumbered.
Once your attention turns to the food, you’ll notice that the menu’s offerings are limited. There are only five breakfast dishes (excluding the sides), and seven lunch options. Desserts are five and salads are two. For me, it makes choosing easier, but it isn’t necessarily something that other diners would like.
For brunch, I ordered lechon kawali (PHP365/US$6.84), crispy pork belly paired with white rice and beanstalks drizzled with coconut milk. It was wonderfully crunchy. I actually heard the skin crackle when I sunk my teeth into it.
Combining the lechon with the coconut milk-flavored greens was genius. Without the vegetable side dish, the lechon could be too light on flavor, but the restaurant offsets that issue by offering soy sauce to those who want to add it.
I also ordered their Caesar salad (PHP390/USD$7.31). The vegetables were fresh — apparently some of them are sourced from the town’s market — but the dressing lacked that piquant punch that usually comes from the combo of anchovies and garlic.
Some of Burrow’s vegetables were reportedly grown on their grounds. It just might be a small plot of land, though, because I didn’t see anything that looked remotely like a farm when I roamed around the premises.
It was a rainy weekend morning on that day, so I felt it was appropriate to order a cup of piping hot chocolate (PHP150/US$2.81). This version is a tad too sweet for my taste, however, and I later regretted not getting a cup of tea instead.
Something I liked better was the cafe’s tiramisu (PHP160/US$2.99), which had just the right combo of cocoa, sugar, eggs, and mascarpone cheese. The layers didn’t add up to become cloyingly sweet, and this turned out to be one of the better tiramisus I’ve ever had.
Everything I ordered amounted to more than PHP1,100 (more than US$20.63), which is certainly on the pricier side — particularly for a small town in a quiet community.
The service was also… noticeably slow. Note that you’ll be dining and caffeinating at the staff’s own pace, if you decide to come here. It’s just not the kind of place for impatient customers, I guess.
Residents of Manila have a multitude of cafe options to choose from — solid places that are usually cheaper and offer more options in their dining and drink menus. But if they just want to get away from the city’s chaotic mess, then that selection dwindles down dramatically. The food and drink at Burrow are solid, though not good enough that you’d go out of your way for it — but its setting and ultra-chill space is.
Just be prepared to face the soul-crushing traffic first.
Burrow Café is at 113 Beverly Hills Avenue, Beverly Hills Subdivision, Antipolo City
Open from 8am–4pm (Wednesday and Thursday) and 7am–4pm (Friday to Sunday)