Monday, 21 April 2014

Bubble Tea and Merienda in Notting Hill

I was thinking I'm probably the only Filipino in the whole of the UK who hasn't been to LAKWATSA (pronounced Lach-wa-cha), a Filipino-owned bubble tea lounge that opened in December 2012. So, Mr Tittle-Tattles and I finally drove to Notting Hill to sample some home away from home.

In a feature for Marie Claire UK, lakwatsa was translated to English as 'to chill.' The word though literally means truancy if we are to refer to its original use as a term for skipping school (I've done a fair bit of that). I'd say, to go for a lakwatsa is to gallivant, after which you end up somewhere to chill or hang out. We don't have a drinking culture, so chilling out means having a merienda or a light meal taken between lunch and dinner (sometimes even between breakfast and lunch), accompanied by refreshing non-alcoholic drinks. Think afternoon tea sans the builder's tea and digestives.

Philippine cuisine is a fusion of Malay, Spanish, Chinese, Taiwanese, other Asian influences, and American, so the menu will come across as a confused Southeast Asian who couldn't make up their mind, which is not unusual as we love to eat.

 As Lakwatsa is a lounge that serves merienda, the food menu is as small as the portions. 

 Lakwatsa is marketed as a bubble tea lounge and they do serve up a wide selection.

 Old crates as seats, made comfy with cushions accentuated with leather

 The owner loves hammocks, but they won't work in a small space for dining, so swings are the next best thing.

 Lumpiang Shanghai (spring rolls stuffed with pork and prawns served with sweet chilli sauce) on the left; and Tiger Prawn Tempura on the right

I originally wanted Mr Tittle-Tattles to try siopao (steamed bun with pork barbeque or chicken filling) but it was out of stock. I've read about punters complaining about this issue on Trip Advisor, but I didn't feel the need to give grief about it. I might though, on my third visit.

 Taro (with its signature purple colour) milk assam black tea with tapioca pearls, served in a jar

 Bubble tea is of Taiwanese provenance but a staple refreshment in the Philippines where sago (a starch extracted from the spongy centre of various tropical palm stems) pearls have always been used in desserts. Here, tapioca pearls which come from cassava, are used instead.

Zagu, on the left, is a brand of pearl shake we've been enjoying in the Philippines since 1999. On the right is a traditional Philippine street food called tahô which consists of silken tofu, caramelized brown sugar made viscous with water, and sago pearls.

Adobo sticky rice balls topped with crunchy garlic and chicken strips with a side dip made of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and pepper. Adobo is a signature Philippine dish that consists of pork or chicken or both, marinated and stewed in soy sauce, sugar cane vinegar, garlic, peppercorn, and bay leaf. Yum!

Vegetable spring rolls served with a vinegar and crushed pepper dip

We chose turon or banana fritters for dessert. Turon is made up of a thinly sliced cooking banana or Cardaba banana, a slice of jackfruit, dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring roll wrapper, then fried. Ice cream on the side is an optional modern twist.

If it was any warmer, halo-halo (a hodgepodge of shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans, coconut jelly, jackfruit, leche flan, and vanilla ice cream) would have been the choice hands down. I highly recommend this cold dessert described as most bizarre by Victoria Stewart on her write-up for London Evening Standard (click HERE to read the article), or even 'oddly beautiful' on the Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown food and travel show

LAKWATSA's menu is perfect as an introductory fare to foodies who haven't tried Philippine cuisine before. We have a taste for big portions of a bold combination of salty, sweet, and sour for our mains that it would be a shock to palates accustomed to more bland served-by-course varieties. 

Lovely owner Claire talks through Lakwatsa's bubble tea varieties with some customers who just walked in when we were about to leave. On the wall are the menu clipboards and framed articles about her and the lounge as published in Vogue, Marie Claire, and London Evening Standard.

The lounge is exactly in the same street where the travel book shop in the famous movie was based.

I'll surely be back in summer to have more of the cold drinks and bring along some friends. Come and visit next time you're in town :)

7 Blenheim Crescent
Notting Hill
W11 2EE


  1. Looks amazing! I might just have to make a trip over to Notting Hill. Thanks for the heads up on this. x

    1. You're welcome. Pop in if you have a show near the area x

  2. Oh wow, will have to check out articles and reviews on this also! Thank you for sharing this lovely article and photo essay.

    If and when I do manage to go to London, can we go there? Looks delish! I love when Filipino food is mainstreamed but presented in a way that makes it all the more enticing for others to explore! Looks cozy also. Thank you for sharing. Just the same, when in NY, got a few places to share like Maharlika, Jeepney NYC (featured in the Day Time show that Chef Mario Battalli is a part of), Purple Yam, Uni Nom and Kuma Inn amongst others!

    1. Absolutely! The ones in New York are of course in my list, too when I pop over. Thanks for leaving a comment here. Would love to see you more here! :)

  3. Completely mouthwatering! I didn't read the menu in detail because I'd be so hungry and craving food. I like small cosy places like this one.

    1. Come and visit next time you are in London. They have open mics and special meals on Sundays when they serve mains :) I did think of you coz I know you're such a foodie.

  4. As much as I love food, I am also very fussy; I don't like spicy foods so some Caribbean and Asian cuisine is right off my radar but sweet and sour flavours I love (that's why I love Haribos lol) so I'm quite confident I'd enjoy this - the Adobo sounds delicious! As for the bubble tea I looked it up on Google and it described different variants: milk or fruit or a combination of both. I love making smoothies with fruit and/or milk and yoghurt and although I don't like typical tea, I think the milk and fruit combo would do the trick. I'd ask for it without sugar or syrup though unless I was treating myself. Such a quaint little cafe. Have a good week x

    1. I know you are fussy. Hahaha. Not quite near Haribos, but I'm very glad you're thinking of trying it. Adobo is our unofficial national stew :) Maybe you can make your own healthy bubble tea recipes. I'd be among the first ones to queue! x

  5. I'm sure we walked past Lakwatsa the last time we were in Notting Hill but we were rushing to catch the train back home. Having read your post, I'm now dtermined to try it next time we visit especially since you have described the dishes so well and I already now know what to order! Lumpiang Shanghai and Adobo followed by Turon certainly appeals to me and of course I'd try the bubble tea too. Great informative post!

    1. Ahh...another foodie here. I thought of you and Anouka coz you're both not afraid to try local dishes in your travels. Do pop in next time you're in town. Thanks for your comment as always :)

  6. Oh, I have not been here, but will put it on my list next time. The food looks good as well.

  7. Wow! A Filipino-owned eatery in London, plus some bubble tea and Filipino food offerings at that! Now, that's a place that I would definitely visit, should I see myself in London. :)


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