When I used to be a newspaper editor and food columnist several years ago, part of my job was to go to new restaurants and taste their food.

I loved the food columnist part of my job, tasting new food items, meeting the cooks and chefs behind the dishes, and interacting with like-minded people.

While I never gained national recognition, I did enjoy a bit of popularity (or is it notoriety?) within Cebu’s food and beverage industry. I wasn’t exactly on the level of Anton Ego of Ratatouille fame, but some people did say my articles carried some weight among the populace of Cebu.

I thought that those days were long gone, but my interest in food hasn’t waned, and thanks to fellow food lover Matt Cowan and his amazing online magazine The Bureau (thebureauasia.com), my love for both eating and writing has been rekindled.

I’ve always loved discovering new places to dine at and taste new dishes, and lately, I had been looking around for places to write about.

Luckily, I was invited to dine at Café Mezzo at Mezzo Hotel by their marketing communications officer Ian Kristoffer Perater.

Eager to visit the establishment, I gladly accepted his invitation, and lunch turned out to be a mix of Asian and European-inspired dishes.

We started out with Roti Canai, a flatbread that originated in India and is popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Café Mezzo’s version came with a curry-based dip and served pretty well as an appetiser. The flatbread itself was very light, the curry very flavourful, and as a whole, the dish was well-received by everyone.

Aside from being an appetiser, the roti canai can actually be eaten at any time of the day, as a light snack or even as a meal for those on a diet. Be careful, the dip can be pretty addictive.

Second on the list was Café Mezzo’s Thai-inspired Chicken Pomelo Salad sprinkled with a tart vinaigrette. While it tasted fine, I thought it needed more chicken to elevate it to “must-have” status. It’s almost there.

Café Mezzo’s Pork Scordalia is, with all due respect to the chef and cooking staff at Mezzo Hotel, not named properly.

Skordalia is a Greek potato and garlic-based dip, not a meat dish.

However, the dish Mezzo Hotel’s chef presented was actually very delicious, despite the confusion with the name.

The deep-fried pork belly (reminiscent of Lechon Kawali) and the sweet potato mash it came with was also very tasty.

Café Mezzo’s Thermidor was made using prawns instead of lobster, but still tasted very good. Creamy and buttery at the same time, this dish will satisfy those cravings for both seafood and French cuisine.

Beef Bourguignon, a staple of French cuisine, is also available at Café Mezzo.

It’s actually one of the two French dishes I love (the other being cassoulet) and I happen to cook this very well. I have to admit that I am always biased about this dish and while I do cook a mean Bourguignon, in my opinion, only a real Frenchman can cook this dish properly.

Aside from the restaurant, Mezzo Hotel also has a pool bar. Called “Piscine”which in French pertains to “swimming pool”, the name seemed fitting. It serves a variety of cocktails and liquor, and caters to both hotel guests as well as walk-in customers.

The thing I like best about Café Mezzo is that the menu is well thought out. There are only a few items on it, which doesn’t confuse the customer so much. Expansive menus usually overwhelm customers, leading them to ordering more common items instead of being adventurous.

Café Mezzo is also very laid back, with none of that hectic feel you find in most of the city hotels.

In my opinion, it’s a winner, price-wise; a meal will set you back around 1,000 pesos (approx. US$20), and that includes drinks.

It’s pretty hard to find a nice place in Cebu to dine at nowadays, but at Café Mezzo, you’ve got everything you need – good food that’s reasonably priced, good parking, relatively quiet surroundings, and a bar to go to and have one (or even two) for the road.

At Café Mezzo, you can’t go wrong.

The winner is the price of a meal for around US$20

Loving how uncomplicated the menu is

Not getting why the chef named a dish incorrectly

Bring your swimmers for a dip afterwards

Mezzo Cafe is in Mezzo Hotel at F. Cabahung, corner of Pres. Quezon St., Mabolo, Cebu City, Philippines

Words & Photos by Jigs Arquiza

Jigs Arquiza is a journalist-turned-mechanic who lives on the island of Cebu, Philippines. He’s been cooking since he was 12 years old, but refuses to go professional because he doesn’t want to get into arguments about how authentic his food is. You can follow him on Instagram at @eatssogood

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