TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle
Cafe Apolonio is a century-old structure themed restaurant that is open to anyone who would like to have a dining experience in an authentic house of stone of the yesteryears. Built in 1858 during the Spanish era, it was a vintage residence of the Apolonio Perez family. Eventually, the lower floor of the house was converted into a cozy cafe which now stands to provide dining pleasure to everyone while giving a unique genuine ambiance of the bygone generation through the antiquity of the place and makes anyone feels being taken aback to distant past.
Cafe Apolonio entrance
Cafe Apolonio’s Portico
Originally made for the purpose of being a dwelling place, the house turned restaurant has divisions just like any other abodes. One could wonder what each part the restaurant was like before and may imagine its function. A certain part of the restaurant could be the “sala” or living room, rather could be the “cocina” or kitchen, or probably “cuarto” or bedroom. Despite being an old house, the owner managed to maintain its aesthetic and retained its original structure. The second floor is privately used by the owners, while the ground floor is subdivided into different parts and has several dining areas. In actuality a typical Bahay na Bato in the 1800’s had their main living area on the second floor and most Filipinos back then dine upstairs while the ground floor is designed as a “trastero” or “bodega” which serves as a storage area for grains and equipment, as a “sótano” or “silong” or the basement as a working space and “garaje” or garage space.
The restaurant features different dining nooks. The first part is the main dining area, which is mostly open and where customers usually stay. It is surrounded by dark adobe blocks and its ceiling is laced by crocheted mantles. Then there’s another dining area which can be used as a function room as well, wherein if you want to see a glimpse of antique furniture and have a vintage feel of dining in an ancestral house’s living room then this is an option for you. Meanwhile, a main structural attraction which catches the curiosity the most among tourist diners and locals alike is the restaurant’s Arco. It has an arched ceiling which could have been the storage area before. This is actually the defining identity, where the restaurant can be at its most authentic, heritage-style. This area gives you a feel of secretly dining in a century-old tunnel.
Overall the edifice is made of thick old adobe stones. The windows are made of old capiz and wood with stained glass. Hand carved wood of antique design are plastered on the lower walls. Old fixtures and furniture are around the place like vintage cupboard, drawer, antique wrought iron chairs and an old rocking chair where you can freely seat on if you want to. The area is also well ventilated despite being an aged house as their airconditioning is centralized and has several fans on corners should it get warm in the restaurant.
Main dining area
The restaurant also makes the best use of other common areas and turned it into inviting dining areas. For those who want natural fresh air while feeling a provincial surrounding, you could opt for the portico area, where a bench with a table is provided making it a good spot to lounge on while waiting and eating. You may also choose to stay at the “Hardin” or garden in English which is an outdoor shady patio hence giving you an al fresco dining experience and allows you to enjoy feeling like dining at someone else’s backyard.
Portico dining area
Normally it is somewhat expected that when a restaurant is housed in a heritage place thus being considered as special due to the rarity of ambiance it provides the price range for its service can be quite expensive to equal the dining experience it offers. Surprisingly, this is one of the best highlights of this restaurant. It serves local sumptuous delicacies that family and friends can enjoy at an affordable price without compromising its taste. Included in their menu option are budget meals like Bagnet Sisig, and chicken sisig which are both tasty. It is served with a complimentary pitcher of Dalandan juice. Certainly, the restaurant is giving what diners would ask for through serving good food at a reasonable price while enriching one’s knowledge with century-old kind of culture by providing authentic heritage edifice dining experience.
Another commendable feature of the cafe is the detail consistency even in places often neglected but being frequented by customers as well, like the restroom and parking spaces. The restaurant has given enough attention to these spots, by styling it consistently with the theme. The shabby chic look of the restroom has complemented the quaint ambiance of the place and has been adorned with some ornaments while the cubicle has a wooden door that seemed to be a recycled plantation window shutter.
Antique items of furniture in the main dining area
A rocking chair in arco
Details in the restroom
Meanwhile, its parking space is strategically located across the restaurant. It is spacious and can occupy a good number of cars. It has a kind of look of a backyard of an abandoned house with real aged stone houses in the background.
Ordinary people to famous celebrities are seemed to be charmed with this restaurant. Moreover, it also catches the attention of tourist and bloggers as they would like to talk and feature this restaurant on their own mediums. With such kind of attention, it is having despite its humble stature it definitely has something to offer that makes it a destination restaurant. It is worth a visit as the unique dining ambiance is the big takeaway matched with affordable tasty meals.
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