Five minutes with… Rowena Romulo

The owner of beloved Filipino restaurant Romulo on her new venture, Kasa and Kin, how lockdown has changed the way she works and the indispensability of purple yam

People 17 Sep 2021

Kasa and Kin will offer a selection of Robata-grilled skewers
Elegant patisserie at Kasa and Kin

What can we expect from Kasa and Kin?

You can expect a fun and vibrant atmosphere that is characterised by an interactive art mural and facade created by Filipino artist, Kulay Labitigan. He’s conjured an imaginary kaleidoscopic tropical rainforest inspired by a Filipino epic poem about a magical bird, the Ibong Adarna, to represent Kasa and Kin as a space for socialising, healing, and celebration.

Kasa and Kin is also a day-to-night concept, the perfect spot for a solo lunch, or full-on family celebration. We’re talking contemporary flavours of the Philippines with unique, modern-day twists. Start your morning with warm, freshly baked treats from our bakery and patisserie counter. Come lunchtime, you can choose from a selection of salads, sandwiches and hot dishes. And when the evening rolls in, a subtle change comes over both the menu and the ambience. Bring on the grilled skewers with our Robata concept and plenty of refreshing cocktails! At Kasa and Kin, every day is a celebration because life’s too short to be worrying about the little things. So, if enjoying heaps of food exploding with flavour, surrounded by the people you love, is your idea of a great time, you’re at the right place!

Rowena Romulo with co-partner Chris Joseph
Rowena Romulo with co-partner Chris Joseph and Robata-grilled lobster

What do you wish Londoners knew about Filipino cuisine?

That Filipino food is versatile and diverse, rich in flavour and heritage. There is something to suit every palate, from sweet and sour to salty and spicy. It’s the perfect cuisine for vegetarians, vegans, seafood and meat-lovers alike.

Will Kasa and Kin have a signature dish and if so, what will it be?

We will not have one signature dish per se, but rather a unique concept which is Kasa and Kin’s create-your-own ImBento Boxes. To make your Imbento Box you first choose one of our chilled spring rolls, add your choice of hot broth, select either a rice, noodle or salad base, then add your main meal hot topping (beef, pork, chicken, salmon, aubergine).

Do you think London’s perception of Filipino food has changed since you opened Romulo?

Yes, I do, or at the very least, we have raised its profile here in London. Five years ago, Filipino food was relatively unknown here and people didn’t really know what to expect. Today, there is a much better appreciation of what our food has to offer and many first-timers at Romulo are pleasantly surprised by the many ways in which our food differs from our neighbouring countries. With the opening of Kasa and Kin in Soho, it is my sincere hope that Filipino cuisine can finally take its rightful place among the great cuisines of Asia.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Ube (purple yam)

Delicate patisserie will be central to Kasa and Kin, including treats made with ube, or purple yam
Delicate patisserie will be central to Kasa and Kin, including treats made with ube, or purple yam

What has the past 18 months taught you as a business owner?

Plan for the future. We used the lockdown to take a step back and re-evaluate the business. We got things done that would have been almost impossible during busy, pre pandemic times. It forced us to innovate and develop new products and services which have now become the new model for our future offering, providing a more diverse and resilient set of revenue streams. Always be willing to adapt, but without sacrificing your quality standards

How did your experience in finance help you as a restaurant owner?

The training, skill set and disciplines I acquired during my banking career helped me manage the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. Having a financial background allowed me to manage the bookkeeping, accounts and P&L of the company with ease. Having run a global business previously, I had experience in start-up projects, people management and product development; all skills that I have been able to apply as a restaurant owner.

What are your biggest passions outside of food and drink?

My biggest passion outside of work are my two lovely rescue dogs, Zoe and Bella. I love taking long walks with them in the park. They keep me active!

Who, living or dead, would you most like to cook for and what would you make them?

I would love to cook for my grandfather, Carlos P. Romulo and grandmother, Virginia Llamas Romulo, who have both been the inspiration behind Romulo Cafe & Restaurant. I am sure they would never have imagined that my sister and I would end up as restaurant owners using family recipes handed down through the generations. I would cook our national dish of chicken & pork belly adobo, a dish that we would often share at our dining table when I was growing up in our family home in the Philippines.

Kasa and Kin will open soon in Soho. Find out more by following the restaurant on Instagram @kasaandkin,