At the centre of every Filipino celebration is lechon, a spit-roasted whole suckling pig that’s equal parts crackling and tender flesh. The Cebu Island version is said to be the best, stuffed with aromatics like star anise, garlic, lemongrass and shallots, before slowly being roasted over charcoal for three hours.
Whole suckling pigs are awesome but how often do you have twenty mates over for dinner? That’s why Sydney Cebu Lechon’s recently opened Newtown restaurant has been such a hit. Originally starting as a catering business in 1991, this family-run business is now serving up lechon by the plate. And local punters (and homesick Filos) can’t get enough of it.
Arrive early or make a booking. There are less than 30 seats in this casual corner eatery and they fill up fast. The menu is brief - five dishes supplemented with a handful of blackboard specials. Cebu lechon ($18.50 per 200 grams) is everybody’s favourite, with each plate of suckling pig chopped to order. The pigs are organic and free range too.
The pork-fest continues with lechon kawali deep-fried pork belly ($23.50), and chorizo de Cebu ($23.50), cherry tomato-sized sausages that are much sweeter and fattier than traditional Spanish chorizo. More pork? You bet there is. The Cebuano adobo ($23.50) yields hunks of pork simmered in soy, sugar and vinegar. You’ll definitely want to order a bowl of rice to soak up that sweet and salty sauce.
Vegetarian options are slim. Chunks of eggplant are cooked in garlic, vinegar and soy to create adobong talong ($23.50). The other vegetable dish - pinakbet ($23.50) - uses shrimp paste. If you’re lucky you’ll time your visit when the ngo hiang, a vegetarian spring roll wrapped in beancurd skin, is a blackboard special.
Our pick of the desserts is the frozen brazo ($4.50), a cupcake miniature of ice cream, custard and meringue based on the traditional brazo de mercedes. Otherwise check out the ube purple sweet potato cheesecake ($4.50) as well as the biko ($6), a slab of warm caramelised sticky rice cooked with coconut milk and brown sugar.