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Sydney Cebu Lechon

Restaurants, Filipino Newtown
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
A plate of slow cooked pork
Photograph: Helen Yee

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Prepare to pig out, Filo-style

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.

By: Helen Yee

Posted:

Details

Address: 80-80A Enmore Rd
Newtown
Sydney
2042
Contact:
Opening hours: Fri 5.30-9pm; Sat, Sun noon-3pm, 6-9pm

Users say (1)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Review of Sydney Cebu lechon: 6.5/10. Summary: if you’re really craving a Pinoy-style pork roll, go for it. Otherwise, there are plenty of better options. First off, it’s not even a lechon (i.e. whole spit-roasted pig); it’s a pork roll. A Cebu-style lechon (as opposed to a Manila-style lechon) is supposed to be stuffed with more flavourings (“saltier” would be the common oversimplification).

My first encounter was at Tramsheds at a pop-up, before they opened the restaurant. They started serving food later than scheduled. Worse, the pork roll skin was very tough. Overall, it was so-so.

My first visit at their restaurant went better. The pork roll skin was now crunchy, easier to bite into. Still, the menu was very limited. They seem to be emulating Rey’s place’s one-page menu but none of the other options seem appetizing. If you want to focus on grilled dishes, there is no inasal for example. It’s not apparent what the theme of their one-page menu is supposed to be. Also, their “lechon” is inferior to Rey’s place because the flesh is not as soft and they don’t make their own sauce.

My last visit was a disaster. We made a reservation. They called us to request that our reservation be moved 10 minutes later than the original booking, we agreed. We showed up five minutes earlier than our revised reservation and they forced us into a shared table! Meanwhile, there was a free table for two by the window. We asked about it and they said that it was reserved. Well, we have a reservation too and we are here on time.

Having tasted their food twice already, I had no choice but to order something else other than pork roll. I asked for how many people the “humba” was, which I already knew was “for sharing”. The guy with the glasses, smugly kept repeating that it was “for sharing” as if I was an idiot. Yes, I know “for sharing” means for more than one. What I really wanted to know is for how many: two, three, four, 3 billion?

Just a quick note: I initially went for Chorizo de Cebu on their daily specials board but it was not available (it was circa 6:30pm). Again, their selection is very limited.

We were then served the “humba” which is a dish from the Visayas. I know this dish well. To our surprise, it was really just adobo with one piece of star anise. It was something anyone could have done easily, probably better.

I went to their restaurant a second time (i.e. my last visit) because TimeOut ranked them #1 Pinoy restaurant in Sydney. I’ve come to realise the reason behind this: it was reviewed by a non-Filipino. I suppose to them, a Pinoy-style pork roll could be a delicious novelty. For a Pinoy, it’s so-so.