…and opens a second branch!
Bench is one of the few homegrown brands that have swiftly adapted to the Filipino’s ever-changing tastes and preferences. They’ve been wooing us with their impressive roster of Bench ambassadors, really cool collaborations (Human x Proud Race was a clear favorite among the Wonder team) and affordable body & bath line. Seriously, where else can you find paraben-free dry shampoo for P175?? So it comes as no surprise that over 30 years later, Bench is still thriving and surviving. But when the retail giant announced they were opening a café last year, it was met with mixed reactions. “Ang galing,” I’ve heard some say as the move seemed only logical for the lifestyle brand. Meanwhile, others had their doubts, saying food and clothes just don’t mix.
Inside the newly opened Bench Café in Greenbelt 3
So did it or did it not work? What was the public’s verdict? Well, if Bench Café celebrating its first year anniversary and a newly opened second branch in Greenbelt 3 is any indication, we’d say people love it! The press writeup was not wrong, Bench has indeed crossed over seamlessly from retail to food. How exactly? They stuck to who they are as a brand and offered food that we just couldn’t resist: easy, affordable Filipino food. And with FOODEE Global Concepts bringing three decades of culinary experience to the table, Bench Café has turned into a full-fledged restaurant that, as COO Eric Dee says, is “casual but sophisticated, simple but substantial, local but global—all at good price points.”
Of Bestsellers and Favorites
I’ve yet to try the Sisig Lettuce Cups with Calamansi Foam but I’ve heard it’s a must-try from the appetizer menu. Another starter to sink your teeth into is the Crispy Lumpia Cones with Tinapa Mousse (comes in threes and is priced at P129). Albeit lightly flavored, the mild almost undetectable sweetness of the cone and smokiness of the tinapa mixed with soft and crunchy textures make for a delightful introduction. Bench Café’s Bench/To, the cafe’s own take on Japanese bento meals, is a must for days when you want it all but are on a budget. Combos include the B6 (Dancing Fish, Kaldereta, Crispy Dilis, Bench Salsa, plain rice), B8 (Lechon Kawali, Laing, Atsara, Bench Salsa, plain rice) and B12 (Pork BBQ, Gising-Gising, Green Mango Salad, Bench Salsa, plain rice). I’ve only tried B12 and the flavors are what I expected them to be, save for the Gising-Gising which could use a little more coconut milk and a spicy kick.
Crispy Lumpia Cones with Tinapa Mousse
What Else To Try
Sugpo sa Talangka easily becomes a favorite once you take a bite. You can’t really go wrong with a prawn and crab combo topped with cheese (and perhaps Béchamel sauce?) baked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Inasal na Liempo is another must-order because come on, it’s inasal but instead of chicken, it’s pork with just the right amount of fat. Now imagine eating that with garlic-y Dilis Rice…mmm.
From left Sugpo sa Talangka, Inasal na Liempo
But no meal is complete without dessert and among Bench Café’s recommended sweet enders (like the Flan B, which is a really dense leche flan with macapuno and is priced at P185) I prefer the Mais Con Yelo (P89) or the White Halo-Halo (or coconut shaved ice with macapuno, garbanzos, caramelized banana, leche flan, nata de coco and coconut ice cream priced at P119). It’s simple, straightforward and above all, comforting. Isn't that what we all look for anyway when dining at a Filipino restaurant?
Bench Café is located at the second floor of the newly opened Bench flagship store at 9th Ave. cor. Lane O, Bonifacio High Street, BGC and at 2/F of Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati. For more updates, follow Bench Café on Facebook and @benchcafeph on Instagram.
Photos Bench Café
Art Alexandra Lara