Crackling Up at Sarap

Nick Buglione discovers Filipino fusion at Sarap

I’m lazy. Foodie trends can pass me by and I tend to discover new cuisines when they land on my doorstep. Welcome to Market Row’s new Filipino bistro Sarap.

Remember last year’s Brixton Kitchen incubator competition? Well, Ferdinand “Budgie” Montoya won. Prize? A six-month residency and set-up … on my doorstep. After the well-worn development yellow brick road of food truck, supper club and pop-up residencies.

Montoya pitches Sarap (translation – delicious) as “authentic Filipino flavours delivered proudly inauthentically”. What I and Connie know about Filipino traditional dining you could write on a neutron, so proudly inauthentic, modernised and played around with a bit is fine with me. Anyone who is anyone knows, though, the lechon is the headline act.

But first, warm up acts. Sarap is the epitome of simple, stripped back, almost sparse. You won’t be dazzled by avant-garde interior deco. It’s a small place and Budgie is a friendly guy so they have kept a hint of that supper club intimacy.

I am unclear whether there is anywhere that doesn’t serve wings in our unofficial world capital of the chicken wing. Budgie’s wings (sorry) are a salty, garlicky, sticky, tangy, soy, ginger and sesame coated pleasure, dipped in banana ketchup.

Almost as impressive are the BBQ pork skewers, pork shoulder marinated in soy, 7-Up, banana ketchup and calamansi (Philippine lime). Deep flavour, perhaps a little robust for some?

The menu is a small plates, big plates proposition with some interesting diversions. Ceviche-style cured market fish, clams and cuttlefish sinigang (stew) sound interesting.

But now ladies and gentlemen, the main event of the evening, Lechon liempo. I am unclear whether this is in any way an official signature of Montaya’s homeland but it’s pretty much Sarap’s. Super-slow cooked stuffed pork belly rendered with crispy blowtorched crackling.

Think chunky hunks of falling away shards of belly encased in shards of crispy skin, served with an initially daunting liver sauce (a Filipino BBQ sauce laced with vinegar and sugar) and papaya. Gloriously fatty parcels infused with lemongrass along with a fragrant jasmine rice and a kale laing (slow cooked greens with coconut milk). I am a fan of slow cooking “cheaper” cuts so pretty much in hog heaven.

A subtly sweet almost sticky cassava tart and the rest of our bottle of Rio Rocca Italian natural wine finalised mine and Connie’s supper.

The wines are a little pricey, cheapest bottle at £30 but that’s the non-intervention policy I guess. I’d have probably served the tart with a jolt of ice cream or maybe even a lemongrass sorbet to round it all off.

You have only definitely got Sarap in Brixton for another five months, although our evening suggests Budgie may hang around longer than their initial prizewinning residency.

And I would expect the menu to roll around and change. Much of what we are eating is locally sourced so, without making a huge fuss about it, seasons and the local market stalls change menus so I am interested in how things evolve into the Spring and Summer.

14D Market Row, SW9 8LD | 020 7459 4274 |