From where we’re sitting, it’s hard to imagine that The Pig & Palm restaurant in Cebu City suffered quite a blow back in December care of typhoon Odette. Its roof was blown off by the strong wind. Outside the restaurant, bamboo trees were either uprooted or bowed to the ground. It was a mess indoors, its wooden floor covered with leaf debris.
Today, Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s restaurant is back in good shape. “The last two weeks have been really good,” its head chef Jamie Doe tells ANCX. Business faced a lot of challenges over the last couple of years—challenges brought about by the pandemic, and then the storm. Doe is thankful he’s backed by a great team who stuck with him through everything. “We never gave up. We kept going,” he says smiling.
A silver lining to the pandemic, Doe says, is it gifted them an opportunity to connect with locals more. Before the pandemic, their main market was mostly tourists—people who knew Atherton’s reputation in the global restaurant scene. The Pig & Palm is the 16th establishment in Atherton’s restaurant group, The Social Company, which does business in London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and Sydney.
Many locals have been coming in now to try their food, Doe observes. Which might be surprising to some because the Pig & Palm’s offerings are different from what Cebuanos traditionally enjoy in their local diners. It serves modern European cuisine. “We’ve got duck on the menu, which is something different. We’ve got lamb and tenderloin,” the chef offers. As the name of the restaurant suggests, it also offers pork-based dishes, but they do it in a much different way. For instance, during our lunch, he served pork belly confit with apple caramel, mashed potato and broccoli.
Atherton’s goal when he put up the restaurant in 2016 was to bring a taste of European gastronomy to Cebu in an informal, contemporary environment. So he and Doe developed a menu of modern tapas-style sharing dishes, interpreted using a variety of Filipino produce.
Atherton, who married a Cebuana, was initially in Cebu to personally oversee the restaurant’s operation. He even personally trained some of the chefs before turning over the management to the able hands of London-trained Doe and restaurant manager Rico Del Puerto.
The head chef says he’s in constant communication with Atherton to discuss new ideas they can adopt. The pandemic has caused the British chef to be away from his business for a while but once he comes back, an exciting tasting menu is something the restaurant’s fans can look forward to.
There has got to be something that will appeal to everyone’s tastebuds at The Pig & Palm. Today, we are starting off with some seaweed crackers, which is pure delight with calamansi mayo; the cauliflower salad laden with Parmesan cheese; and a signature brioche served with onion jam and chicken thyme butter.
Besides the pork belly confit, we are also treated to Korean fried chicken with kimchi ketchup; and black ink pasta loaded with shellfish, chorizo and salsa verde. A personal favorite would be the poached grouper, which comes with parsley adlai and balsamic caviar—light yet the taste is unmistakably remarkable. Asked how he’d describe the food at The Pig & Palm, Doe says, “We’re not fancy, we’re not fine dining, but we’re full on flavor.”
The Pig & Palm also has a long beverage list which includes a variety of cocktails created by the Social Company’s group bar executive Jamie Jones. To perfectly cap off the meal, we have mouthfuls of the banoffee souffle with whipped cream and chocolate sorbet.
Doe is looking to offer more variety in the Pig & Palm menu in the coming months. He’s looking to incorporate other types of meats like rabbit and quail, which are not so prominently used in Cebu. With the economy opening up and tourism getting back on its feet, the atmosphere is nothing but inspiring. Four months after Odette, the debris is gone and things are back in its rightful places. Just imagine what the coming days, months promise.
Photos from The Pig & Palm's Instagram account