There’s a café and eco-farm located in Alfonso, Cavite that serves vegan food cooked the way even meat-eaters would love. Called Sentro Botanikos, it sits on a two-hectare farm lot owned by the Antonio family who’s been living the vegan lifestyle for nearly two decades now.
It was initially a family vacation spot, a property planted with various vegetables grown organically. Benj and Sol Antonio would go there with their four children, three of whom have been vegans since they were very young. Being the designated cook, however, Sol soon found it tiring to keep bringing all her spices and cooking implements every time they would go to Alfonso. So the former banker thought of an idea: why not just put up a restaurant in the farm? “That way I won’t get stressed with all the cooking,” she recalls to ANCX.
That idea became a reality when their friends, the husband and wife restaurateurs Joel and Ave Carlos—who own Azotea Greens in Baguio and are vegetarians themselves—offered to run the place for them. Since Sol has a wealth of experience in vegan cooking—she’s been a serious vegan for half of her life—she developed the menu and simply hired cooks from around Alfonso that she could train.
Three years ago, they built the restaurant using a lot of recycled wood. The foundation was made from old Meralco posts (since these have already been replaced by the electric power distribution company with concrete poles) which they got from a friend. Some of the wood were from her mother-in-law's place in Vigan. Even some of their muebles, like their tables, are items from friends and family. The overall brownish tone of the structure sat beautifully against the farm’s greenery.
Diners at Sentro Botanikos are allowed to check out the farm of the Antonios. The day of ANCX’s interviewed, Sol had just harvested eggplants, lettuce, okra, pechay, Chinese kangkong, talbos ng kamote, and gabi. She also grows other types of house plants in the property.
The resto was already doing well and the place was already getting known in the area, especially since they are located near busy Tagaytay, until Taal Volcano erupted in January 2020 which put everything to a halt. This was soon followed by the pandemic.
Despite the challenges, Sentro Botanikos chose to persevere. To better observe health and safety protocols, and since travel was restricted, they opted not to open for indoor dining and simply offered food via delivery. They deliver to nearby places, and for those in Metro Manila, people can order via Lalamove.
One of their signature dishes is Adobo ni Lola (P161) which is made from soy protein so it’s healthier than the typical adobo. The Antonios love Indian food so Sol has her own version of Shahi Paneer (P205). “Since we love chicken curry, I thought Filipinos would appreciate that. My version uses paneer (Indian cottage cheese) instead of chicken.”
They also serve G (gulay) Bulalo (P285 per palayok), a healthier alternative to the highland favorite. Meat eaters may want to try their Mushroom Sisig (P225) which closely mimics the creaminess and texture of ordinary sisig using only mushroom, tofu, soy protein and root crops. They also have a version of guilt-free dinuguan called 'Bean-uguan' (P125 per serving) which is made from frijoles negros, or black beans, lightly soured and spiced. This is served with chewy, stone-ground puto galapong.
Sentro Botanikos is located at Brgy. Buck Estate, Alfonso, Cavite (Metro Tagaytay). For inquiries, check out their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/sentrobotanikos/