Two weeks ago, my sister and I met with her college friends for lunch at Café Laya near DLSU. Soaking in the glorious sunshine, we walked from South Gate to EGI Taft Tower where the café is at. Seeing Velasco Gate (Gate 3) reminded me of the day I took the entrance exam at our alma mater a decade ago. Seriously, where do the years go? Indeed, it’s at landmark moments in life when the mind throws up a whole host of soul searching questions. That’s another story for another time. 🙂 Back to Café Laya…

The shop and restaurants at the ground floor of EGI Taft Tower are new to my eyes except for SpeedBytes which even had an expansion. Café Laya at the farthest end looked like a great hangout place for students to appreciate art, become inspired to travel, focus on their reading materials between sips of coffee, and perhaps kill time. Laya means freedom and this place is where you can express freedom through art.

Review of Café Laya (EGI Taft Tower, Taft Avenue, Manila)

Ambiance: ★★★★☆

Café Laya’s ambiance struck me as a laid-back and cool, moodily-lit affair where photos of different wonderful places in the Philippines are posted on walls and short profiles of featured Filipino artists are on the tables. Clearly, this place strives to promote art and manages to incorporate it as part of the overall interior design concept. Visually speaking, there’s a lot to love about this chic cafe—or “art gallery,” if you will.

Its unique factor lies in the fact that food, beverages, and furniture here are local. This is how the owner envisions to give back to the community and show support to fellow Filipino businesses. Across the order station, for instance, we found artisan products and food made with local ingredients from social enterprises.

Upstairs, dining was quite an experience since we sat on floor cushions and had our meal at low tables (my kind of tables for creating flat-lay postings on IG). The space was a bit cramped though, and if not seated in a proper position, limbs are expected to be numbed and stiff after a while.

Service: ★★★★☆

Overall, service could be a hit or miss here, depending on where you’re seated. Since we were on the second floor, it was hard to bet on the possibility of staffs checking on us in case we need something. Luckily in our visit, we had almost always chanced upon one waitstaff either serving food or clearing tables of other customers.

Note: Food and drinks had to be ordered and paid at the counter, and staffs serve them on the table once ready.

Food: ★★★☆☆

Tuyo Pesto (PhP 200) was creamy and delicious. The saltiness of the fish stood out as the flavor highlight that mostly enlightened our palate. Texture of the pasta was soft, tender, and almost delicate. I just found garlic and some crunch and nutty undertones from pine nuts lacking in the pesto dish. Eating bread in between forkfuls of pasta is necessary to appreciate the interplay of tastes.

Served with egg and brown rice, Café Laya’s Smoked Bangus (PhP 125) was comforting and nice as it was able to deliver a nice hint of smoke. Sadly though, the fish was not as crisp and warm as expected. Adding more plump and juicy tomatoes could potentially be a good booster as well to complement the salty nature of cured fish.

* Our Friends’ Picks *

Flaky Adobo Rice Meal (PhP 125)

Fried Liempo Rice Meal (PhP 125)

Coffee

Menu

Price for Value: ★★★★☆

Café Laya in EGI Taft Tower looks like a charming place that plays regular host to students around the area. With the cute and relaxing setting, it must be a survival of the fittest to score a seat at this cafe in regular school days. While food aren’t perfectly exceptional, prices are moderate and reasonable especially for longer stays.

Unit 113, Ground Floor, EGI Taft Tower, Taft Avenue, Manila
For inquiries, call (02) 5545534
Date Published: 01/26/2016
15 / 20 stars

Operating hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-11PM

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22 Responses

  1. Review of Café Travel (Taft Avenue, Manila) | Rochkirstin | com

    […] Across DLSU and adjacent CSB along Taft Avenue, Manila, Café Travel is a Korean-inspired coffee shop which attracts many customers, particularly students of nearby schools, as if serving truffle-stuffed unicorn trotters. Its competitive advantage has to be its unique atmosphere and cute appeal. It’s ideal for those seeking a good and quiet place to hang out for hours without the rush. We visited this “pop” venue after having lunch at Café Laya. […]

    Reply
  2. Shub

    I m from Singapore but have many philipinas who are my friends and who are from Manila…They always talk about the Malls and food there. Your post brings back the feeling of chatting with them. Nice!

    Reply
  3. Debarpan Mukherjee

    The cafe looks awesome,well furnished and beautifully arranged.Dishes seems very delicious too.Nice place to take look for dinner/lunch.You made undoubtedly a nice review of this cafe,good work

    Reply
  4. PJ Zafra

    I love cafes and this one looks awesome. Food and menu looks great! I’ll definitely drop by next time I’m in Manila. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up!

    Reply
  5. R U S S

    My office is approx a 10-minute walk to EGI so I’m pretty sure that I will check this place out one of these days? It probably is fun to be a student in DLSU now, there a lot of food choices compared to my time.

    Reply
  6. George Felix

    I write reviews on Zomato and yours is just perfect.
    The images are lively.
    I would surely explore Manila when I tour the Phillipines.

    Reply
  7. Pal Raine

    What a catchy name for a restaurant. It is important that your business name grabs the attention of prospect customers, the Cafe Laya is one of the names that I will never forget! For me, LAYA is an acronym for KALAYAAN, easy to remember.

    Reply
  8. Fred

    Looks like a good place for students in that area of Manila to meet up and eat with friends. I do not really frequent that area though, so I may not eat here.

    Reply
  9. Karen

    It’s great to know where Cafe Laya derived its name. The foods they serve are very Filipino I hope they also serve kapeng barako hehehe.

    Reply
  10. Summer

    This indeed look a very nice place to hangout with friends. Do they have books for their customers to read? Are they accepting reservations?

    Reply
  11. Elizabeth O.

    The prices sure are reasonable. Students can definitely afford dining or spending some time in a place like this. The food looks great and so does the coffee.

    Reply
  12. phyliciamarie

    I’ve seen this place across Jus n Jerry’s a few times, but I didn’t go in because it was always full of students. haha Anyhoo might go there and try the creamy tuyo pasta next time.

    Reply
  13. Tiffany Yong

    Cafe hopping is something that has been trending for the past few years especially with instagram. Now, people are doing this internationally! One day I will do that too!

    Reply
  14. Franc Ramon

    I guess when you’re at the second floor, it’s almost at a self service area. It does look like a great place for students to hang out with several meal alternatives for the students.

    Reply
  15. Bhushavali

    ‘Freedom through art’ – wow, its a beautiful concept.
    Eating on low tabls sitting on floor cushion sounds awesome. Infact that’s the traditional way of eating in all tropical countries.

    Reply
  16. Amanda Love

    I love reading food/restaurant reviews because if I’m ever to visit, I’d know where to eat. This sounds really reasonable and the food looks delish!

    Reply
  17. Lee Rosales

    Omy i will visit thia cafe soon. I wanna try tuyo pasta ang their coff190009ee. Prices are affordable coz they are in the vicinity of school

    Reply
  18. Lori

    I’ve never been to Manila, but I hope I’ll get there one day. I like this coffee house – as far as I can “see” it in your photos and from reading your impressions. And yes, the photos made me hungry and in the mood for a coffee 😀

    Reply

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