The site of the old HSBC building has now been transformed to a very beautiful and elegant cafe in Binondo. After restoration and retrofitting done last year, it’s now called 1919 Grand Cafe. For a bit of history, the old Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) was built from 1921 to 1922 and it was inaugurated on September 22, 1922. It’s located on a quiet and dark street frequented by filmmakers near our home. We could literally walk towards it with ease but for utmost convenience, we decided to just drive to the massive cafe for lunch one day before the New Year. 🙂
Review of 1919 Grand Cafe (Binondo, Manila)
The interior design looks upscale but not stuffy. It’s the kind of place that’s perfect for almost any occasion, as it can accommodate large groups and even has function rooms with TVs on the second floor. These private rooms are great for hosting meetings, birthday celebrations, and other intimate events for four to about 20 people. The cafe accepts a minimum fee (differs per room) that’s consumable for food and drinks.
1919 Grand Cafe has a high ceiling and there’s a long bar at the far side making for a strong solo diner option. Behind the bar, you’ll see how the staff prepares and makes food in action. The dark walls with dark wood panels and polished floors give a nice warmth to the ambiance. Seats serve as accents and they’re upholstered in bright, Skittle-colored fabrics. I also love that their pillow cases have different witty statements on. 🙂
The walls are filled with built-in shelves displaying various decors, vintage stuff, and some wine bottles. The crowds were mostly made up of families who were slightly dressed up, fitting in right in this refined setting.
It was my first time to encounter the word “Albondigas” (PhP 450) on the menu. I asked the waiter and he said it’s vegetarian balls with pomodoro sauce. Inside, there’s white fungus, potatoes, and mushrooms. Served fried in a richly tart tomato sauce, these meatless balls are the ultimate comfort food for vegetarians. With a bevy of textures, it’s a healthy adaptation of a classic Spanish dish. Suddenly, I got interested to try creating these myself at home. I found a recipe here. It’s a must-try for vegans!
We were warned that the pizza would take about 45 minutes to serve, so it’s best to order it right away if you intend to. Hence, it was a delight to have the Assorted Flavor of Pizza (PhP 680) on the table before half an hour passed. The four flavors were: cheese, vegetarian, seafood, and Hawaiian (bacon and pineapples). We each got a thin slice of everything and were thoroughly pleased. The crust was pretty good. It had the exact right balance of soft, chewy and crunchy. Taste-wise, the pizza was perfect on its own, no need to beg for condiments. So yes, it was worth the wait!
Baked Rice Caldereta (PhP 490) is one of the house specialties. Packed with rice and topped with cheese, the baked beef caldereta was extremely flavorful. Showing off savory essence, the beef was tender and lean, while the chopped carrots imparted a balancing sweetness. Order with confidence.
Wonderfully plated with garlic bread, Pasta Negra (PhP 430) or the Squid-Ink Pasta was another striking dish. Imbued with a noticeable brine from the squid ink, the pasta consisted of clams, squid, and shrimp. Each one contributed to more notes of the ocean. Love it!
Crisp, tender, and tasty are probably the best three words to describe 1919 Grand Cafe’s Salt and Pepper Spareribs (PhP 380). These are always a crowd-pleaser as a popular dish in Chinese cuisine. The flavors of salt and pepper seemed to temper and complement each other.
Price for Value:
The next time you’re planning to go on a food trip in Chinatown, make sure to include 1919 Grand Cafe in your list. The sleek interior design, attentive service, and food are spot on, with reasonable prices to boot. Here, you can’t expect to get generous portions of authentic Chinese food when in Binondo, but you’ll be equally satisfied with their nicely executed dishes. Check it out!