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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
Operating hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-11PM