February is once again upon us and with that comes the pressure of taking bae out on V-Day without losing your mind to the crowds and traffic that comes with it. With only 13 days left to impress that special someone, I would highly recommend surprising them for a romantic lunch for two (with chocolate AND flowers, please!) at the beautiful Mateo’s Restaurant Café.

 
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Think of the favorite Spanish-Filipino dishes you just loved growing up, made by that talented auntie or a yaya who was also a wiz in the kitchen. All those time consuming, hard-to-make dishes that only came out during special occasions can be found in this homey, rustic restaurant cafe, whose history can be felt in the bahay na bato clay bricks and piazza tiles with oil lamps hanging from the ceiling, hovering over a counter filled with tempting ensaymadas and brownies. Located only a few blocks away from Robinsons Magnolia, this is the homey comfort that is Mateo’s.

Come through for lunch and pick a quiet spot with lots of light, which makes for a refreshing change over dates in dark corners in noisy restaurants. After the server has taken your order, take a stroll outside and enjoy the fresh air and idle chit-chat or a private moment. The grounds are also pretty much Instagram-ready for foliage-backed selfies.

 

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A glass of vino is always a great way to start any date, and I particularly enjoyed their Frozen Sangria (Php 250 a glass) that comes in white or red, infused with apple and orange slices . More like an alcoholic slushie, this drink is to be savored, not thrown back haphazardly.

What pairs well with sangria? Why, tapas, of course! Croquetas con Chorizo (Php 220) was on the menu for me that fun afternoon, with bits of Spanish chorizo encased in the hot potato croquettes, the spicy, garlicky oil infusing with the light, fluffy potato. This is served with a garlic aioli, adding another pleasurable layer of flavor to the not-so-small plate. Please make sure the potato has cooled down a bit before feeding it to your date!

 

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Amp up the sweet factor (that also happens to pair brill with that sangria!) with Mateo’s Garden Salad (Php 250). The pretty little mountain of greens also hides peach slices, little cherry tomatoes,crumbled kesong puti, and strips of tortilla chips for texture, with a fruity and slightly acidic raspberry vinaigrette to bring everything together.

 

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If fruity salads don’t impress her, I’m pretty sure these Crispy Bagnet Sliders (Php 205) will. Honestly, I’m surprised that bagnet isn’t a thing yet, like red velvet everything and cronuts. I mean, as a country, we do it (the making and the eating) so well! Each of the three soft roll sliders cradle pieces of crispy bagnet with homemade coleslaw and Mateo’s house dressing to cut the cloying taste.

 

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A llanera of paella always impresses, especially if it’s good paella. And Mateo’s makes good paella. I got stuck in a pretty hefty portion of Spanish Seafood and Chicken (Php 875). Aside from the prawns, clams, and mussels decorating the dish, the saffron-infused short-grained rice also hid pieces of chicken and sausage, so it does get to become really filling.

Do keep in mind that they make this upon ordering, so either call ahead and order this before you get to the restaurant, or patiently wait for 30 minutes as this dish bubbles away ’til absolutely perfect. This is no small llanera, too, and can be shared between 3-4 people!

 

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Another option to paella is Mateo’s Pan-Grilled Salmon in Black Risotto (Php 545). The marinated salmon steak is grilled to perfection – flaky on the outside and still a touch raw on the inside – served with a savory squid ink risotto and a bright mango salsa to balance the rich, creamy flavors.

 

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Now, even though I was stuffed at this point, I couldn’t help but try Mateo’s Beef Morcon (Php 350), a dish I associate with grandmothers cooking for fiestas or media noche. Round steaks are flattened and filled with carrots, Angus beef sausages, hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and cheese, almost floating in tomato sauce. This is meaty and filling, bringing back memories of happy dinners around the table, gushing over who did what dish best and who should learn how to cook for their special someone. This dish is served with rice, but you may be asking for extras – it’s so good!

 

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Mateo’s is one of those not-so-hidden gems in QC that you wished nobody knew about but you. I could spend hours and hours here enjoying good company and excellent food, you kind of forget about time altogether. Stay for dessert and coffee or share another carafe of sangira with tapas while you’re there, enjoying most intimate Valentines celebrations – with a whole night of festivities to look forward to!

So there you have it. Your Valentines lunch date, neatly wrapped and bundled in a bow. You’re welcome.

 

Mateo’s Restaurant Café is located at 54 N. Domingo Avenue, Barangay Horseshoe, Quezon City and is open daily from 11am to 10pm. For inquiries and reservations, please call +63 2 696 3724.

 

 

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