In the almost two years since Jonathan Bayad opened Rey’s Place in Darlinghurst, the modern Filipino restaurant has brought the cuisine of the Southeast Asian country to new audiences as well as those looking for a taste of home. At Rey’s Place Bayad doesn’t put Filipino twists on Western dishes, but instead elevates traditional dishes and classic flavours by using quality local ingredients and refined techniques.
Bayad and head chef Nico Madrangca take that same approach at Rey Jr, a casual sibling outpost that’s just opened at Haymarket’s Darling Square precinct. The eatery is tiny – four bar seats overlook an open kitchen and there are six outside – and because of its proximity to the CBD and corporate offices in the area, Rey Jr is more for the lunch crowd (although it’s open daily at night, too). “The menu is very compact, but the idea was to just make it focused,” Bayad says.
There are four rice bowls and a lunch roll offered, all in the $11 to $16 price range, as well as some small-plate snacks and one dessert. The Rey’s Place favourite, the Cebu-style lechon, is there, but it’s been simplified. Slow-roasted for 14 hours, the crisp-skinned suckling pig comes with house-made sarsa (a sauce of vinegar, onion, chilli, garlic, brown sugar and charred chicken liver), toyomansi (a mix of soy sauce and calamansi juice), atsara (pickled papaya) and a fried egg.
The lechon also features in the only roll on the menu, sandwiched between a pandesal bun – a soft and fluffy bread roll popular in the Philippines – with sarsa, atsara and salad. “I think [it’s] going to be pretty popular,” Bayad says. “It’s a very approachable item, especially for lunch as it’s something you can eat while walking at the same time, no fuss.”
There’s also a bowl of Bicol Express, a spicy and comforting stew of coconut cream, meat and chillies. At Rey Jr, Madrangca uses chicken thigh to get the most flavour out of the dish. The meat-free option is ginataang gulay, a dish of coconut cream and vegetables, made here with pumpkin, eggplant and snake beans. “The whole idea is to come in, grab your lunch, quick and easy,” Bayad says. There’s also chicharon (deep-fried pork rind); corn and spring rolls as sides; and one dessert, a parfait featuring turon (fried banana fritters) and ube (“oo-beh”, purple yam).
The drinks list is also compact. There’s San Miguel beer, one white wine, one red, one rosé, one sparkling and one orange (skin contact).
Although the space is small it packs quite the aesthetic punch. Inspiration has been taken from across the Philippines; Manila’s 1980s brutalist architecture is the motivation for the bare walls and raw concrete. The colourful floor tiles and the stone in the bench tops are a nod to Spain’s rule of the Philippines, in particular the city of Vigan, known for its cobblestone streets and preserved Spanish colonial architecture.
Daily 12–3pm, 4.30–9pm