There are many things to love about Laguna, and one of them is the small and quiet town of Liliw—known for its natural cool springs and for its shoe industry. The hot summer months are perfect for trooping to Liliw so you can cool off in its flowing waters and take your sweet time combing through the dozens of shoe shops in the area just to find the perfect pair (or several pairs, which is always the case—how often can you splurge on good quality footwear that is sold at dirt-cheap prices?). But once you feel the familiar pangs of hunger (the kind that can no longer be satisfied by hardened meringue or uraro), the locals are pretty consistent with one suggestion: head to Arabela.
Arabela is a small, purple coffee-shop-cum-restaurant that sits on the ground floor of what appears to be an old house. The street it’s on has a handful of old houses (such as the one right across it), giving the area a genteel feel.
The restaurant is quite small and made even smaller by the low ceiling (the support beams are actually coated with foam, like the ones you find on church pews, since diners are prone to bumping their heads on them). The tables are also set close together, so there really isn’t much space to move around—suffice to say that it is not the best place for families with small children.
It is, however, ideal for couples and small groups of friends as it is conducive to quiet conversations. It’s easy to imagine just sitting there, drinking coffee or eating with a friend (or with a book), just whiling away the hours which somehow pass by more slowly in towns like this.
My friends and I spent the afternoon scouring the shops of Liliw for footwear, and after exhausting our options, budgets, and selves, we heeded the locals’ advice and repaired to Arabela.
The pasta selection looked good and the prices, reasonable. We decided to get two pasta dishes—one red, and one white—spaghettini (it’s a misnomer since they use regular pasta, not angel hair) with olives and anchovies (P190) and fetuccini alfredo with grilled chicken (P180).
The servings were filling, although not good enough for sharing. Both dishes tasted great—the pasta was al dente, the sauce weren’t runny; even the bread on the side was an actual bread and not a biscocho added as an afterthought (let’s face it, some pretentious Italian dining places are guilty of this). We were fully satisfied with our meal, but it was naturally incomplete without dessert.
For dessert, we had blueberry cheesecake (P85/slice) and chocolate mousse (P85/slice). We found them downright cheap because they were so good! We weren’t sure if they make their own cakes (they probably don’t since that’s an excellent selling point they would have banked on), but whoever made them didn’t scrimp on ingredients.
The blueberry cheesecake was, indeed, filled with cream cheese and not with icing-like cream extenders. Well, there could have been more blueberries, I suppose, but that didn’t reduce its over-all goodness. I was initially wary about the chocolate mousse as it didn’t have the three layers I’ve been so used to getting, but it didn’t disappoint. I’ve always been partial to the middle part of the chocolate mousse (it’s the “meat” of the cake, after all), and Arabela’s chocolate mousse seems to be made wholly of this middle part. You’ll also enjoy picking out the miniature white-and-brown chocolate kisses on top of the cake and eating them one by one since they’re tasty on their own. Oh, and both cakes are beautifully plated, too!
If you ever find yourself in Liliw, drop by Arabela. After indulging in retail therapy for your feet, you might as well indulge in a treat for your taste buds, too.
Arabela is located at 503 Rizal Street, Liliw, Laguna. Phone (+63 49) 5632495, 5730692, (+63 917) 2041447, or (+63 928) 3396787. They are closed on Mondays.