By now, visitors and locals alike will notice that Cebu is no longer a tropical recluse of an island.
The city has rapidly taken up the capital’s—that is Manila’s blueprint—progress towards a highly productive and bustling metropolis.
Tall buildings, folks in business suits, and construction sites (harbingers of more tall buildings to come) dot much of Cebu City. It's a sure signal that we’re likely to see more business suits and less floral shirts. But as the buildings go up, tokens of the old world are pulled apart—remnants of times long past, fade to rubble.
Perhaps the mesmerizing charm of Circa 1900 is the uncanny ability to re-ignite that spark of the old world. It is, after all, a complex of two beautiful colonial-period houses.
Entering the property, one is caught off-guard by just how sprawling it is; the garden winding itself over the entire property, delighting viewers as they browse from one house to the other. The more recently opened Casa Dos is on the left while Circa Uno is on the right.
I have a penchant for Casa Uno. And with some luck—likely from the fact that mum and dad are the forefronts of this place—I get to spend a lot of time there. To some extent, I grew up on that property. I crafted stories based on the observations of the regular flow of guests. It’s highly likely that I was that kid you might have seen sitting around if you visited the place around the early 2010s. My only hope is that you didn’t catch me looking at you.
Growing up, I’ve occasionally joked that I was a quality-control member of Circa 1900’s team. But for the most part, I’ve been an observer (and a story-maker as you now know). I’ve seen happy couples, families, friends, and functions of all kinds unravel here.
Over the years spent in observation, I’ve tasted my fair share of the food Casa Uno serves (see: the entire menu) and have enjoyed watching guests enjoy it too. The chef, Steve Shrimski, with a background as an executive chef in different parts of Asia, understands the homage of local ingredients and the creative use of them in drafting a menu that is exciting and delightful.
The menu is regularly changed and adjusted. The shifting seasons, what’s now good and what isn’t quite, are both taken into account. If it's available, I would order the truffled squid and prawn risotto with fragrant herbs and turmeric. It is a deliciously aromatic dish that takes care in preserving the freshness of the seafood, pairing it with olfactory gland-provoking herbs—a terrific meal enjoyed by your eyes, tongue, and nose.
Managing Partner, Eya Shrimski, a seasoned Food and Beverage executive and trainer, has selected a team of friendly and skilled staff to give the guests a terrific evening. She'll often say, “guests come for a delicious meal and return for accompanying great service”.
Casa Uno is adjoined by a beautiful garden where guests would often hang out to enjoy the outdoor breeze. It was the sort of place I’d look at and tell myself: this is where I’ll bring her on our first date. But that’s more about me than I’d like to give.
I suggest you take a walk from Casa Uno and head on over to Casa Dos, the slightly newer development that houses Cicada Tapas and Bar as well as Noshery Bakery + Sweets.
On this walk, you will probably notice the pool area where many guests have enjoyed one of Cicada’s craft cocktails. I recommend the Meet Me at Cicada, a mixture of propriety brand spirits, basil, and chocolate bitters. It's a drink which successfully cues the end of a hectic day and the beginning of a pleasant evening.
Cicada offers a curated menu of craft cocktails and a well-selected spread of wines, tapas, soups, and pica-pica to pair with. I like to think of the menu as a game plan for nights lost chatting away—that's how most guests spend their nights here.
Sitting in Cicada and looking across the foyer of the house, you’ll see Noshery and its spread of bread, cakes, and treats for the day. You can expect that whatever you get from the Noshery is freshly-baked and a scrumptious—a perfect treat to take home or something to enjoy as a dessert.
These two establishments make up the bottom floor of Casa Dos, the above floor housing function rooms which typically host weddings and debuts. The house is in many ways a symbol of a time long lost. Long wooden floorboards, slightly dimmed lights, and paneled glass windows channels thoughts of a slightly older Cebu. Simply put, it transports us to a time of a Cebu before all the tall buildings came along.
Come to think of it, I’ve probably seen more weddings than anyone I know. But what I have most consistently seen is eyes glazed over with comfort. It’s the sort of look accompanying a time well-spent, and trust me when I say I’ve seen a lot of those.
This comfort comes to eyes greeted by Circa 1900’s magnificent façade-history preserved to be enjoyed. It’s the comfort that causes you to salivate as the fragrant risotto approaches your table. It might be the terrific service or the drink you’re having.
But in a town gradually losing the comforts available from a certain point in history, Circa 1900 has become an oasis of souls searching for the flicker of a day lost in time. It’s the charming spell you fall under from the first glance of the place to your very last spoonful of food. That's what will bring you back. Back to Circa 1900 and back in time.
Sanjercasvil Road, Gorordo Avenue
(032) 239 6265
Daily, 9AM - 12AM
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