Photography by Karlo Cadang
Everyone’s all too familiar with the Spanish word, “Mercado.” For the unacquainted, it means “market” in English, a place that features a diverse selection of food and drinks where people can drop by for anything they need. Granted, this is the perfect way to describe the newly opened branch of Cartel Deli in Legazpi Village, Makati. Upon entering, you’ll find shelves filled with deli meat, cheese, loaves of bread, and even a wide selection of fine wine from all around the globe. Their curation of diverse eats is also parallel to the diverse community they cater to and introduce.
“A cartel commonly refers to the lineup of bullfighters, not just the one you watch from Narcos. If you look closely at Cartel’s logo, you’ll notice bull horns sitting atop the name, a subtle callback to the concept,” says Denise Magtoto, Marketing Manager of Cartel Deli. “Generally speaking, ‘cartel’ can also mean a lineup of artists, expos, and other stuff. So right now we have a lineup of lots of different things,” she further notes.
A place to dine
Staying true to its European theme, this deli offers a great Spanish way to start your full-course meal – the Gilda. This bite-sized appetizer features olives, anchovies, and pickles skewered in a stick. Its combination of salty and pickled flavors will whet your appetite right before moving on to the main dish.
One Spanish staple that European restaurants never dare to miss is the Paella and Cartel’s version is a delightful take. Their Mushroom Truffle & Parmesan version of the famous dish is generously topped with scrumptious mushroom served in a large pan. The creaminess of the cheese and the umami of the mushroom were more than enough to become a viand of the paella rice.
For protein overload, you can choose among their specialty meats. The thick and juicy slices of the Striploin Steak pairs well with a high-quality glass of red wine. It even comes with fried and chewy potatoes on the side to complement the dish.
Among the other fares that you have to try are their pasta and pizza selections. We recommend the Margherita Bufala Pizza, which is thin-sliced, spread generously with cheese, and topped with slices of juicy tomato. The Chicken Pesto is made with fusilli pasta mixed in with rich and flavorful pesto sauce that makes for a delectably lip-smacking take on this time-tested dish.
For the full fine dining-like experience, you have to get their aesthetically appealing dishes that taste as good as it looks. For instance, the Fire Grilled Octopus boasts of a smoky earthy taste that lingers with a certain juiciness. The Tuna Belly has all the makings of a stellar plate, with the tuna meat tender and plump complete with an addictive savory goodness.
“We have the traditional Spanish recipes, but we also like experimenting with our food,” says David Collado, one of the owners of the deli. The Spicy Tuna, for example, is not one you’ll expect to find in a Spanish restaurant. Made with raw tuna cubes with a hint of spiciness, the plateful pays homage to the Japanese sashimi.
A place to grab a cup of joe
To fulfill the ambition of elevating customers’ dining experience, they partnered with renowned third wave coffee shop Yardstick, so you’re sure to experience great coffee selections. This partnership also produced a one-of-a-kind blend called the Salcedo Swing which was exclusively made for Cartel Deli. This cold brew drink is mixed with almond syrup and rosewater to give it a unique and refreshing flavor.
If you’re the type to eat dessert while sipping on your coffee, you will be delighted with their Manchego Cheesecake. The smooth and creamy texture blends well with the sweet and sour fruity filling in the middle.
A place to raise your glass
If, perhaps you and your friends opt to sit in the bar for a glass of cocktail, Cartel Deli Legaspi has got you covered too. Although it’s just a few steps away from the market and dining area, it gives off a slightly different and more exciting vibe (we’re pretty sure the pink neon sign and bottles of liquor were responsible for that). Apart from their wine, they also serve delicious cocktails. One of their bestsellers, the Gin & Tonic, is a staple drink that you can make even more interesting by giving it your own spin. The basic gin and tonic water poured over ice will be handed over, to which you can handpick your garnishes from the likes of cinnamon sticks, dehydrated fruits, and botanicals.
This deli isn’t just for sit-down customers who want to chill and dine. For the busy bees, Cartel Deli offers a number of grab-and-go products. Their well-curated selection of goods will let you have coffee dates or wine nights anywhere. For those who take their caffeine seriously, you can grab one of Yardstick’s offerings. Their bottles of Cold Brew Coffee offer the same quality goodness as those in store.
On the other hand, for those nights you want to unleash your inner tita/tito, you can choose from their finest selections of Jamon, Chorizo, and other deli meats and cheeses perfect for pairing with a bottle of red wine.
“With Cartel Deli, we cater to different needs. If you want to have a drink, grab a cup of coffee, or just have a simple brunch, you can come here. We’re bringing you a little chunk of Spain’s vibrant culture and cuisine closer to home,” Denise muses.
Granted, they surely meant it when they said you can have just about anything you fancy in this diner.
Cartel Deli Legazpi is located at Ground Floor KL Tower, Gamboa, Legazpi Village, Makati City.
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