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Revisiting La Cocina de Tita Moning


“If you are planning an extra special dinner for your company, family, or friends then we most certainly guarantee an unparalleled Fine Dining Experience. This is the only place in Metro Manila where you can walk into an actual ancestral home, filled with priceless works of art and memorabilia, and re-live one of Manila’s most elegant eras — complete with the heirloom recipes, doting staff, and family collections of china, glassware and silverware.” (from La Cocina de Tita Moning website)

La Cocina de Tita Moning is located at the elegant Legarda ancestral home (or the Legarda Mansion) in the San Miguel District of Old Manila. The mansion was built in 1937. The owner, Doña Filomena Roces y de Legarda, was a prominent member of high society during that time. Her mansion is one of the first Art Deco houses in Manila. Her son, Alejandro Legarda and his wife, Ramona Hernandez lived in this house with their four children.


The Legarda Mansion was eventually converted into a fine-dining restaurant several years after. The restaurant, La Cocina de Tita Moning, is a tribute to Doña Ramona (“Moning”) as she was known for her culinary expertise as well as her reputation in the elite circle for her hosting of lavish parties. Today, this restaurant wishes to bring back Manila’s most elegant era in the 1930s. In the house, one can find rare art collections made by Filipino painters Felix Resurrection Hidalgo and Juan Luna.


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Once Manila’s most elegant district, San Miguel is just around the corner from Malacañang Palace. Here, in a tall, Spanish-style house on a leafy street, Don Alejandro Legarda and his wife, Doña Ramona, regularly threw lavish dinner parties, and the family flocked willingly to the house for her renowned cooking.




Built in 1937 by Doña Filomena Roces Legarda, the Legarda mansion was one of the first Art Deco houses in Metro Manila. Today the Legarda’s ancestral home has been converted into a restaurant so that everyone can enjoy Tita Moning’s superb cooking. Her granddaughter, Suzette Montinola runs the kitchen now, using many of her grandmother’s traditional recipes. It began as a simple experiment to immortalize her grandmother’s recipes, and it has evolved into a popular and highly respected fine-dining restaurant. Maintained in all the elegant, sumptuous splendour of its nineteenth century owners, La Cocina de Tita Moning (Aunty Moning’s Kitchen) is a living museum to the Legarda family history.


As the sun set, we gathered in the lush and leafy back garden under the fairy lights to sip on iced tea, wine or beer, before taking a tour of the house. Don Alejandro was a gynecologist and a collector, with a real skeleton garnered from the local cemetery, a room full of cameras and another of antique radios. Every room is filled to overflowing with furniture, paintings and ornaments, many dating back over a hundred years: Murano glass centerpieces from Venice; Chinese hand painted crockery, and artwork by Luna and Hidalgo, renowned Filipino painters of the nineteenth century.


As we climbed the highly polished wooden staircase, it was like turning back the clock to a by-gone era of elaborate elegance. The dining room was magnificent: two long dining tables had been decorated with embroidered red table cloths and scattered with rose petals; our names and the evening’s menu had been handwritten on parchment, and crystal chandeliers twinkled above our heads. Despite being part of a group of almost twenty, there was a lovely sense of intimacy that made everyone feel comfortable and relaxed.


The service was professional and efficient. Suzette, our diminutive hostess in her chef’s apron and a sassy blue and white headscarf, introduced us to her waiting staff many of whom have worked for the Lagardas for years, both centre stage and behind the scene. As far as the Lagarda family is concerned, the staff is as vital and important a part of the business as Tita Moning’s recipes.




Our menu excited everyone’s taste buds. Suzette had chosen carefully to ensure we got a good sample of Doña Romano’s favourite dishes. The cuisine is Filipino, heavily influenced by Spain, and I have rarely eaten so luxuriously.


A tapas sampler came to the table beautifully presented on a serving plate of cups and glasses: a thick wedge of pork belly sunk into a glass of almond pili milk; a tiny teacup of gazpacho with crab and avocado; a dish of rich, shallow fried gambas (prawns) and chorizo with enough succulent oil to wipe the dish clean with the soft bread roll on our side plates.


A serve of pan seared lapu lapu was cooked beautifully in port and red wine demi-glaze, but the sauce was a little too sweet to accompany the fish for my taste buds. The Chicken Ballotine, however, was unforgettable. Stuffed with herbs and nuts, this rolled chicken was so moreish, I couldn’t resist a second helping, although it meant I struggled to get through the large serving of Paella Valencia that followed.


The dessert sampler was magnificent, but as I don’t have a wildly sweet tooth, I flagged a little at this point. A whisper of fresh mango tart and the Sagada orange icecream was more than enough for me. But I somehow found room to test the bread and butter pudding we had watched Suzette create earlier. Fresh ‘American’ white bread, spread thickly with salted butter, soaked in milk and punctuated with homemade marmalade, this dessert will raise cholesterol levels to the moon and back, but it may just be worth the trip. This was really something special, topped in a crown of pili nuts dipped in toffee. The bread and milk had turned into thick, creamy custard and was comfort food at its best. It is also La Cucina’s signature dish, and well deserving of the title.


We finished off with a light tarragon tea, the herbs picked fresh from the garden, with a delicate taste of aniseed. ¡Buen apetito! and Tayo’y magsikain.


How to get there:

Directions from Roxas Boulevard.

1) Go straight down Roxas Boulevard and turn right at Ayala Boulevard. (The corner of Manila Hotel on your far left and Rizal Park on your right)
2) Go straight and stay on your right.
3) Follow the sign that says Malacañang, San Miguel on your right, as the road forks.
4) Follow this road straight until you hit Taft Avenue.
5) Cross Taft Avenue under the LRT (Light Rail Transit) and continue going straight down Ayala Boulevard.
6) Go up Ayala Bridge, crossing the Pasig River.
7) After Ayala Bridge, count two stop lights, and take a right at the second stoplight. This is Arlegui Street.
8) The Presidential Checkpoint will be located here. You may have to leave your license for security purposes.

After the checkpoint, the first street to your right will be Aguado. The second Street will be San Rafael. Take a right here and you will find the house on the right side, # 315 San Rafael St, San Miguel, Manila

You may request for a fax or e-mail of a map upon request. Please call 734 2146 or 734 2141.


La Cocina de Tita Moning

Address : # 315 San Rafael Street, San Miguel District, Manila
Telephone Number : (+632) 7342146, (+632) 7342141
Facsimile Number : (+632) 7342141
Mobile Number : +639175315203
Email address : lacocina,


(Note: All lunches and dinners with set menus are are strictly by reservation. They also have an a la carte menu available daily. However, if you plan to dine at La Cocina de Tita Moning, please call ahead before your arrival so they may welcome you properly.)


Author: Alexandra Gregori of COOK Magazine; freelance writer

With forewords by: Marcelle Villegas
Photo Source:
Top photo – From the website of La Cocina de Tita Moning

La Cocina de Tita Moning entrance –

Elegant dining area and food –







  1. I’ve heard of this resto but never knew the history. Thanks Expatch!