On an island far, far away, is the rum footprint of Don Papa Rum. A rum distilled on what is considered to be one of the richest and craziest places on earth. Home to the Don Papa is the island of Negros Occidental, a sugar cane haven in the Philippine’s.
And for one exclusive night only, the mystical madness was brought to Leeds, in one of my favourite buildings, the Corn Exchange. Here we dined as dons, and were swept off our feet by a five course taster menu complemented with Don Papa Rum.We ate, we drank, laughed and listened.
Alone the brand was an intriguing mystery. Unheard of prior to this glorious occasion, we were immersed into the history, branding and future of Don Papa.Six thousand miles, south east from the UK is where you’ll find Negros Occidental. Locally, the island is referred to as Sugarlandia for its abundance of pure Negros canes.
These canes are the crux of the rum, the root of its rich texture to its sweet hints of vanilla, honey and candied fruits. Delightful.
And a Don Papa isn’t a Don Papa, unless it’s been aged for seven years in an American oak barrel.Good to drink you ask? Oh yes. Delicious served neat, and equally delicious shaken into a cocktail, this rum makes for an easy tipple. Trust me, I had enough to try.
Looking across the banqueting table, florally decorated, and with more than enough rum bottles to see us through the night, it became clear that this night was still young.
The menu was intriguing, and made for a good talking point. Cooked by Chateau Marmot, each course was dedicated to the natural beauty of the island; volcano, rainforest, nature, land, and sugar.
First up, the Volcano, a fragrant broth, Bulalo, native to the Southern Luzon region of the Philippines.
Light and slightly spiced, the onion and lemon grass were pleasant delights throughout the meaty broth, and a side serving of bone marrow, a first for me. Although tentative to start, its soft butter-like texture had the most intense beef flavours, overwhelming great. With the broth supped up, the Rainforest course was next. A colourful food jungle of tomatoes, papaya and mango, with a fresh crab salad. The combination of zesty fruits and seafood was heavenly.
The Papa Negroni was the accompanying cocktail. The tangy citrus from the orange peel balanced perfectly from the sweetness of the salad.Nature at its finest, served next, crunchy green asparagus and duck eggs three ways. Double thumbs up. Rich yet refreshing. Yet, it was the pork belly though that caught my eye.As the final savoury course, we were in for a total Filipino treat. With pork belly braised in Don Papa Rum, it was as tender as tender can be, with a gorgeous subtle oak depth, balanced well with lemongrass dashi, seaweed and pak choi. What a melt in the mouth. As the finale, the sweet course. Representing the fine element of sugar, coconut served three ways, with yuzo jelly and green tea gel, another gorgeously presented dish. One that wowed the eye, and pleased the stomach.Packing a punch, the Don Fashioned was the accompanying drink. Strong, full bodied, and surprisingly easy to drink. An old fashioned is certainly not my usual enjoyment, yet the rum replacement made this near-to-neat drink a marvellous contender. The notes of vanilla really shone through, a great drink combination with coconut.We were well and truly wined and dined, feeling particularly fortunate to have joined the Don Papa family for a brilliantly entertain evening.
Feeling very content, warm, humbled and fascinated by the madness of the Sugarlandia experience, the night continued so further. As the night drew closer, and the town quietened, we sipped on our next Don Papa’s until the early hours. Sip after sip.
For one night only, I dined as a don.