You know the food and beverage industry is booming when straight-laced, corporate types and successful creatives are opening bars. What used to be “the last refuge for misfits” (Anthony Bourdain’s words, not ours) has become good business when done right and if your heart is in it. Friends Airell Lam and Michael Hearn know this.
Their bar Run Rabbit Run (RRR) in Poblacion is both a passion project and a sound investment. You see it in the careful thought they have put into their look–eclectic, “down-the-rabbit-hole,” but calculated. A forlorn silver bunny holding a dripping candlestick looks out towards the street. The second floor seating area with plush sofas lead to the open air deck that is lit with draped bulbs and enlivened by a vertical garden on one side.
“We’ll have this painted on by an artist,” Lam shares pointing towards the bare wall. “Not graffiti. Probably something that still goes with this 'Alice in Wonderland' garden setting.” Lam was a full-time graphic designer, a life he left behind to focus on RRR, but he will always have that eye for detail. The extra-dim interiors say “speakeasy,” yet the fun, modulated soundtrack from their speakers encourages guests to giggle flirtatiously or dance with abandon, depending on the evening’s agenda.
While the atmosphere is youthful and carefree, the drinks here are serious. Construction consultant Hearn invited his old friend Beverly Yeoh to partner up with them in this venture. Yeoh and business partner Ernest Goh own popular Singapore bar Bitters and Love, and they make sure that the libations at RRR are consistently world-class.
There is always a Singaporean bartender on duty with one of the local talents. That evening, it was a tandem of Bitters and Love’s Stephanie Lim and Wilson Ricablanca, who has experience working at BGC’s Bank Bar and Duddell’s in Hong Kong’s Central district. To Hearn and his partners, this attention to detail and quality is what sets them apart from the rest in trendy Poblacion. “What the others are doing is fun, too,” Hearn is quick to point out. “But, what we offer is an alternative to the loud parties and cramped spaces. When our guests come in, they know that they’ll have a relaxed and comfortable place to hangout with friends. The drinks are always good. And, of course,” he adds with a grin, “the aircon is always on full-blast.”
As it should, since the cocktails here, while very easy to drink, pack a serious wallop. The Kaya Toast comes with two toast wedges topped by a scoop of pandan jam. Guests are meant to munch on the sweet sandwich while sipping on the rum-based, peach-flavored drink made famous by Bitters and Love. The scent of sampaguita might throw you off a bit, but Chillin Like a Villain is a gin cocktail with a mission. “We feel it could be the national drink,” Lam confesses. “Like what the Singapore Sling is to Singapore.” With that lovely balance of floral and fruit, it is a serious contender.
There is local craft Enkanto beer on tap for those who want it, as well as whiskey or gin on the rocks for those who prefer their liquor straightforward and uncomplicated. But, to those who enjoy some thought-provoking concoctions by those who make them well, RRR is the place for that. The spicy and complex Jessica Rabbit evokes raunchy thoughts with notes of clove and and star anise. Truffle essence in their cocktail aptly named Mr. Truffles might seem pretentious and shortsighted, but combining it with bright citrus and a bite of the torched pineapple balances the heady earthiness of the luxe ingredient.
While Hearn still holds on to his day job, he admits that the instant gratification he gets from RRR is priceless. “Whenever a guest approaches us to tell us that (RRR) is their new favorite bar, it’s an amazing feeling,” he admits. “There was a time someone came in and was upset that the bar was difficult to find. But, by the end of the night, the same guest approached us and said, ‘no, don’t change a thing. I love it exactly the way it is.’”
Run Rabbit Run is at 4991 P. Guanzon Street, Poblacion, Makati City.