This chic joint at BGC invites you to lounge and chill
If you’re up to your ears in the bass-thumping, mindless drinking club scene that’s dominated Metro Manila’s nightlife for the past several years, take heart: Desiderata Lounge in Bonifacio Global City will restore your faith and have you grabbing your coat to head out and rediscover what a good night on the town should be.
Majority of Desiderata Lounge is owned by Anton Zamora, 31, and his siblings (who also own Basilio’s Restaurant along Rizal Drive in the same area). The place is their attempt at reinvention, to “build something that had a philosophy and direction rather than just being a restaurant and just serving food.” They found it in the classic 1927 Max Ehrmann poem “Desiderata.” “It’s more than a poem-it’s a credo,” gushes Anton, who is general manager of the place. “It just basically talks about how you should handle things in your business and in your life...in Lat- in it means ‘things to be desired.’”
Just 15 minutes in Desiderata Lounge, and you’ll find those things can be found there: a carefully curated menu, classic cocktails with a twist, and a music volume level that leaves room for intelligent, sincere conversation.
The music is mostly '60s-Motown, blues, jazz-with the second floor slated to be an upscale vinyl dump of sorts for audiophiles. The menu is by Chef Borja Duran from Spain, who trained in Michelin-star restaurants abroad before he came to the Philippines to set up the kitchens of Barcino. Later, he would set up those of Donosti Pintxos Tapas and The Green Sun, a boutique hotel in Makati.
Fusing his training and background with locally sourced ingredients, Chef Duran has come up with novel, flavorful dishes such as the French-inspired Ox Clouds, fried ox brains with black lumpfish caviar with a poached egg and konbu dip (the saltiness of the caviar and crunch of the breading is a great counterpoint to the fattiness of the dish); the Grilled Mojo Verde Octopus, a surprisingly sweet and tender octopus tentacle with chimichurri, homemade pickles, and potato foam; or the Braised Wagyu Lengua, so soft it almost melts in your mouth, paired with mustard and beet sauce (as good as steak, but not as heavy).
Prepping the pulpo
The Grilled Mojo Verde Octopus
The New York Sour
Although handsome in its present state, Desiderata’s bringing Eric Paras to see the interior to its completion.
A nook by the entrance
The lounge at night
Los Angeles-based bartender Tim Walters, actress G. Toengi’s husband, helped create the bar menu. It’s got some winners, as well: its New York Sour, which uses Templeton Rye, is pretty as well as delicately flavored- it’s topped off with a tiny pink flower and malbec (red wine in a sour! Who knew?), which combines with the lemon to give it an even more refreshing finish. Desiderata’s twist on the Old Fashioned, meanwhile, is made with Bulleit Rye and simple syrup-unlike the, er, old-fashioned way, by muddling a sugar cube in the drink. Interestingly, using syrup makes the drink taste smoother.
Anton’s personal favorite is The Grenada, which uses Don Papa rum, the increasingly popular rum from Negros. More than the taste, it’s the people and story behind it that makes the drink special, says Anton. “It’s nice to know the history of what you’re consuming.” Because ultimately, there must be more to partying and drinking than getting wasted.
“We’re thinking maybe there’s a different market; we’re pretty sure people are tired of the noisy clubs...they want to talk, have a good meal, maybe get a cocktail after, and just enjoy the night,” says Anton. “We’re pretty sure there are people who want to see the difference and have a good time."
Desiderata Lounge is at G/F Infinity Tower, 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; tel. no. (02) 893-4212.
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.