Metro Manila's Forgotten Bars
They say that bars have a two-year life span. In trendy Manila, that cannot be more accurate. It's not uncommon for bar owners to renovate a watering hole every couple of years to offer what is seemingly a "fresh, new" concept. If you were alive during the era of Louie Ysmael's Venezia/V Bar/Citrus, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.
But, there are those who endure despite peer pressure from those around them to constantly keep up with the times. Something about these bars just clicks—perhaps it's the ideal location; a fiercely loyal clientele; owners with the unlimited resources needed to see the business through leaner times; or maybe it's just an original and is totally irreplaceable. Whatever it may be, we believe these watering holes may not be crawling with hipsters and pretty young things, but we kind of like it that way—perfect for grabbing a few drinks and letting loose without having to worry about who's sitting on the couch next to yours.
The lounge at the Diamond Hotel Manila's 27th floor went from a dark, cavernous lair to a sleek and modern penthouse affair. The refurbished bar boasts splashes of color on their walls, armchairs, and banquet seats; the sound systems and acoustics are top-grade to complement the nightly showcase of performers; and the drinks selection is upgraded to appeal to a younger, more discerning crowd. Your fresh fade will not leave smelling like a sizzling plate—the food choices run from a loaded cheese and charcuterie platter to a rather notable arancini (bread crumb coated and fried risotto balls). And if none of that impresses you, the view of Manila Bay from their ladies room is priceless. I don't know of any other bar who can brag about that.
Bar 27 is at Diamond Hotel Manila.
"They're still open?!" Says everybody who used to go to the iconic Greenbelt 2 establishment. When it opened in 2001, it was the first fine dining restaurant in the area which offered modern French cuisine and was the favored watering hole of Metro Manila glitterati. Its survival can be credited to its ability to adapt to its ever changing clientele. Now that the It crowd has moved elsewhere, it continues to be packed with foreigner types and a more "mature" local crowd that enjoys the live music in the al fresco area.
Nuvo is at Greenbelt 2, Makati.
The Black Pig
Perhaps the culinary stylings of talented duo Carlo Rodriguez Garcia and Trisha McDonald has distracted people from the fact that the Alabang eatery is, indeed, a bar. While many come to indulge in the modern European cuisine, the Black Pig serves up serious libations—from noteworthy cocktails to craft beers to a well-curated wine selection—best enjoyed with their fine charcuterie platters. For the purist who does not care much for the kind of cuisine the kitchen offers (although we know you're missing out), their deli meats and a cold one is really all you need.
The Black Pig is at Alabang, Muntinlupa.
Its ideal location right on the water at Manila Bay allows for front row seats to one of nature's finest shows—the Manila Bay sunset. When the bar opened with the hotel in 2010, it was quite the novelty, its al fresco set-up coinciding famously with the newly-imposed smoking laws back then. The laidback lounge enjoyed a good run with the city's popular DJ acts on rotation providing the appropriate chilled-out soundtrack to drinks by the erstwhile murky waters. Perhaps worsening traffic has made it inaccessible, causing White Moon to gradually recede behind the clouds, so to speak. However, it was relaunched recently with a bright, new look, enticing revelers back onto their sunset-drenched decks.
White Moon is at H20 Hotel, Manila Ocean Park.
Taste of LA
Back when Tomas Morato was the prime commercial area in that neck of Quezon City, Taste of LA was the more polished option for drinking and dining at the former capital. The dim lighting and hardwood tables make it a favorite venue, still, for discrete soirées and clandestine hook-ups, but the heady aromas from their brick oven make Taste of LA an all-around must-visit regardless of your intentions. While their classic cocktails (I remember they have rather lovely frozen margaritas) might not have evolved with the times, they pair perfectly with their super thin crust pizzas, lechon de pugon, and baked oysters—dishes that have withstood changing food trends. As they say: Why fix it if it ain't broke?
Taste of LA is at Roces Avenue, Quezon City.
The Blind Pig
The speakeasy that started it all. It was the first of its kind when it opened in a nondescript building along Salcedo St. in Legazpi Village, changing the palate—and spending habits—of Metro Manila's drinking populace forever. While initially guests balked at the prices of their craft cocktails, it can take credit for educating local cocktail drinkers, eventually having them choose quality, hard-to-come-by ingredients over more affordable, syrupy concoctions. It opened the door for craft, small-batch spirits and an appreciation for more complex mixes, and an army of well-trained mixologists bloomed all over the metro to supply this demand. Thanks, largely, to The Blind Pig. I think it's time to go back and pay your respects.
The Blind Pig is at Legazpi Village, Makati.