BY NYX MARTINEZ, CHINO RAMIREZ AND MARA NAVARRO
In a country where it’s practically summer all year round, every night is also gimmick night. Throw in the Christmas season and it’s an all-out party. But there’s more than karaoke in this city. Here’s a list of places worth the shots.
BluFrog (Silver City, Frontera Verde, Pasig City; +632 5713259) the Draw: A wide variety of imported drinks and rare bottles at relatively friendly prices; exclusivity, private lounge status, funky interactive tables, and free Wi-Fi. The Crowd: The CEO, his business partners, and hardcore liquor aficionados basking in the glory of a rare find.
Citizen Pub and Burger Bar (City Golf Plaza, Julia Vargas Ave., Pasig City; +6915218 3339 or +63917 550 6699) The Draw: Delicious bar chow and pizzas on the roof-deck make a simple yet indulgent experience in this youthful pub. The Crowd: Kids from nearby upscale villages who can apparently-afford to burst their stomachs here, without busting their wallets.
Borough (Ground Floor, The Podium Mall, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center; +632 570 8906) The Draw: Brunch haunt during the day, heart-pounding hot spot after sunset with 24/7 service. The plush, loft-style place is peppered with floral cushioned seats, while Mafia-style leather seats await night-time clubbers. The Crowd: Quarter-life working crowd looking for a weekday buzz.
Chef & Brewer (Ground Floor, AIC Gold Tower, Emerald Ave., Ortigas Center; +632 6387023; www.chefandbrewer.ph) The Draw: Extensive alcohol list and mature bands; Asian and Filipino food on one side of the menu, and continental favorites on the other. For ten years, it’s been a classic. The Crowd: Company managers and superiors enjoying bands playing their generation’s hit sounds.
Ortigas Home Depot’s Food Street (Julia Vargas Ave., Pasig City) has a wide selection of budget booze and wallet-friendly eateries, In this smorgasbord, even if your favorite spot is full, there is always another place to enjoy beer buckets. At the wet market, pick up fresh catch and tell the waiter how you’d like it served. At Buffalo Wings N’ Things, order chicken by the weight you can handle, then choose from nine unique hot sauces. Jalapeno Cantina Mexicana tweaks regular Mexican fare for the hungry Filipino. Its rustic-looking cantina offers cheap beer and intoxicating pitchers of blended cocktails.
City Golf Plaza (just beside Home Depot, Julia Vargas Ave.) ups the liquor ante and the class factor from its neighbor, with a collection of lounges and wine bars. For a modernist on a classic pub, head to The Reserve Liquor and Lounge. Special mention goes to their extensive foreign beer selection and depending on your table, a refreshing view that overlooks the golf course. Bugsy’s Bar and Bistro is an after-hours favorite – dark, slick, yet strangely relaxing. Barcino requires a lazy hike up to the second floor. This woodsy, earthen bar is home to Chef Jaume’s excellent Spanish cuisine. Even the wait staff is well-trained, as they undergo wine workshop sessions with the chef during the week. Uncle Moe’s is hidden in the corner, but loved for its chicken shawarma. Paired with Beer Below Zero, it’s open past midnight.
II Ponticello (2nd Flr., Antel 2000 Bldg., Valero St., Salcedo Village; +632 887 7168) has been a time-tested institution of nightlife in the city. Recently relaunched and renovated, it is a second home to young and old alike.
Attica (A.Venue Events Mall, Makati Ave., +632 729 5121,+63917 528 8422) prides itself on good food, a long list of deadly cocktails, and plenty of basement parking space. Party here whether you’re up for a laid-back acoustic set during Tune-in Tuesdays or a little soul on Friday Funk.
KYSS (5343 Gen. Luna St. corner Makati Ave., +632 5196925 to 26) joins the other fairly new and upscale joints that call themselves “SuperClubs” – and you know the drill: dress up, drink up, dance till you drop. Polished, designer interiors lure with their elegance, and were created with the knowledge of user behavior in world wide clubs. A delightful menu, infused with Asian components, attracts the diners “who enjoy their late dinners while people watching-discreetly.
M cafe (G/F Greenbelt4, Makati Ave. cor Dela Rosa St.; +632 757 3000, +632 7576000) is an elegant restaurant positioned for the cultured and affluent, like many of those who frequent the adjoining museum. Expect Asian mainstays like pho, laksa and Hainanese chicken to complement MCafe’s Manila-meets-Manhattan atmosphere.
Salon de Ning (G/F, The Peninsula Manila, Ayala cor. Makati Ave.; +632 887 2888) All dressed up and nowhere to go? Welcome to the boudoir of Madame de Ning. Her glamorous legend lives on in this sophisticated live music lounge that is tastefully decorated with a different theme – Boxing, Shoes, Zeppelin, and Shanghai-in each corner. This fictional, beautiful, traveling socialite and her lovers will sweep you up with their 1930s Shanghai charm.
Robot (7912 Makati Ave.; +632 812 8801) sits opposite the Peninsula Manila. Its low cornered stairs descend into a thumping restaurant with that energetic club vibe. Futuristic decor – the ceiling is sheeted with thousands of light bulbs and sushi platters await, with staff dressed in Japanese robes. Expect lots of young kids logged into their iPads on a Saturday night.
The Collective (7274 Malugay Street) contrasts the metropolitan gleam of most other places in Makati. Frequented by many of today’s nouveau-bohemian youth, it’s a small compound of boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Its open spaced center is a popular spot for gigs by the country’s top rock acts.
Makati Avenue/Jupiter Street is known for its karaoke bars, live bands, dancing girls, and even midget boxing. For a wholesome night of fun, Casa Nami Surf Pub (28 Jupiter St.,+63915 762 4461) is a surfer themed pub with local bands. Their Guamanian cuisine (try their Chicken Kelaguen) presents a one-of-a-kind spot in this city. Serious drinkers head over to Distillery (20 Jupiter St.,+632 403 5293) for spirits and more beer.
Greenbelt In Ayala Center manages to retain some greenery while housing malls, restaurants, bars, and – in typical Filipino fashion-a church. Craving Japanese? Visit Izakaya (G/F Greenbelt 2, +632757 4813) for Sake variations. For wine drinkers, a few doors away is Barcino (G/F Greenbelt2, +632 756 0965), with its cellar full of fine Spanish wines and generous servings of tapas. While in this area, cross the street to Arnaiz Avenue. Cable Car (822 Paseo Tesoro Bldg, Arnaiz St. San Lorenzo Village, +632 752 7103) offers the younger college crowd a place to engage in a little sophomore fun, with ping-pong tables and competitive Beer Pong.
MAKATI VILLAGE CRAWLS Salcedo Village dwellers have a lot of options, all in walking distance. Take for example happy hour on the corner of Valero and Sedeno streets: Bugsy’s Bar and Bistro ( +6325015203), the gangster-themed bar, whips up some of the best buffalo chicken tenders in the metro. La Cuisine, (+6325015202; +632 8932072; email@example.com) just next door, is a fantastic French secret. Every night enthralls with non-mainstream music: there’s Broadway with Tony Marino on Thursdays, French accordion on Friday, or Salsa on Saturday. Frustrated singers, hit up the trendy Bowler Restaurant (+632 894 3589) on a Monday for some “Rockeoke” (karaoke with a live band for backup) and colonial English fare.
Legaspi Village may be largely corporate, but 5 p.m. starts up a proper nightlife. Popular bars and bistros include the Balcony Gastropub (110C. Palanca Jr. St., Legaspi Village, +632 818 1551) and Murphy’s Pub (105 VA. Rufino Corner Esteban St., Legaspi Village, + 632 894 1884), a traditional Irish pub feel in the heart of Manila.
BONIFACIO GLOBAL CITY PICKS
Prive Luxury Club (Unit C, Fort Strip;+63917 898 8181; www.priveluxuryclub.com) A word to the wise: Partying in Prive is not for the frugal. Born of the same breed and stock as Opus Lounge and Republiq Club, it’s designed to be the one place that combines the two, but even more exclusive, promising class for cash. “The Manila party scene is leveling up. But as the clubbing lifestyle becomes bigger, it also leaves a desire for a more selective type of clubbing that involves only the distinguished and elite crowd,” say its management. “This is what Prive offers,” Launched last October, the boutique luxury club is open to all, but with a Php600 entrance fee – unless you’re on the coveted guest list. Designed by Erik Cua, giant crystal balls flank the DJ’s table, glittering over the dance floor. From the first step inside, its gorgeous interiors lure you in. By midnight, it’s packed out. Try to secure one of the coveted couches on the mezzanine, overlooking the dance floor. You’ll get a better view of Manila’s elite shimmying, plus a local celebrity or ten.
Seventh HIGH (7th Avenue, High Street; +632 856 1786; +63917 585 2164; firstname.lastname@example.org) At the right end of High Street is a new gaming club – without the gambling. Two levels comprise both a plush lounge, where dinner is served, and drinking games can be ordered off the menu, encouraging one thing: good, clean fun. If you’re feeling lucky, try spinning the wheel of fortune-will it be a shot of whisky or vinegar? The club upstairs is where young fashionistas go in droves to party. Here, Manila’s nightlife industry sees no slowing down, and places like these often bring in international DJs to add some funk to theme nights.
FORT STRIP was once the only lively lot for miles, before Fort Bonifacio became known as Global City. Now, the buzz is back, with a reawakening of posh new clubs and gourmet restaurants.
Orale! Taquerla Mexicana (The Fort Strip, 7th Avenue corner 28th Street, Bonifacio Global City; +632 25522660; www.oraletaqueria.com) The Draw: Inspired by the taquerias in California and Mexico, this home-style Filipino owned hangout serves traditional Mexican platters of giant burritos and fresh fruit margaritas. The Crowd: Anyone and everyone are welcome, but those who really know their Mexican food are regulars. Owner Nikki Confiado is usually on site to chat with customers and translate the extensive menu.
Scarlet Wine Lounge (The Fort Strip,1634; +632 28876838; email@example.com) The Draw: A wine bar with chill-out terrace, whose plush interiors warm and invite you subtly. The general manager’s own concoction of sparkling sangria is a good choice for the ladies, and there’s a sushi list to go with your bubbly. The Crowd: Just over 30s, who appreciate more relaxed lounging, rather than bumping shoulder to shoulder at the clubs.
Draft (Fort Strip, 1633; +63906 248 1214; firstname.lastname@example.org) The Draw: Beer on Tap, and international cuisine. Particularly delicious are those Angry Drunk Mussels drenched in brew, or the laksa curried variation. The Crowd: A noisy, good-looking lot, and here’s a place where you’ll run into the old familiars who appreciate fantastic cuisine in a pub atmosphere.
Tourne (Unit 5 and 6 at the Fort Strip;+632 555 0267; email@example.com) The Draw: Chef Sandralyn Hataway’s field-to-fork, slow-cooked food carries a strong responsible health advocacy. Check on the cheery kitchen crew through the open window if you’re skeptical. Its menu changes every two weeks to surprise and seduce the palate. The Crowd: Groups of girlfriends, families with kids, plus health conscious, hearty eaters on their way from the gym upstairs. Breakfast is served at 7a.m. for those all-nighters.
High Street (Bonifacio Global City; www.bgc.com.ph): Family fun by day,and even more by night, High Street at the Fort is a place with breathing space. Start at Serendra, taking your pick from multinational cuisine choices, then go shopping through the promenade, even after dark. Further down the lane is Fully Booked, a four-floor bookstore with the country’s most extensive selection of international books. Since High Street is the place where people strut their new apparel, and their dogs, pick a spot to people – watch in Murray’s New Orleans Bourbon Street Steaks and Oysters (Bldg. 6, 9th Avenue,High Street; +632 8564326). You’ll enjoy its addicting chicken pate, oyster platters, Wi-Fi, live music, and for parents, the kids’ play area.
The Venice Piazza (McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio) is more for dining than anything else. Although set in a mall structure, it’s quieter, relaxing – sans the crowds, but with wide open spaces that are a rare find in the metro. Its archways are lined with lots of food choices. On some nights, the older set comes to dance under the stars or enjoy an open air concert. If you’ve got toddlers, as mall outdoor playground will keep them occupied while you get up to your elbows in tasty Thai crabs at Red Crab Alimango House (Ground Floor, The Venice Piazza;+632 403 8011).
RESORTS WORLD PICKS
Resorts World is always alive. It’s teeming with energetic crowds, late-night shoppers hunting for designer labels,trendsetters at the coffee shops, and the young partygoers lining up for entrance to the hottest clubs. The best part about this one-stop playground is that it’s right outside the airport, so you’ll always have a way to deal with jetlag. For more private dining options, the elegant Passion (Chinese) and Ginzadon (Japanese and Korean) are to the far left side, near the hotels. On the right, in the mall court, are a multitude of other tasty places to choose from, if you like your food with a view-of party people.
PACKING THEM IN: Opus Lounge: For the best tables in town, your first choice should be the decadent yet elegant Opus. When its creators came together, they represented the elite of Manila’s nightlife and they sure knew their stuff. Adorned with Renaissance murals, the entrance to this restaurant/club is a walkway between dining cubicles, each privatized with frosted glass and chic decor. Delicately plated gourmet is refined by reality – TV celebrity chef Carlo Miguel, and in the main lounge, the superslick, early 30s crowd sashay around its futuristic bar.
Republiq Club: So you’ve managed to get on the guest list – but don’t let your guard down just yet. Collar up, buckle those shoes, and bring a valid ID, because you’ll be checked at the door. Although the three-lane lines are long till past midnight, there’s a method to this pre-screening madness. In Republiq, things are done in order, and those buff bodyguards double as private butlers to assist and guide VIPs. Yes, it’s spacious in here, but the young, glam crowd will keep flocking in, because tonight, Republiq is the undisputed place to be.