From wicked sips to underground rock, the Filipino capital is primed for a big night out. No karaoke required, says Carrie Hutchinson.
Karaoke bars are so cliché. As are the stories of nights in distant Asian cities you could never tell to anyone at home.
Manila is huge and can be a little confusing. It’s easy to be swayed by the instant gratification of a hotel bar or a club in one of the seedier parts of town. Instead it’s a much better idea to jump in a taxi (they’re so cheap don’t bother trying to figure out the late-night public transport options) and head to places some of the locals enjoy. Rest assured, you won’t hear a bunch of drunk dudes belting out ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’.
There are many places you can enjoy the sunset over Manila Bay, although strangely, given its proximity to the view and the modernity of the development, there aren’t a whole lot of rooftop bars in Bonifacio Global City. Instead, book ahead so you can nab a gorgeous corner table 27 floors above ground level at Black Sheep and partake in modern interpretations of classic Filipino drinks. It’s quite different to what you’ll find in other bars – even the fancy-schmancy ones. (FYI, the locals aren’t overly fond of the taste of alcohol, so you won’t get toasted during sundowners.) The Kwarto Kantos is a gin-based cocktail containing preserved calamansi, while another, made in collaboration with a local distiller, combines cucumber, basil and a sugarcane wine called basi. Black Sheep The Penthouse, W Fifth Avenue Cnr 5th Avenue and 32nd Street, Taguig facebook.com/blacksheepmnl
The Filipinos are renowned for their love of song and ability to sing. Everywhere you go in Manila you’ll hear tunes pumping out of jeepneys as people move about the city. They also love food, and the unique Singing Cooks and Waiters restaurant is where you’ll find the two combined. Huge family groups celebrating birthdays line long tables alongside work parties starting out the night as everyone working in the restaurant belts out tunes – all the hits, from ‘My Heart Will Go On’ to ‘Gangnam Style’ – to the accompaniment of a three-piece band dressed in Hawaiian shirts. Somehow the chefs manage to bang pans and juggle fruit as they serve up plates of lechon (roast suckling pig), kare-kare (beef in a peanut stew) and kalderata (braised goat in a tomato stew). Not recommended for romantic tete-a-tetes. Singing Cooks and Waiters Ongpauco Building Cnr Roxas Boulevard and Senator Gil Puyat Avenue, Manila singingcooksandwaiters.com
During the day it’s one of the better places in the Makati district to grab an espresso, but from about 6.30 each evening The Curator transforms into a crazy-cool, dimly lit cocktail lounge. Being hidden behind a wine bar also makes it feel as if you’ve discovered one of Manila’s after-hours secrets. You can either pull up a wishbone chair at one of the communal tables or prop yourself on a banquette. The list is short on what you might consider classics, instead featuring creations by local bartenders. Owner Jericson Co is the man behind the Rye ’n Gosling, a fruity fusion of blueberry, rye whiskey, Gosling’s rum, ginger shrub and Fernet-Branca. The Curator 134 Legazpi Street, Makati thecurator.com.ph
Like many bars in Manila, it’s all about the music at saGuijo. The difference is that in this tiny dive bar in a suburban street you’ll find indie and unsigned bands playing rock. Squeeze through the door past the band and over the legs of girls sitting on the floor and head out to the back for an icy cold can of San Miguel. Then try to find a spot where there’s a line of sight back to the musos (there’s no actual stage). You’re almost guaranteed to be the only traveller here, but a fun, loud night out is guaranteed. saGuijo 7612 Guijo Street, Makati saguijo.com
Unless you have a penchant for establishments with monikers like Dimples, Rascals and Mixed Nuts (ladyboys rather than ladies), you may think there’s no point going to P Burgos Street, Manila’s best-known red-light district. That was until brothers Sante and Aljor Perreras decided to bring a touch of Mexico to the ’hood. At A’Toda Madre they’ve imported some of the finest tequilas – blanco, reposado and añejo – to the country. There are more than 100 available at any one time, as well as Mexican beers and, of course, margaritas made with premium booze, agave nectar and fresh lime. The brothers have also imported spices and herbs from California and Mexico for use in the kitchen. After all, at this time of night you might need a pollo de chipotle taco or two to keep up the energy levels. A’Toda Madre GF Sunset Tower Cnr Durban Street and Makati Avenue, Makati atodamadre.com.ph
There’s nothing that goes better with a late-night foray in a foreign city than laying your cards on the table. Or putting everything on black. Or chucking a coin in a slot. Solaire Resort & Casino, built on reclaimed land in Manila Bay (Imelda Marcos initiated the program in 1977), is like a touch of Macau come to Manila. The gaming area is a huge 18,500 square metres spread over two floors where you can take your pick of 380 tables or 1700 slot machines. If you’ve got no idea when to fold ’em, the Dragon Bar, with its namesake crystal centrepiece, is a good spot to peruse the comings and goings in the lobby. Order a martini (it is that time of night, after all) and contemplate your next move. Solaire Resort & Casino 1 Asean Avenue Paranaque City solaireresort.com
Now is about the time you’d generally head straight for the nearest kebab stand. However, when in Manila do as the locals do and instead indulge in halo-halo, a local dessert that is a huge, colourful concoction of purple yam ice-cream, crushed ice, jackfruit, coconut shavings, chickpeas and jelly. The name means mix-mix and that’s exactly what you do. Normally, you can get halo-halo all over the city but at this time of night there’s only one place to go: the magnificently soaring lobby at The Peninsula Manila. It’s the perfectly extravagant way to end a long night. The Peninsula Cnr Ayala and Makati Avenues, Makati manila.peninsula.com
Solaire Resort & Casino has 488 luxurious guestrooms, as well as just about every convenience you could hope for, including four signature restaurants, bars, spa, swimming pool and gaming rooms. It’s located next door to the huge SM Mall of Asia. Rooms from about US$150. solaireresort.com
Closer to the shops and bustle is the Peninsula Manila. Located in Makati City (Manila’s central business district), it’s rather a grand place to stay, especially if you love elegant lobbies and exceptional service. Superior garden rooms from about US$195. manila.peninsula.com