If you’re heading to the Philippine capital, take note of these hotspots from Timothy Ahyong of The Peninsula Manila.
Start the day in style
My favourite breakfast place is Breakfast at Antonio’s, where chef Antonio “Tony Boy” Escalante serves great food. The restaurant is in an old country house next to a lake, about 60 kilometres from Manila [in Tagaytay]. People in Manila like to take drives to have breakfast. Though this is also one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Asia, it’s Antonio’s breakfasts that stand out for me.
Then have your caffeine hit
The Peninsula lobby has a live orchestra and the coffee is excellent. Also popular are the new coffee shops opening up around Makati, such as The Curator, which is artisanal and becomes a bar at night. I’m also fond of the Wildflour Cafe + Bakery, which has an excellent selection of coffees and breads. Toby’s Estate has really great coffee, too.
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Get some retail therapy
Greenbelt Mall, a complex of five shopping halls, has the best designer fashion. The best hall for clothes by Filipino designers is Greenbelt 5. For international brands, try the Shangri-La Plaza and the Rockwell Center.
Refuel at a local food market
Mercato Centrale, currently at Bonifacio Global City and open every weekend [Friday and Saturday, 6pm to 3am], is in an open lot where the vendors set up their food stalls. Everyone comes together to eat like they do at the hawker centres in Singapore. This is our version but they move around.
Mix work with play
The best place for a business meeting is Blackbird restaurant in Makati, across the street from the hotel. It’s located in the old international air terminal and has a private room on the second floor overlooking Makati.
Raise a glass
When my friends are in town, I take them for a drink at Prohibition bars, also known as speak-easies, which are really popular right now. I would start at the Salon de Ning or The Bar [both at The Peninsula] for a few drinks then The Belle & Dragon in Makati. The Mandalay Whisky bar has the best selection in Manila.
The restaurants that best show off Manila are La Cocina de Tita Moning, if you’re looking for a classic upmarket dining experience; or for a more modern restaurant, try Sentro 1771, where casual dining with family is the order of the day.
Kick on with the cool crowd
The perfect place for an after-dinner drink is The 71 Gramercy bar [on the 71st level of The Gramercy Residences at Century City, Kalayaan Avenue]. Atop one of Manila’s highest residential buildings, it has the best city views. Then there’s The Palace in Uptown Bonifacio, which has several venues, including the Valkyrie nightclub and the luxurious lounge/club Revel.
Enjoy a culture fix
Manila’s best museums and galleries are Ayala Museum, at Greenbelt Park in Makati, where displays highlight Filipino art, culture and history. Then there’s the National Museum of the Philippines and, for more contemporary art, the Pinto Art Museum [in Antipolo, 25 kilometres from Manila]. Another excellent place to take in Manila’s history is Intramuros, the historic fortified centre surrounded by a massive 4.5-kilometre stone wall overlooking old palaces, churches, monasteries and courtyard houses.
Go where the locals go
Manila’s best-kept secret is the clusters of food streets, such as East Capitol Drive and West Capitol Drive in Kapitolyo and Felipe Street in Población. The food outlets you find there generally don’t feature on websites; you have to hear about them from someone.
Take the memories home with you
For gifts and mementos, make your way to Balikbayan Handicrafts, where you’ll find handmade wooden toys, carved side tables, tea caddies, mother-of-pearl photo frames, baskets, hand-stitched tablemats and coasters, plus a wide selection of other gifts – just five minutes from the hotel. Kultura Filipino is another store in Makati with a range of souvenirs from a variety of provinces, at non-tourist prices.