Buro city guide: Manila and beyond
When I first found out we were moving to the Philippines, I really had no idea what to expect. Literally the only thing I knew about the Philippines was Imelda Marcos, Boracay and that was it. Living here has been a real eye-opener. Makati is a growing city and the more I discover, the more I'm surprised by their culture and drive to be one of the best Asian cities. The people are welcoming, there's a pool of blazing artistic and entrepreneurial talent and you're never short of choice when it comes to dining out (Filipinos love to eat and socialise!). This is my edit of the best spots to seek out.
Top 4 fine dining restaurants
One of the most beautiful dining spots in Makati, Blackbird is set in Ayala Triangle in the Nielson Tower of Manila's old International Air Terminal. The food is a delicious fusion of European and Asian cuisine and their cocktails are to die for. I highly recommend having a pre or après dinner drink at the bar.
Neilson Tower, Ayala Triangle Park, Makati Ave, Makati, Metro Manila
+ 63 2 828 4888
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Located in Tagaytay, this restaurant feels like you're being pampered on a retreat while you dine! In good traffic it's approximately 1.5 hours drive from Makati City. Set in a mansion-style home nestled in beautiful green gardens, it's reminiscent of stepping back in time to the dining room of a wealthy 1940s socialite. The food is a tasty mix of European with Filipino influences. Top tip: book ahead, at least one month in advance.
Purok 138, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay City, Batangas
+63 917 899 2866
This place is literally two minutes walk from my condo. It's fine European dining with standout service, fancy décor, extremely tasty food and a great selection of wines. Sala has a relaxed sister restaurant Sala Bistro, located in Greenbelt, which offers the same fine European flavours in a low-fi atmosphere.
SALA: Podium Level, LV Locsin Building, 6752 Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue, Makati City, Metro Manila
+63 2 750 1555
SALA BISTRO: Greenbelt 3, Paseo De Roxas, Ayala Center, Makati
+63 2 729 4888
4. Smith Butcher & Grill Room
If you're like me and love nothing better than a well-grilled steak, then Smith Butcher and Grill Room is for you. It's the ultimate steakhouse in Makati, with in-house butchery so your steak is cut to order. It is such a great dining experience with meticulous detail throughout the entire meal, even down to steak knife selection based on your chosen cut. I recommend you leave room for their cheese board.
ACI Building, 147 H.V. Dela Costa St, Salcedo Village, Makati
+63 915 429 5167
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Top 3 spots for great vibes and good food
1. Unit 27 Bar + Cafe
This has become my go-to place for food and fun! Their menu is a classic take on Filipino comfort food but with a modern twist. I highly recommend you hit it for brunch and also late night dinner, followed by some serious dancing. When their bar kicks off it's like rocking out at a friend's house party: think retro R'n'B tunes and other classic party beats. They also make a killer Old Fashioned. It's probably my favourite place in Makati right now!
Icon Plaza, 26th St, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
+63 998 556 9125
2. Your Local
Located in Salcedo Village, Your Local is a cute hipster eating joint. They have a menu of bespoke cocktails and food that's an interesting mix of all types of Asian cuisine. My favourites are the pomelo salad and smoked salmon donburi with black rice.
Universal LMS Bldg. 106 Esteban St corner V.A. Rufino St, Legazpi Village, Brgy. San Lorenzo, Makati
+63 2 823 6206
3. Lulu and Hooch
I've tried to pinpoint what style of food is served at Lulu, but to be honest, if I were to say it's a bit Italian, Mediterranean and Asian that could sound a little crazy, so I'm just going to go ahead and say it's international. Whatever the classification, the food is exceptionally tasty and making it even better is the super cool cocktail bar attached called Hooch. At Hooch the bartenders are better known as cocktail artisans.
G/F 125 V Corporate Center, L.P Leviste St, Salcedo Village, Makati
+63 927 905 4118
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Top 4 lunch spots
1. Jasmine at The New World Hotel
This is my go-to for the best yum cha in Makati. Although they don't have the usual bustling trolley service, they do serve all you can eat yum cha, plating up super fresh eats.
Level Two, The New World Hotel, Esperanza St corner Makati Ave, Ayala Centre, Makati
+63 2 811 6888
2. Wildflour Restaurant + Bakery
Arguably the best brunch spot in Makati, with a menu that's European with a touch of Asian. My favourite dishes would be the mushroom and asparagus omelette, the grilled octopus and their fried chicken is to die for. The most tempting thing about Wildflour is the decadent array of cakes and pastries on display. They have four branches, but my local branch and the most popular would be Salcedo Village.
G/F V Corporate Center, 125 L.P Leviste St, Salcedo Village, Makati
+63 2 8087072
3. Peninsula Hotel
If I could drink champagne and indulge in bite-sized sandwiches and scones every afternoon at the Peninsula Hotel I would. Their glam high tea is held in the lobby and if you're looking for a 'ladies who lunch' spot, look no further.
Corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues, 1226 Makati City, Metro Manila
+63 2 887 2888
4. The Wholesome Table
This is organic comfort food, Filipino style. There aren't many places where you can buy official 100% organic food in town but this is the top pick. They serve up rich, flavoursome, good quality food, which is, as the name suggests, completely wholesome.
30th St corner 7th Ave, Bonifacio High Street, Central Tagiug
+63 2 867 0000
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Top 4 coffee shops
1. The Curator
Walk through the wine shop to the very back where you'll find The Curator, a small bar specialising in coffee and cocktails. The coffee is worth the treasure hunt.
134 Don Carlos Palanca, Legaspi Village, Makati
+63 916 355 4129
2. Toby's Estate
If you need your daily hit, then I would hands down recommend Toby's Estate. I'm there every day at 8am.
G/F V Corporate Center, Shop 6, 125 L.P. Leviste St, Salcedo Village, Makati
3. Commune Cafe
If you want to experience local coffee flavours, head to Commune. They use their own blend which is a mix of two local coffee varieties. The team are die-hard coffee aficionados who put a dash of love into every cup.
36 Polaris corner Durban St, Poblacion, Makati City
+63 933 720 0241
4. Local Edition
This place is something really special. Their coffee beans are sourced in the Philippines supporting local farmers and communities. They also offer the café as a blank canvas to designers and artists to create installations and promote their work. Coffee with heart.
Mayfair Mansion, 116 Perea, Legazpi Village, Makati
+63 2 556 9655
Top 5 specialty bars
1. Whisky: Mandalay Whisky Bar
This specialty bar will make you fall in love with whisky all over again. I'm no whisky connoisseur myself, but I'm fan of this place. The Mandalay is all about the hidden pleasure, evident as you enter through their secret wardrobe/door from the Belle and Dragon. The door leads you into a dark, smoky space pumping with sexy music beats.
Carlos Palanca St, Legazpi Village, Makati
2. Champagne and wine: Monopole
An intimate wine bar serving the best selection of wines and champagne, Monopole is modern, minimal and luxurious. The service is five star with a tunnel of wall-to-wall premium wines. Limited food menu, it's all about the wine.
G/F Greenbelt Excelsior Building, 105 Don Carlos Palanca Street. Legaspi Village, Makati
3. Cocktail bar: Finders Keepers
A good selection of crafty cocktails with a solid salute to the classics. I love this warehouse bar because it's not your typical stuffy cocktail servery. The mixologists at Finders Keepers make killer cocktails guaranteeing a night of good drinks and good music.
Warehouse 5 La Fuerza Plaza, 2241 Don Chino Roces Ave, Makati
+63 2 403 5019
4. Beer: The Belle and Dragon
Manila is not known for its pub scene, unless you want to spend a night with loud, drunk expats watching a streamed rugby game while listening to a live band... So it was very exciting when The Belle and Dragon opened. I would say it's a classy pub with a wide range of beers on tap, which is the real essence of a proper pub. The food is traditional pub food like nachos, mac and cheese, schnitzel and pies. The best thing about this pub is the atmosphere and beer.
100 Don Palanca St, Legaspi Village, Makati
+63 2 834 5292
5. The Brewery
This place just opened and my first visit was a real surprise. I was expecting to find a bar with a selection of beers on tap, instead I was amazed when I witnessed beer actually being brewed in house. The microbrewery is currently making four types of beer, all of which are fresh and have a nice bite.
10th Ave corner 38th St, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
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The best party locations
1. 71 Gramercy
Located on the 71st floor of The Gramercy Residences, this party locale offers the best views of Manila while you're dancing the night away. It has a panoply of options to suit all night owl tastes, including dining, a private lounge, bar and nightclub. For my first experience at 71 Gramercy, I went for a 7.30pm dinner and left at 3am. It's a must.
The Gramercy, Kalayaan Ave corner Salamanca St, Century City, Makati
+63 917 809 4093
2. The Palace
The Palace is a mecca for drinking, dancing and swimming. Head to the Palace Pool Club for an endless summer party vibe. The dress code is resort/swimwear and the club turns out an enjoyable afternoon of good company, music and drinks. Top tip: travelling with a medium to large group? Book a cabana.
Also within the Palace complex is Valkyrie. The most popular venue in the establishment, everyone hyped this club up prior to me going. Personally, I'm not a club person, but a can see why those who are really into clubs would love this place. It features a roster of international acts, the space is massive, it's really well decked out and it draws a very good-looking crowd. Although I'm not a huge clubber, I can see why it's one of Manila's hottest venues right now.
9th Ave corner 36th St, Uptown Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Valkyrie Club : +63 917 680 8888
The Pool Club : +63 917 689 8888
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Top 3 out of town escapes
Palawan is one of the most breathtaking islands in the Philippines. It's also one of the most luxurious getaways around. You can do anything, from relaxing in a luxurious resort like El Nido (amazing over-water bungalows) or island hop, explore, dive or spend time dining in Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan.
Boracay offers everything from a relaxing getaway to a holiday full of partying and more partying! The first time we went to Boracay we stayed at the Shangri-La. It's at the top of Station 1 away from the bustling street crowds and it's truly a five star resort. With all the luxe bells and whistles you expect like a private beach, beachside drink and food service, on the beach massages, live music on the beach.... basically if it's not raining, expect to spend your entire holiday on the beach. For our next trip we're staying at the Discovery Shores Hotel, closer to Station 2 and all the action, so New Year's Eve should be amazing!
Tagaytay is perfect if you want to escape Makati for the day. The drive is only 1.5 hours from the city and is a great to day trip to take in the picturesque Tagaytay mountains. The vistas are beautiful and it's fantastic to be outdoors. To luxe it up dine at Antonio's or The Lake District Restaurant and book an afternoon session in the bathhouse at the QI Wellness Living center.
3 of the best markets
1. Salcedo Market
This is where you will find me every Saturday morning between 8-10am. Best to get to the Salcedo Market early to ensure you get the freshest food and also beat the sticky Manila heat. The markets are the go-to place to try local delicacies. You will also find amazing and unique local companies making a difference in shaping the local community. This place has a great buzz; it's definitely worth a visit.
Every Saturday 7am - 2pm
Jaime C. Velasquez Park Salcedo Village, Makati
2. Legazpi Markets
The Legazpi Markets are on every Sunday and here you will find fresh flowers, produce and bread sans artificial sweeteners. A great spot to buy your weekly groceries, pick up organic products and discover local textiles. Another unique market with amazing food and amazing products!
Every Sunday 7am - 2pm
Cnr Legaspi and Ruffino St, Legazpi Village, Makati
3. The Gourmand Market
The gourmand market is a pop-up foodie market specialising in interesting, delicious and innovative food from chefs and business owners in Manila. It's a place to discover amazing local businesses and indulge in organic produce. The food stalls are held over three days and it also features live music, making for a great vibe. This market appears without advertising, so you really need to be on the look out for the next installment.
Top 3 spas
1. Chi at the Shangri-La hotel Manila
If you want to take some much needed time out and really relax, then I would recommend booking an afternoon at the Chi Spa in the Shangri-La Manila. It's your classic five star spa experience with a calming ambience, well-trained therapists and for two hours (or longer) you can escape the hot traffic-jammed city. It's a haven in the city.
4th & 5th Floor, Garden Wing, 1 Garden Way, Ortigas Center Mandaluyong City
+63 2 633 8888
2. Devarana at the Dusit Thani
Although it's not so flashy, I think the Dusit Thani Manila have a great day spa if you're after a good quality treatment without the bells and whistles. I like this place as it's around the corner from my condo and they have great therapists.
Ayala Centre, 1223 Makati City Metro Manila
+63 2 238 8856
3. QI Wellness Living Tagaytay
You will need at least four hours at this place and I guarantee you it is a must! I love the rose reverie treatment which takes you on a blissful two hour trip. I should also mention that after this treatment you walk out smelling like a rose garden, #amazing. The spa is set on the mountains in Tagaytay and the hot and cold baths are outside, undercover with a very pleasing view of the Taal Volcano .
Aguinaldo Highway, Brgy. Maharlika East, Tagaytay City
+63 917 522 6969
My go-to beauty spots
1. Jing Monis Salon (for cut, colour and keratin treatments)
For months I struggled to find a hairdresser in Manila, which meant I had really bad hair until I travelled back to Australia or Paris. I was unable to find anyone who understood my direction and most importantly had a good eye and skill. Then along came Jing Monis! What I respect most about this man is that he carefully takes the time to understand the shape of your head, but he is also conscious of your personality, the way you dress, the way you do your make-up and your overall look. He's a great hairdresser who saved me and I would definitely recommend booking an appointment at one of his salons.
2. Aivee Clinic (for the oxygen facial)
After the oxygen facial at the Aivee Clinic you will feel cleansed, lighter, more radiant and firmer. When you spend every day in this hot sticky city, you really need to take extra care of your skin, which is why a facial every two weeks is a must. My skin always looks better three days after this treatment.
Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, Bonafacio Global City, Taguig
3. Nail Tropics (for the espresso mani/pedi)
This is not like the crazy nail bars I'm accustomed to. The environment is calm with low-slung cushioned beach style chairs putting you to sleep within minutes. Personally I recommend the espresso mani and pedi, take an eye mask and catch up on some zz's for 90 minutes.
Level 4, Greenbelt 5 Complex, Makati
4. Belo (for facial acupuncture)
I became slightly addicted to acupuncture on my face. It literally gave my face a buzz and a glow. I was having these once a week, then decided that was a little crazy, so now I get it done every two-three weeks and usually do the treatment two days before travel. It feels like you've just had a natural facelift. As I am always at my computer I feel that my face is generally in a downward tilt, I find this uplifting and I can feel the circulation and new energy in my face after this half hour treatment.
The Residences at Greenbelt, San Lorenzo Tower Esperanza St, Greenbelt Complex, Makati
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5 best places to shop
This is a men's and women's multi-brand department store, housing both international and local designers. It also has great perfume, cosmetics, accessories and shoes. They have a well-curated selection of merchandise, which you won't find anywhere else in Makati. Big name brands like Givenchy and Proenza Schouler hang alongside casual brands such as J brand, Rayban and local designer Harlen + Holden. It's a great destination for designer beauties.
2nd and 3rd Floor Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center Makati
2. Shangri-La Plaza
When I first discovered Shangri-La Plaza I was actually tracking down the new Giuseppe Zanotti store. Not realising what I was about to walk into, I entered the plaza and my eyes lit up: in every direction were new season pieces from all my much-loved designers. It's a super posh center with endless choice. Not only do they have a great designer portfolio, they also have a range of commercial standalone stores and boutiques.
Shangri-La Plaza Corporation EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City
3. Univers d'homme et femme
This is a multi-brand store carrying high designer labels such as Celine, Jil Sander, Alexander Wang, Comme des Garcons, Roland Mouret, Valentino, Dior to name a few. You'll find an incredible selection of bags, shoes, accessories, clothing and hard-to-get magazines. It's a very cool concept store with some of the finest designers on exhibit.
One Rockwell East Tower, Estrella corner Rockwell Drive, Makati City
Greenbelt is made up of five complexes, with Greenbelt 1 catering to a lower price point and Greenbelt 5 featuring standalone designer stores. I do love that you can pick your centre based on how much you roughly want to spend. For fashion, you can find high street stores such as Zara, Topshop and Muji and also designer stores such as Balenciaga, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs. There's a ton on offer in Greenbelt, you can spend an entire day shopping and eating at their endless strip of restaurants, which also range from low-to-high end.
Greenbelt Park, Walkways Makati
5. SM Aura and SM Megamall
Houses a great selection of lifestyle, high end and commercial stores such as H&M, Uniqlo, Crate and Barrel, MAC cosmetics and the SM department stores. Not only do these centres feature the big name stores, they also have unique boutique stores and restaurants.
SM Aura: McKinley Pkwy, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila
SM Megamall - Edsa corner J.Vargas Avenue Mandaluyong City
The best parks
1. Ayala Triangle
Ayala Triangle is situated in the centre of Makati and is a manicured park with lots of activities constantly happening. Filipinos start celebrating Christmas in September, which is kind of amazing as they deck out the park with lights and have light shows every night. Closer to Christmas you can also find food trucks, night markets and fireworks.
Ayala Avenue, Makati
2. Salcedo Park
This is the perfect kids park in Makati city. If you have kids I recommend grabbing a morning coffee at Toby's Estate or Wildflour and walking over to the park and letting the kids run wild. This is where they hold the Saturday Salcedo markets, so it's a nice spot to set up a picnic and eat all your market goodies.
Jaime C. Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati
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