OLD MANILA

Ev­ery­thing is new once again in the Penin­sula Manila’s fa­bled fine din­ing restau­rant

Let’s Eat - - WHAT'S INSIDE - WORDS BY SPANKY HIZON EN­RIQUEZ

The Penin­sula Manila has seen it all, and ev­ery­one has been seen in The Penin­sula. For over four decades --the ho­tel cel­e­brates its 41st year this Septem­ber 14 --- it has been the prime des­ti­na­tion for peo­ple watch­ing and star gaz­ing. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to ob­serve at least a cou­ple of show­biz celebri­ties, usu­ally more, en­joy­ing the Pen’s fa­mous Halo-Halo as af­ter­noons lean into evenings, and deeper into the night, for cock­tails and cof­fee, all the way to the wee small hours of the morn­ing. Ev­ery­one, at ev­ery time, loves the op­u­lent lobby of the “Grand Dame of Makati”, de­fined by its twin mar­ble stair­cases and the sun­burst sculp­ture by Na­tional Artist Napoleon Abueva.

The Penin­sula has been wit­ness to more than just the af­fairs of the rich and fa­mous and the plot­ting of politi­cians. Ten years ago, a few weeks be­fore Christ­mas, gun­fire erupted in the ho­tel, and it seemed that even be­fore the smoke had cleared, the Pen was back in busi­ness, none the worse for wear, save for a cou­ple of bul­let holes, sou­venirs of a dra­matic siege.

I’ve been to the Penin­sula in­nu­mer­able times: I’ve danced the waltz in many a debu­tante’s cotil­lion, em­ceed ev­ery kind of event, attended dozens of wed­ding re­cep­tions, but ev­ery sin­gle time, I still feel a tin­gle when­ever I walk into the ho­tel; a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion of things to come, a sub­tle recog­ni­tion of all the mem­o­ries at this land­mark. The past and the fu­ture, blend­ing into the present. Magic is al­ways in the air.

The an­tic­i­pa­tion is at its high­est when­ever I dine at Old Manila, the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture out­let. It’s been at the Penin­sula from the very start; it has un­der­gone a few facelifts since, but its in­trin­sic char­ac­ter has never, and will never change: a bas­tion of gourmet din­ing, with one of the out­stand­ing wine se­lec­tions in the world. The restau­rant has never looked bet­ter. The dark wood pan­els have given way to Art

Deco geo­met­rics; the brown hues re­placed by brighter cream tones, com­ple­mented by the stun­ning large-scale black and white pho­to­graphs by Fran­cisco Guer­rero.

And the food. The glo­ri­ous food, lega­cies from the sto­ried line of chefs that have built upon each other’s strengths since 1976. A few months ago, for the very first time in its rich his­tory, a Filipino was ap­pointed as Chef de Cui­sine, and for many of its loyal pa­trons, the restau­rant, now de­fined by the culi­nary swag­ger of Chef Al­lan Bri­ones, is the best it has ever been. Four decades on, Old Manila is once again, brand new.

I FEEL A TIN­GLE WHEN­EVER I WALK INTO OLD MANILA; AN AN­TIC­I­PA­TION OF THINGS TO COME, AND A SUB­TLE RECOG­NI­TION OF ALL THE MEM­O­RIES AT THIS LAND­MARK.

PHO­TOS BY GABBY CANTERO

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1 Old Manila Table Set­ting

2 Foie Gras Tor­chon with Salted Date Caramel

3 John Stone Ir­ish Grass-Fed An­gus Tom­a­hawk

4 Davao Choco­late with Pil­inut Carabao Milk Ice Cream

5 Miso-glazed Chilean Sea Bass with Au­bergine cooked three ways

6 Old Manila In­te­ri­ors 05

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