A Catalan Gastro-bar
With no less than five popular Barcino tapas bodegas in Manila behind them, it’s somewhat a foregone conclusion that Barcelona friends Dani Aliaga and Sergi Rostoll would have a pretty good idea of what makes a great Spanish restaurant tick.
Interior designer Anton Barretto’s chic, urbanist décor of contrasting upholstered chairs, botanical prints and black steel industrial hanging lamps provides a fashionable, but muted stage for front-of-house manager Uri Singla’s exceptionally cordial welcome, while the heritage-tiled bar pumps out an inspired cocktail list courtesy of Giancarlo Mancino – drinks maestro at Hong Kong’s 3-Michelin star 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. But a restaurant stands or falls on its food, and it’s the rich but simple Med-influenced Catalan menu that has the great and the good of Manila making a beeline for this new Fort Bonifacio watering hole.
Aliaga and Rostoll wisely flew in not one but two Spanish chefs from Barcelona and Galicia, and while you can of course find favourite patatas bravas on the menu, here it’s served as tubes filled with fiery Tabasco-laced mayo. Traditional gambas al ajillo, Catalonian botifarra pork sausage served over caramelised onions, and hearty but mellow sobrasada (a relation of the divine, spreadable Calabrian spicy nduja) with melted mozzarella also share the spotlight, as well as one of the best paella de marisco (seafood paella) you’ll taste outside of Spain – ask for the bottom to be cooked longer if you like the socarrat (crusty pan scrapings). One word of advice, for dessert order the liquid centred chocolate ‘coolant’ at your peril. Un minuto en los labios, para siempre en las caderas. Entienda?