In its glory days, Malate was the rendezvous of society’s most beautiful faces: artists, socialites, and celebrities, even influencers, ambassadors, and politicians from around the globe. Its streets were teeming with glitz and glamor, and its many bars and restaurants overflowed with the perfect mix of flair and decadence. It was definitive Manila, and in it was the city’s heart.
Fast forward to the Malate most of us grew up to know, and barely any of its glorious past was retained. Artists’ lounges closed its doors for lounges of a different kind, and Malate’s crowd became seedier and seedier. Until finally, it became mostly known as “that part of town” you just do not visit.
Thanks to the efforts of the city government and the nostalgia of private companies, these days Malate is experiencing a kind of resurgence. New bars and restaurants, as well as updated oldie-but-goodies, are making waves, creating a Malate revival many have been longing for. The way things are going, it seems only a matter of time before Malate reclaims its spot as one of the hippest, most happening, places in the city.
So do yourself a favor one Friday night. Visit these spots and partake in the unique atmosphere of one of Manila’s most legendary districts, and witness the Malate revival all for yourself.
The Bar @1951
Just like its first iteration as Penguin Cafe, a Malate legend from the 80’s until it closed its doors in 2009, The Bar @1951 is a mecca of free spirits and creative souls. Serving up la vie bohéme, The Bar @1951 has a dedicated gallery space, a live performance space, a loft conducive to deep conversations, and an overall vibe of creativity and free-thinking. It is most often frequented by artists of all brands for the art shows, live music, and good company. With such a distinct and unique vibe, it’s a welcome alternative to the glossy clubs and disco lights scattered all over the metro.
The Oarhouse has been a Malate institution since 1977. After a few relocations and a few handovers with management, it remains one of the last bastions of old Malate. But Oarhouse is also one of the main characters in the Malate revival, thanks to a visit by international celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. Since Bourdain’s visit in December of last year, Oarhouse has been making the rounds of must-try spots in the city – again. Celebrity chef or no, however, Oarhouse is a space for great drinks, great food, and great conversation. It is also a gallery space where indie artists can exhibit their work. Between its rich history and its surging popularity, it’s probably safe to say that, just like Malate, The Oarhouse isn’t going anywhere.
Early this year Tambayan Capsule Hostel opened its doors for backpackers and travelers. With a somewhat elevated hostel setup, quaint old-world interiors, and the fact that it’s in a restored mansion, the hostel quickly became the newest talk of the town. Housed in the hostel’s second story veranda is also one of the newest and hippest… well, tambayans in the whole Malate revival. Tambayan Gastrobar is a laid back watering hole perfect for chilling over beer and making new friends. Add to that the staff in vintage garb and hostel guests from around the world, and you get a truly colorful Malate experience.
Found in the V Hotel Manila, Eat. Café (yes, with the dot) gets down to the basics and focuses on the true essence of food: comfort. Not to say that their fare is basic. As a matter of fact, their menu offers a range and creativity at par with many of the trendiest spots in the city now. But instead of focusing on the “what” of eating, they focus on the why. Eat. Café is a cozy place (it sits only 30 people at a time) where you can stuff yourself and take satisfaction in the simplicity of just savoring great food. It’s a great spot for weekend lunches or maybe even pre-Malate pub crawl dinners, thanks to its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
It’s been two years since this Brooklyn, New York legend opened their doors in Malate, and still, the magic lives on. With such a reputation in the US, it’s no surprise that Purple Yam’s opening in Manila immediately sparked more talks of a Malate revival, where old glory can finally come back home. Purple Yam is located in the ancestral house of one of the owners, Amy Besa, and adds even more nationalistic character to the Filipino-centric fare. Gourmet creations and reinventions of classic Filipino dishes, as well as a degustation, are only some of the things that make this Malate restaurant unique. The fact that this popular New York haunt is now in Manila is symbolic to the Malate revival; like a homecoming of sorts. It’s an emphasis that Malate is back, and will only get better from here.