A quick peek into 5 boutique hotels in Manila, Philippines
7 August 2015
Manila is sprawl and gridlock, a patchwork of pockets of vibrant culture tucked away in post-hipster places like Cubao Expo and punctuated by the shiny edifice of gargantuan malls. It’s a large metropolis, best considered in smaller doses, i.e. cities. An erstwhile traveller can hit up dinky budget rooms for five to ten USD a night somewhere in the suburbs, or splurge on the regal Manila Hotel that fronts Manila Bay at 300 USD a pop.
Sometimes, though, we want to spend more time in our rooms, and not have to face interminable crowds. But good rooms often come with hefty price tags. Enter boutique hotels. They often strike a reasonable balance between price, comfort and style. Mackerel gets a glimpse into some of them.
THE BAY LEAF HOTEL, INTRAMUROS
The original walled city of Manila, Intramuros remains a coterie of small streets interspersed with stately buildings and quiet, sun-dappled courtyards of small restaurants and cafes. The walls are still lined with cannons, blocked up, of course, and though the smell of pee pervades throughout, it is still worth a walk up along the ramparts.
The Bayleaf Hotel rises, quite literally, out of the low rise buildings that make up the interior. Built before a government decree on height restrictions, the hotel makes full use of its tall, narrow facade, and has opted for a blend of modern rooms, with a strong focus on quality food in its two restaurants.
Both Raffaele and Nine Spoons offer a range of different cuisines. The former serves up authentic wood-fired pizza with delicious sides (the gamboretto was rich and subtle) and the requisite tiramisu for dessert. In contrast, Nine spoons takes the often finicky Pinoy cuisine and elevates it into a much more palatable form. The sinaggang wasn’t too sour, and the fish was done just right, while the bagnet was an ecstasy of pork with a tasty underbelly of eggplant.
Privato Hotel is a 177-room hotel smack in the middle of Shaw Boulevard, a busy thoroughfare that often gets clogged, as does most of Manila’s streets. It has an Italian-themed decor and bears designations like Piazza Privato, Verona Rooftop Lounge and so forth.
Whilst the marble floors of the foyer give off a frosty and unwelcome feeling, the rooms are clean, functional and the roof-top pool is a splash of joy, although I wouldn’t recommend swimming during a heavy thunderstorm.
However, the real attraction of Privato is its proximity to a couple of famous F&B streets, namely the old jaunts of Kapitolyo and the up-and-coming Capital Commons. The latter is a cluster of low-rise buildings that houses restaurants like Tipsy Pig, a porcine-heaven for gastropub goers, and Black Olive Cerveseria, a Mediterranean mix of tapas and innovative drinks.
But Kapitolyo is where its at for foodies, and notable restaurants include Mad Marks Man Sandwich and Frozen Desserts, famous for their rich, homemade ice creams, Silantro Fil-Mex Cantina for cheap Mexican food and Three Sisters, one of the stalwarts of Kapitolyo and a smashingly good BBQ joint.
COCOON HOTEL, QUEZON CITY
Quezon City is still an important city for the erstwhile business traveler. The biggest revenue-generating city in Metro Manila, it is now the focus of increased real estate construction. Though eschewed by the yuppie crowd, it’s a decent choice for a short business or leisure stay. Its location is particularly useful if you plan for a more green-themed holiday, with the La Mesa Ecopark a short drive way.
Cocoon Hotel has a pretty unique approach to its construction, utilising recycled wood, metal and steel from the demolished structure that preceded the building. Rain and ground water is harvested for toilet flushing and plant irrigation. One could even, as the name suggests, remain cocooned inside, as the hotel offers a full-service spa as well as its own rooftop deck restaurant, Abuela’s Coffeeshop.
The rooms are spacious, and the use of blinds in the bathroom expands the visible space whilst appropriating a touch of class. The abundance of wood in the room and in the corridors creates a warm, natural ambiance, although perhaps the AC was a tad too Eco-friendly. It was the warmest 17 degrees I’ve ever experienced.
Also located in Quezon City, Hive Hotel is currently in soft launch mode, which means half price on hotel rooms but with unfinished hotel amenities. Promising modern eco-chic with rooms retrofitted in fabric and pleasing pantone-matched hues, the Hive aims at attracting travellers that want to spring for a more earth friendly stay.
From organic lotions to shampoo, paraben-free shaving cream and even drinking water in a glass jar, it seems the hotel is on the right track. The leafy mezzanine floor of the Sky Garden is both breakfast area and jacuzzi pool at the same time. Breakfast though was a windy affair, and the abundance of plants meant an abundance of bugs too.
Hive is a little ways (about 10 minutes walk) from the main drag of shops and restaurants along Tomas Morata, but that means it’s also a lot more peaceful at night.
SEDA HOTEL, Bonifacio Global City
Bonifacio Global City, or BGC, is the new Makati. Dozens of skyscrapers of condominiums and office buildings are being raised amidst a succession of strip malls and trendsetting shops. While a crowd will still queue in front of the local Krispy Kreme for three hours to avail themselves of cheap donuts, the rest of BGC is almost a world away from the congestion of Manila. Wide, clean streets and numerous security guards give a sense of safety, allowing for an entire ecosystem of working, living and playing.
Enter Seda Hotel. Styled as a business boutique hotel, one of its most rewarding features is the rooftop bar, from which one can see the burgeoning spires of BFC rise sparkling into the afterglow. Rooms are well appointed, though a little pricey. But, there’s no shortage of dinner and drink options around the area. Do check out the innovative pork-fueled vibes of Wrong Ramen in Forbestown Road before schlepping it down to Las Flores on the corner of 25th and 4th to create a bespoke G&T. Mine was a combination of Death’s Door, an American gin that I had along with rosemary, peppercorn and lemon. A most potent blend indeed!
Room Rates (inclusive of taxes):
1. Bayleaf Hotel - rates from 4,200 PHP (93 USD) for a twin room
2. Privato Hotel - rates from 2,800 PHP (60 USD) for a king-sized room
3. Cocoon Hotel – rates from 4,200 PHP (93) USD for a deluxe room
4. Hive Hotel – rates from 3,000 PHP (65 USD) for a deluxe room
5. Seda Hotel – rates from 7,150 PHP (157 USD) for a deluxe roo