Manila, the beating urban heart of the Philippines, has a lively restaurant scene that has maintained the best of Spanish cuisine, offering paellas, tortillas and chorizo – but tapas are the highlight. Here are the 10 top tapas places in the city.
Tucked away from the vibrant and busy streets of Fort Bonifacio, Las Flores is a contemporary Spanish restaurant and cocktail bar specializing in hearty Spanish tapas. Although tapas are often viewed as simple snacks or appetizers, the sheer variety of tapas, from olives, cold cuts of jamon or cheese, to hot tapas like spicy garlic fried shrimps and croquetas de chorizo, can easily constitute a full meal. Contemporary interior decor, with particular attention to small interior objects such as old-fashioned popcorn maker, a small model of vintage car or industrial style lamps contribute to overall laid-back yet sophisticated atmosphere of the restaurant. This makes it one of the most interesting tapas places in Manila.
Situated on the second floor of Commercenter building at the Fort Bonifacio, cozy, rustic and dimly lit Relik Tapas Bar and Lounge is one the most popular places for a night out. Famous for its special themed nights, ranging from Open Mic Mondays with live performances from emerging groups, to Retro Future Wednesdays and Friday Heyday, the restaurant is also a great place to eat Spanish and Philippine tapas. The tasting board includes chorizo, beef quesadilla, stir fried calamari or gambas, pork belly and beef salpicao, a traditional Philippine dish made with marinated and stir-fried tenderloin.
Since 2007, the elegant VASK Modern Tapas and Gastronomic Cuisine restaurant has become a staple of Manila’s fine-dining scene. The small restaurant, seating a maximum of 20 people, also houses a contemporary art gallery, focusing on installation art and showcasing international and local artists in different media such as photography, sculpture, holograms, digital and performance art. The dining experience at the restaurant easily matches the quality of exhibitions, as chef Luis Gonzalez, who previously worked at some of Spain’s best-known restaurants, including Andra Mari, Arzak and El Bulli, builds his menu around the philosophy of ‘Creative Conceptual Cuisine’. To fully appreciate the food, a 12-course meal is advised.
The surprising Cova Tapas y Sangria is the brainchild of Luigi Tabuena. The main feature of the black and white interior of this ultra chic restaurant is a superb ceiling made from various wooden slats that resemble the interior of a cave. The food is equally exciting, offering a wide range of surprisingly sophisticated tapas, including huedos cabreados, a mouth-watering mix of chorizo, potatoes, egg and salsa brava, mejillones al vapor, fresh mussels steamed in a draft beer, lemon and bacon, and even jamon serrano mousse. The restaurant also offers a great selection of sangrias, ranging from traditional red sangria to original white citrus and apple pie sangrias.
One of the latest additions to Manila’s restaurant scene, Beso Cucina Vinoteka specializes in traditional Spanish cuisine. From hefty pork, chorizo, mussels, clams and bacon paella to tiny yet delicious pinchos or grilled meat skewers accompanied with refreshing red or white sangria, the restaurant aims to cater for every culinary whim. The highlights of tapas menu include spiced pork meatballs with tomato sauce, shrimp and chorizo croquetas with romesco sauce and gambas sauteed in chorizo, garlic, white wine and parsley. Starting from five o’clock in the afternoon until eight in the evening, the restaurant has a well-priced happy hour offer with unlimited sangria, fresh fruit and assorted tapas platter.
Barcino Wine and Tapas bar is both a cozy and intimate restaurant and a wine shop with an extensive range of Spanish wines. The restaurant serves a large selection of traditional Spanish tapas, including different types of chorizo and jamon, dates with bacon, tortilla and even manchego queso, a cheese made in the La Mancha region from sheep milk. For a more substantial meal, guests can choose seafood, Valencian or mixed paella, or perhaps choose baby eel or gambas al ajillo. The cozy atmosphere of a traditional Spanish tavern and opportunity to buy the wines tasted during the lunch or dinner makes Barcino Wine and Tapas a pleasant experience.
Pallea Negra | Courtesy Rastro Tapas Bar and Restaurant
Located at Burgos Circle at Fort Bonifacio, Rastro Tapas Bar and Restaurant is a lovely tapas spot with a great selection of cocktails, sangria and wines. With indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant becomes a lively and vibrant place whatever the time of day. As for tapas, guests are welcome to choose a tapas platter, with Spanish cheese, olives, sardines, ham and salami and other cold cuts, or on Oyster Tuesdays dine on fresh, fried, or baked oysters. During the evenings the restaurant has live music, with music styles ranging from Spanish guitar and jazz saxophone to RnB and Hip Hop DJs.
Situated near the Adriatico Arms Hotel, Casa Armas is one of the oldest restaurants in Manila and features traditional Spanish cuisine. The time-tested tapas menu includes various classic dishes such as boquerones, Spanish anchovies marinated in garlic and olive oil, traditional cheese and chorizo or a variety of seafood such as gambas, calamari, angulas, Galician octopus, and frogs’ legs. Similarly, the main meals include traditional Spanish specialities such as paella negra or fish in salsa verde. During the evenings the restaurant has live music, with two musicians singing and playing traditional Spanish guitar music.
Tapeo, as its name implies, is all about great Spanish tapas. Relaxed and casual, Tapeo offers great ‘eat-all-you-can’ deals, where guests can sample up to 20 different kinds of tapas, ranging from mushroom tapas with quais eggs, traditional pinchos, croquetas, tortillas, empanaditas (a soft, oven-baked pastry wrapped around fruit or meat), and montados, a small slice of baguette with various toppings. The food should be accompanied by a glass of Spanish, Argentinean or American wine, freshly made red or white Spanish sangria or even few of the colorful cocktails on the menu. The guests can also buy wines for off-premise consumption.
Situated in a narrow street of San Juan, Calderon Cocina Tapas y Bebidas is becoming a popular hang out place among the locals. The restaurant serves traditional Spanish food so guests can enjoy the full Spanish dining experience, starting with tasty tapas platters of chorizo, jamon, Spanish cheese and olives. The main meals include steaming paella Valenciana with plump shrimps, mussels and vegetables, or Iberian chicken with oven-baked marble potatoes, garlic and olive oil. The meal concludes with sweet and indulgent desserts, all accompanied by a bottle of great Spanish wine or carafe of fresh sangria.