Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Manila House: What’s the political color of your steak?

Or how its walls echo the Philippine contemporary history
/ 05:10 AM July 26, 2017

The Grill, Manila House’s 2-month-old steak house, has a wall adorned with framed political cartoons.—PHOTOS BY KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ

The Grill, the ultra exclusive Manila House’s newest attraction, is hardly 2 months old yet it has already gained buzz for the mouthwatering, two-kilo USDA prime grade tomahawk steaks, half-pound rib-eye and lamb chops that keep the place packed during weekends.

Complementing the decidedly masculine menu is its no-nonsense interiors—walls painted emerald green and chocolate brown, undulating marble floors and hard-back chairs with dark chinoiserie patterns.

An open kitchen with glass walls to prevent food odors from clinging to the diners’ clothes completes the cozy 80-sq m restaurant.


The atmosphere would have been pure testosterone except for the framed editorial cartoons that adorn its walls.
With many of them dating back to the mid-20th century, the cartoons offer snapshots of the country’s political, economic and social history through drawings and caricatures that carry cheeky comments about times past.

This detail is deliberate, Manila House’s Ricco Ocampo said. Mind you, the team that chose the cartoons made sure that those from more recent administrations starting with that of Ferdinand Marcos are part of the set.

A sample of more contemporary cartoons featuring then President Fidel Ramos

“It’s about diversity.” Ocampo’s explanation is succinct.

Apparently, the team did not want to leave anyone out and ruffle any political feathers. “We have Marcos, (Fidel) Ramos, (Cory and Noynoy) Aquino and (Rodrigo) Duterte,” he added.

There’s still space for additional frames, in case someone indeed feels ignored.

Ocampo said the idea came from Manila House’s founder Doris Magsaysay-Ho, with culture advocate and Lopez Museum head Cedie Lopez-Vargas helping out in the selection.

“We wanted a statement on the wall that would give the diners something to think about. The ups and downs of Philippine history, from the colonial times… how it evolved. But we didn’t want to do it with something so serious. Being in a grill room is serious enough,” he noted.

The Wong Kar Wai-esque corridor at Manila House welcomes guests.

Ocampo chuckled when reminded of observations that The Grill could stand in for his own home. “There are a lot of similarities,” he admitted.


Ocampo added he has worked with the Belgian architect Gert Voorjans, who designed the restaurant, on other projects.

Artworks on sale

Aside from humongous steaks, The Grill offers kurobuta pork chops, oysters Rockefeller, Norwegian salmon, sea bass and jumbo prawns. Diners take these in while listening to dinner jazz.

Ocampo pointed out that Manila House intended The Grill to be “more sober” than its other restaurants including Bonifacio Lounge, Avenue Bar and the Japanese-themed Issho. A fifth eatery, Anahaw, will serve Filipino fare when it opens.

The veranda offers al fresco dining.

“Unlike the other Manila House spaces that keep evolving and changing, we want a sort of permanence for The Grill’s design. Something that will stand through time,” Ocampo said. Not too staid though, he quickly added.

“I don’t want (Manila House) to look like a hotel or a new establishment. It’s a home away from home for the 700 members (so far). A very lived-in atmosphere. Intentional. Bohemian. I want it to have character. We’re trying to create a certain atmosphere,” Ocampo said.

The veranda offers al fresco dining.

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TAGS: Lifestyle-Home and Entertaining, Manila House, steak
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