Stepping inside The Cellar at the grandiose Grand Hyatt Manila in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, one feels a sophisticated yet homey vibe.
Before reaching the main dining area, the brick-walled hallway allows guests a glimpse of the restaurant’s two stunning private rooms, each equipped with a long, wooden table and comfy cushioned seats, and a wine fridge replete with premium spirits and the best vintage wines.
The main dining area offers a more relaxed atmosphere, sunlight flooding the room through its floor-to-ceiling windows, cool music wafting in the background.
At night, the place gets more vibrant. As more people hang out, the lights are dimmed and the music volume turns up.
The open kitchen, the main attraction in the house, allows diners a quick look at how their orders are prepared, fresh and fast. The aroma of grilled chicken in the rotisserie fills the air.
The Cellar has areas that can accommodate big groups. These spaces include the main dining room and the three private rooms that can seat about 10, 12 and 16 guests. The intention is to be a venue where people can eat, enjoy great drinks and simply relax.
“Our concept here is quite basic,” says Daniel Ganser, Grand Hyatt Manila director of food and beverage. “To have a homey feeling inside the restaurant. It should be something that when you go here, you feel you’re home.”
In some countries, families consider their cellar as the most special place in the house.
“In Europe, the cellar is where we store preserved vegetables,” says Hyatt executive chef Mark Hagan, an Irish. “A cellar in Korea is where you make your kimchi. A cellar is where you age your cheese or cure ham and everything else.”
The Cellar offers Mediterranean cuisine, serving dishes in small plates paired with good wines.
“We don’t want to use the word tapas because people might think we serve only Spanish food,” says Ganser. “We have Spanish-inspired dishes like chorizo, porchetta and croquettes, but given an exciting spin.”
The menu is kept to a minimum of 19 dishes, excluding desserts. But all the dishes offered are nothing short of topnotch. In fact, these dishes are increasingly becoming their signature fare.
People keep coming back for the seafood paella—generously served with a variety of seafood, chicken and chorizo—as well as the crispy porchetta that’s juicy, tender and grilled to perfection.
Another favorite is the rotisserie chicken, seasoned with lemon, garlic and rosemary, and served on top of grilled sourdough bread.
For the small plates, the Endive Salad provides a nice, crunchy texture and mellow flavor contrast of poached pear, blue cheese, walnuts and mustard dressing.
The Sautéed Chorizo Sausage provides a delicious combo of crisp potatoes, tomatoes, quail eggs and parsley.
Other must-tries are Baked Breaded Mushroom, Baked Camembert, Jamon Iberico and Cheese Croqueta and, of course, the selection of cured meat and cheese (gorgonzola, manchego and parmesan).
Hagan says the seafood comes mostly from the Philippines, such as tuna from Palawan. But the rest is highly dependent on what is readily available locally.
“We are the leading hotel chain in the world with sustainable seafood in our menu,” says Hagan. “We regularly meet with our fish suppliers and they tell us which fish we should put in the menu. About 90 percent of the hotel’s menu depends on the market catch.”
Of course, one should never skip the desserts because The Cellar offers one of the most sinful choices in town. Pastry chef Saban Cavlak whips up the irresistible Baked Calamansi Tart, served with Chantilly cream and raspberry sauce. There’s also the Almond Coconut Orange Cake dressed with whipped cream.
If that’s not enough, guests can still fill themselves with Cavlak’s pastry treats at the Florentine, a to-go bakeshop offering European cookies, chocolates and breads.
The hotel prides itself in its sourdough, the base of all their breads which uses a nine-year-old mother dough flown and hand-carried by Cavlak from his hometown in Turkey. The dough is made daily with this live yeast, allowing a long process of kneading and rising, giving the dough a unique depth of flavor and chewy texture.
The Cellar roasts and brews its own coffee blend, using a combination of locally grown beans and international variety. It also has craft beer exclusively made for the hotel by Engkanto Brewery.
As for wines, The Cellar has an extensive list—which is the heart of the restaurant. However, if you know little about wines and get confused on what to try from the long list, just ask for the digital sommelier.
The digital sommelier is the house wine expert—in the form of a tablet.
“You just click the button from the tablet, swipe it and you get all the information you need for your wine,” says Ganser.
Grand Hyatt Manila is the only hotel in the country to have a digital sommelier. The tablet features the master list of all the wines available in the hotel.
One can choose from sparkling to rosé, white or red, by the glass or by the bottle. It also features the preferred years of wine, variety of grapes, light, dry or full-bodied type of wines.
Guests can also key in their preferred price range according to their budget, and even the country of origin, from Argentina to France to Spain to the United States.
There are also wines rated, evaluated and tried by wine enthusiasts worldwide. Wines preferred and drank by Hollywood celebrities are also included, such as Bottega Rose Gold and Livio Sassetti Colle Argento (a favorite of George Clooney) and Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon and Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial (Scarlett Johansson).
There’s also a food and wine pairings category, the tablet suggests which wine matches The Cellar’s dishes.