Old Manila, New Chef

I recently learned that Old Manila, the Manila Peninsula’s flagship restaurant, was helmed by a young Filipino chef. I can’ even remember a time when the major dining outlet of a hotel here was headed by a Filipino, so I thought it would be good to investigate. I booked dinner for myself and Jocel and we had an outstanding meal at a not too extravagant price (for a 5 star hotel, that is).

Old Manila is now headed by Chef Allan Briones who worked for some years under the original Bad Boy Chef Marco Pierre White. Upon returning to the Philippines, Chef Allan first worked at the Peninsula’s Banqueting department until an opening at Old Manila gave him the opportunity to do his real passion which is fine dining. The reworked menu now has about half his creations while retaining half of the usual standards (mostly grilled items). He intends to expand his influence by putting more of his creations on the menu.

Since we wanted to get a sense of Chef Allan’s cooking, we went whole hog and ordered appetizer, soup, main course, and dessert.

To start us off, we had a mildly-flavored olive oil panna cotta.

Amuse bouche - Olive oil panna cotta

Amuse bouche – Olive oil panna cotta

The appetizers followed. One ver tender charred octopus on a bed of beans, and an excellent scotch egg with a bit of salad on the side. The appetizers are rather hefty so you could share one between two people, or have one as a main course.

Charred octopus

Charred octopus

Scotch Egg

Scotch Egg

This was followed by our soup course. Jocel’s duck and tamarind essence soup had an interesting preparation, using a siphon coffee maker to extract the flavors from a mixture of herbs and spices. It was rather like a mild sinigang consommé in flavor. Very good. I also enjoyed my jamon and English pea soup, the crisp peas and ham giving a nice textural contrast to the rich soup.

preparation for the duck soup

preparation for the duck soup

Duck and tamarind essence soup

Duck and tamarind essence soup

Jamon and English pea soup

Jamon and English pea soup

On to the main course. Jocel opted for a grilled item, the Portuguese spiced chicken. This came with a choice of sides and our waiter recommended the steak fried rice which was a good, if rather heavy, accompaniment.

Portuguese spiced boneless organic Pamora chicken and steak rice

Portuguese spiced boneless organic Pamora chicken and steak rice

I decided on a fish course, the pan-seared barramundi on a bed of risotto. The pickled vegetables with this dish refresh the palate so that the starc doesn’t feel too heavy. The fish was perfectly cooked, fork tender and with good flavor.

Pan-seared barramundi

Pan-seared barramundi

Just a word on the wine and water service before going to dessert. I have observed that some high-end restaurants here automatically ask guests if they would like sparkling or still water, giving the impression that there is no other choice. Personally, I’m not a bottled water fan so avoid it when I can. I like that Old Manila doesn’t push the expensive water on you and just automatically pour you service water. Regarding wine, they have a short beverage list with some wine and cocktail selections. The wine prices look quite reasonable (for a hotel, anyway) and so we each had a glass of Schloss Vollrads Riesling for just over P 500.00 a glass with a generous pour. They also opened a fresh bottle for us and they give you a taste of the wine for approval. Proper wine service.

Although we could have skipped dessert as we were rather full, we decided to soldier on. Jocel had an excellent Davao chocolate cake which was encased in an edible biscuit-like box, while I had an equally satisfying crema catalana.

Davao chocolate cake

Davao chocolate cake. It’s underneath that box with the holes.

Crema Catalan

Crema Catalan

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Including wine, the cost came to about P 4500.00 per person which, for a hotel fine-dining outlet, is not bad at all. If you are looking to have a proper dinner with table cloth, soft lights and music, impeccable service, and outstanding food, look no further than Old Manila. I look forward to trying more of Chef Allan’s creations as he makes the menu truly his.

Old Manila is located at The Peninsula Manila, tel # 887-2888