I know, I know, how presumptuous of me to blog about my Manila favorites when we’ve only been here 7.5 months (OMG, we’ve already been here that long??). And this list might change in a year for all I know, but since I’m always giving advice to newcomers and even seasoned Manila folks (I have a big mouth, what can I say?), I figured it’s time to write some things down… Since we live in Makati, my recommendations are concentrated mostly there, so it’s also a good Makati guide. And by all means, add in the comments your favorites – I don’t know everything here yet, and I can always use more recommendations!
QiWellness (pronounced “chi”) Hands down the best massage I’ve had. I’ve tried The Spa and a lot of other local places and I never get a massage quite consistently good as in Qi (though I admit The Spa’s atmosphere cannot be beat!). My favorite massages are both 90 minutes long, and cost P1080 ($25): QiVitality massage, is a bit deeper pressure with some stretches (perfect after a workout!), and QiTranquility is a combination of lymphatic drainage and a bunch of other things to relax the hell out of you… Once in a while I go for the Hot Stone massage, just for variety. QiWellness is located at: 119 L.P. Leviste St, Salcedo Village, Makati.
FAVORITE FOOT MASSAGE:
QiWellness does a great foot massage, but I’m cheap, so 99% of the time, you’ll see me going to Lotus My Massage Place for a one hour foot massage for only P350 ($8). I always go for the reflexology one: it’s super relaxing and even includes a great lower leg massage – awesome after a run!
NailTropics, Greenbelt 5. Great prices and you can splurge for the foot/hand treatment if you’re feeling fancy (or want to relax). It includes a foot/hand massage and scrub, and it’s awesome.
FAVORITE THAI RESTAURANTS:
This is a tough one… People’s Palace in Greenbelt 3 is an all-time favorite, and their Pomelo Salad cannot be beat.
FAVORITE SPANISH PLACE:
Alba, in Polaris St, Makati. The ham croquettes are fried to perfection, and the paellas are amazing. I love their paella negra with squid ink, while Karl is a big fan of the peppered steak. The pitcher of sangria is only P600 ($14), and if that wasn’t enough, they have the cutest band there, serenading you with Spanish and English songs as you eat.
Have you heard of a cake being blended in with ice cream? That’s exactly what CBD, on Ayala Triangle in Makati, does. Though their burgers and cheesesteaks are nothing to write home about, their milkshake is to die for (and really, eating a burger before a milkshake is not the way you want to go about this!). If you’re a peanut butter fan, I highly recommend their peanut butter vanilla toffee. There are chunks of peanut butter! Karl’s favorite is the chocolate cake one – and you guessed it, chocolate ice cream blended with chocolate cake.
FAVORITE FROZEN MARGARITA:
I know the local favorite tend to be Chili’s (yes, that Chili’s), but it’s always crowded and you wait forever for a refill. I recently found Mr. Jones, and aside from great American food (their macaroni and cheese with mushrooms is to die for), they have great frozen margarita. At P225 ($5.25), it’s not cheap, but it’s at least twice the size of the one at Chili’s making this a great deal! If you prefer a margarita on the rocks, I have yet to find a place that does them better than Chili’s so go for it.
Seryna, in Little Tokyo, right across from Makati Cinema Square. When you’re eating sushi and listening to Japanese being spoken around you (not that I can understand a thing), you know you’re in the right place! I go there for lunch a lot, since their bento box is only P350($8). If you want to try the bento box, they’re open every day for lunch until 1:30pm, including weekends.
Swagat Indian Cuisine in Rada St, Makati — it was recommended by my friend Irida (who is the true expert of Manila, seriously, but to my despair she has now moved back to Italy), and I’ve been there with her and it was delish! We liked it way better than the famous Queens of Bollywood in Greenbelt, even though Bollywood does have a better atmosphere.
FAVORITE VEGETARIAN SPOT:
Corner Tree Cafe, on Jupiter Avenue, Makati. I know, I know, I’m far from a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy dishes lacking meat. Corner Tree Cafe has great food (even very-carnivore Karl agrees!) and there’s enough variety that you won’t even be missing meat, I promise!
FAVORITE PERSIAN RESTAURANT:
Arya Persian Restaurant, in Greenhills. This was another one of Irida’s recommendations, and though I hit Persia Grill more often than not (it’s cheap, and it’s a couple of blocks from our place, perfect for rainy days!), Arya definitely has better quality food.
FAVORITE SUNDAY BRUNCH:
The champagne brunch at the Spiral at Sofitel. They’re closed until the spring, due to damage from the typhoon, but the brunch is being served at the bar and it was just as nice. I recommend making a reservation, skipping breakfast that morning, and if you call they’ll tell you the brunch opens at 11:30am, but keep in mind they only start serving champagne at noon, so make your plans accordingly. I totally ate my weight in cheese when we went there for our anniversary, and though it’s expensive (I think P1,800/person?) it was worth it, so worth it.
FAVORITE DRINK: If you like lychee, the best drink I’ve had in Manila so far is “A Long White Cloud” from People’s Palace (linked above). Lychee, elderflower, citron vodka, lemongrass, rosewater. YUM!
FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOP:
Uh, I have already talked about this one: Greenhills! I’ve been to Divisoria too and wasn’t as impressed, Greenhills on the other hand, tugs at my heart each time! It’s overwhelming at first, but every time I go back I feel more and more at home.
Of course, I’m totally biased because that’s the only gym I’ve been to here, but I did tour Gold’s and Fitness First (both were PACKED when we went). FTX might not be best if you like to just hit the weights or the cardio machines, but if you want to do something different, like circuit training or take classes, I highly recommend them!
Coras Derm Centre (they don’t have a website, but this is the best place to link them to). I really should go more often, I know… It’s the only place where I’ve been so far where they actually take my face seriously and give me a facial (I went to a place in Salcedo, and I got a 5 minute facial and a 55 minute head massage, I was livid – I don’t even like head massages!). I also get a “hydra-diamond peel” there as well (basically a microdermabrasion with serum).
To see another perspective on Manila recommendations, check out Sarah’s post from earlier this year. And the facials was totally her recommendation too! (I go to the same threading place as well, but I have mixed reviews of it, so not recommending just yet…)