Nielson Tower, Ayala Triangle, Makati City
Tel. No. 828-4888
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
(SPOT.ph) Simplicity and sophistication are classic Chef Colin Mackay. It’s his trademark style that ties a thread through restaurants like Sala, Sala Bistro, and People’s Palace Thai. It’s only right that his latest project, Blackbird, would flaunt that same effortless elegance.
The louder colors of the lounge contrast against the overall theme.
Doesn’t it feel very non-Manila?
The bar in the al fresco area
Jewel hues and the use of symmetrical elements in the lounge area suggest Art Deco and 1930s glamour. It contrasts against the stark walls, white linen, and high ceiling of the main dining area, where Chef Colin had tall glass windows installed to show off the scenic sight of an al fresco setup that takes you away from the bustle of the city. The mostly neutral palette is punctuated by velvet chairs in aquamarine. It feels slightly muted at first, but this lull actually speaks volumes and allows the history of the building to do all the talking.
The right wing
The white walls hide a history that began in 1937. Through the years, it’s become a library, then a restaurant, but it was originally the control tower and passenger station of the country's first commercial airport. The Nielson Tower was once the Philippines’ gateway to the world, and it’s what inspired the theme. The entryway, now the bar, used to be the ticketing office, and what was formerly the waiting lounge is now the main dining area. The "second floor," or the old tower, which provides a more private dining space, was designed to resemble a cockpit. From an aerial perspective, the place actually takes the shape of an aircraft. Blackbird was a name Chef Colin took from a plane he was fascinated with as a child.
Bread Board (P240)
Two clocks on the wall indicate California and Manila times. Back then, the first flights coursed through the Pacific to Oakland. Chef Colin used this international and historic aspect as inspiration for his menu. "We carry a selection of Southeast Asian and European food in a contemporary style. Plus, some classics. Popular food that people can understand," says Colin. "The menu reflects the different facets of the building. We want people to walk in and enjoy the food anytime. The Day Menu is not called lunch. We are not looking for a three-hour window. We want guests to feel relaxed and be able to come in anytime. We're a destination."
Cheddar and Zucchini Brioche
The restaurant has two menus: Day and Night. Both have a range of soups, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas, but the Day also offers afternoon tea and brunch. It’s a good thing that Blackbird doesn’t put time constraints on their offerings because the cheddar and zucchini brioche (P490) is something to crave any time of the day. It’s topped with a stew-like mix of red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and chorizo . The bed of mushy red vegetables is sweet and subtly salty, and it adds texture against the dense, spongy base that’s reminiscent of a brick-shaped pancake. Break the poached egg to blanket the whole thing in velvety richness, which works beautifully against the peppery zing of arugula.
The papardelle (P540) is a photogenic number: fresh pasta is cooked to a lovely bite, tossed in a thick duck ragout, and adorned with shards of Parmesan, rosemary chili crumbs, and arugula.
Wagyu Hanger Steak
Grilled items find their way to the Night menu: lamb cutlets with fine beans, grass-fed tenderloin with potato gratin, and a seafood platter composed of slipper lobster, tiger prawns, and cuttlefish. A delicious char on the dry-rubbed Wagyu hanger steak (P980) pairs well with the deep-flavored sauce, boiled-to-tender carrots and French beans, and thick-cut potato fries. It's a classically charming combination.
At this point, Blackbird may very well be Chef Colin Mackay's finest work yet. Then again, we always say that when he opens something new.