A Modern-Day Panaderia

A little-known modern panaderia contributes color to the frenetic Katipunan eating strip.

Blink and you might miss it, overshadowed it is because it’s beside Banapple and down the street from Conti’s and Kopi Roti. Indeed, situated on a street with no shortage of eating places all targeting the same market, competition is intense.

It’s called Manila Bake, a division of the Serye Café group. Envisioned to be a modern panaderia of sorts, it’s open as early as 6am and does its best to woo one away from Pan de Manila which is yes, also just down the street. A compact space warmed by the light filtering in from the large windows, there’s a temptation’s lair of breads and cakes up front.

But first, I veer off to the right just a bit and linger, looking longingly at the coterie of coffee paraphernalia. Tsokolateras, batidors, French presses, siphon pot brewers, moka pots – I have all of these but I’m always open to flirting with a new one. In addition, there are ingredients for which this equipment is meant for: bottled tsokolate, coffee beans, and bags of excellent tea brand, Daude. I also like the selection of “spreadable edibles”: coco jam, guava jelly, Palawan honey – a selection of carefully curated goods from across the country. Naturally, there are products too from mother company Serye Café, proprietary goods such as the bagoong, java sauce, and bottled tuyo; it all adds up to a veritable one-stop shop for pasalubong or the ultimate grab and go.

The bevy of breads sitting behind the glass are the highlight, and I try them all. Star of these is the pandesal (P8) of course, an old-fashioned crusty type. Surprisingly, it’s very bland when eaten alone. I anoint a pinch in a cup of tsokolate eh (P95) and taste its substantial improvement. There, it’s dark and coats my tongue thickly. The barbecue-filled pandesal (P45) suffices, its moist meat contributes heft to the otherwise light bun.

Somehow, I find the packaged breads more appealing and tasty than their unwrapped counterparts. I ponder the Chubby Milk (P120); a pain de mie of sorts I assume, Cinnamon Raisin (P225), Dinner Rolls (P98) tucked in tightly in a circle, and the Chocolate Swirl (above, P250). I choose the latter because it reminds me of something similar that I bake. The server thoughtfully asks if I’d like the loaf sliced, I do, and I eat a portion before having the rest taken to go. The bread is somewhat lean, the chocolate paste swirl only slightly sweet.

Bread aside, what I feel Manila Bake excels in are their empanadas (all P70). Empanada Ala Cubana is a riff off of that Spanish dish. Here, a filling of ground meat, tomato sauce, potatoes, and some pimientos too if I’m not mistaken, are cradled in a crust that’s equally buttery and flakey. It’s served hot – ooh, don’t burn your tongue – and the Chicken Curry Empanada is just slightly seasoned, the curry flavor a suggestion.

There’s an entire arsenal of sweet treats here to entice, so if morning has come and gone and you’re not feeling especially “bready,” then this is your ticket. The Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Cake, and Macapuno Pandan are attractive and they come in personal sizes too (P135-P145), to be selfish with or to split and share. I can recommend the apple pie (P135), which I ask to be warmed. It’s made from a buttery crust similar to the empanadas and as my fork pierces it, slices of apples tumble out awash in wafts of cinnamon-scented steam.

Because Manila Bake has an inviting seating area, people mistakenly believe that full-service meals are offered here. Lest you turn away disappointed, know that all the food served is what you see displayed on the shelves and behind the glass. It’s then warmed up or whipped up (such as the tsokolate and coffee).  I quite like this option of trying and tasting before deciding to buy the whole thing. Perhaps this is the positioning that this modern panaderia has opted to take, instead of aping the food and business model of Serye. I prefer to honor the vision that establishments have set for themselves instead of attempting to second-guess their intentions.

Having opened only in July, it’s too soon to tell if Manila Bake will thrive as a dine-in place certainly worthy of a leisurely snack, or whether it’ll serve as an adequate take-away location for baked goods and local gourmet products. Either option would certainly contribute well to the eclectic food row that is Katipunan.

Manila Bake
206-A Katipunan Ave.
Brgy. Blue Ridge A, Quezon City
(02) 509 1973 / 0916 498 4547
Open Monday to Sunday, 6am-9pm

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