When I was “working from home” in the early 1990s, it meant pecking all day on a typewriter with myriad folders and a ream of bond paper beside me, making sure that the landline was within easy reach, just in case the boss called. Today, wifi is life. A fast and steady connection to a laptop, or even a smartphone, is all that’s really needed to be productive. Virtual offices are the new normal, but just like traditional brick and mortar workspaces, there are certain essential considerations. A house can be a home, but not necessarily an office, as the professorial dad and his children proved in that recent BBC viral video, and a chain coffee shop has too many distractions.
The solution? Co-working spaces. Cool and cozy establishments, quite conducive for solo work or small conferences. They’ve been popping up all over the city recently, and aside from the obvious advantages – speedy internet and quiet surroundings — most of them offer special incentives to draw in the modern highly flexible, always mobile workforce: good food, better coffee, and some of the best desserts in the most unexpected places. Since I retired from the rat race seven years ago, I’ve spent many, many hours in these spaces. Welcome to my offices.
59C is its street address on Paseo de Roxas, and it’s also the name by which this co-working space goes. There’s loads of easy (and free!) parking, which is always a plus, in the front yard of this converted 1960s-era bungalow. It has a distinct culinary cachet: owner Jean Paul Cheung is the son of the founder of one of my all-time favorite Chinese restaurants, the Good Earth Tea Room; hence, these brilliant bites: bacon-wrapped siomai and pork floss siopao. His business partner is also his wife, Trish Locsin. She’s a chef from Bacolod who was, for almost a decade, Gaita Fores’ chief-of-staff. So much to choose from, so many temptations in their menus, but I can never resist the Hopia a la Mode. Old-fashioned mongo hopia from the Polland Bakery, smashed on the grill, topped with vanilla ice cream, and blessed with edible flowers.
Nikko’s Baking Studio
A few steps away from 59C is its neighboring house: Nikko’s Baking Studio, which has become many things to many people: it’s a bakeshop, a test kitchen, a baking school, a restaurant that specializes in home cooking and Pinoy breakfasts-all-day. (Note: do not miss their amazing feathery-crispy adobo flakes-silog). Recently, an area’s been renovated and rededicated to co-working. Lots of outlets to plug in all the workers’ devices, with a router on high, blinking reassuringly. Chef Nikko Buendia’s creations are classic, almost a throwback, but with witty updates. Her mocha cake, an elegant version of my favorite mamon from Goldilocks, is infused with Kahlua. It’s also called The Pope’s Cake, as it was served to Pope Francis on his visit to the Philippines in 2015. But my must-have dessert when I’m working there? The Calamansi Pie that looks and tastes exactly, or perhaps even better, than a key lime pie. Curdy and creamy and crusty. Like Nikko’s famed Papal cake, this too is absolutely divine.
Wokby 4900 is the new sister of co-working establishment 59C, and like its older sibling, the digits are its street address. This one is on Durban St. in the hippest culinary enclave in Metro Manila, Makati’s Poblacion. The Cheung couple partnered with Kian Kazemi, a young man with equally distinguished F&B credentials. He started with his family’s Persia Grill chain, and on his own, put up the popular Kite and Lobo restaurants across each other, the latter, right next to Wokby. Very convenient: three locations, three distinct concepts all on one block. The baby of three’s sweet claim to fame is its Lola’s Chocolate Cake. As its name implies, it’s a moist, old-school, no-frills cake with cocoa and condensada frosting. Oh, there is one frill on top of the cake: a long, thick rasher of crispy candied bacon, and it’s a literal and figurative flavorful, sweet, and salty exclamation point to the Wokby co-working experience.
The folks behind my fourth “office”, Tilde on Matilde St., also in Poblacion, need no introduction. First up is Neal Oshima, photography maven, whose love of developing film has now led to a love of fermenting his own beer. Chiqui Lara, advertising industry legend: Alice Dixson’s “I can feel it!” was her campaign. And Ginny Roces-de Guzman, hall of fame baker and cookbook author. They have a coffee shop/bakery/commissary studded with vintage mid-20th century Danish designer chairs, which is one of the reasons why I love spending time lounging here. The other reason, of course, are Ginny’s treats. There’s the sugar-free Sans Rival: layer upon layer of luscious buttercream alternating with crunchy meringue, the whole fairly bursting with chopped pistachios. And my new favorite pasalubong when travelling abroad, Champorado Cookies: drop cookies made with dark, native tsokolate, cocoa nibs, and since you can’t make real champorado without it, malagkit rice. The texture is pure Sunday childhood breakfast. Sheer genius.
A day at the office won’t be complete without Happy Hour, right? A few steps away from Tilde is Holy Smokes Low & Slow BBQ. It’s my favorite neighborhood haunt for unwinding after a long day at….erm… work. They have a killer brisket inspired by a true pitmaster great, Aaron Franklin. And like a proper bar, Holy Smokes opens at exactly 5pm to welcome patrons for barbecue and beers. I adore the brews and the meats, but I must confess, I love their dessert the most. It’s a Turtle Pie, with caramel sauce oozing between the rich, dense chocolate filling and the crushed cookie crust. It tastes exactly like the original Turtles chocolate candies. Mmmmmmm. Low and slow indeed, baby.
Contact Information of establishments mentioned:
59c Paseo de Roxas, Makati
02 501 9732
Operating Hours: Monday – Saturday 9am to 1am
Nikko’s Baking Studio
59A Paseo de Roxas, Makati
02 887 1711
operating hours : 9am to 9pm
FB : www.facebook.com/nikkosbakingstudio/
4900 Durban St;, Poblacion, Makati
(0917) 675 9964
operating hours : 11am to 3am
FB : www.facebook.com/wokby4900/
Matilde cor. Gen. Luna Sts., Poblacion, Makati
02 771 2764
operating hours : 8am to 7pm
FB : www.facebook.com/TildeCafe/
Matilde cor. Jacobo Sts., Poblacion, Makati
(0917) 503 6544
operating hours : 5pm to 12mn
FB : www.facebook.com/holysmokesbbqph/