Until I met Anabel Tanco, the owner of Bizu, I wasn’t a fan of the French patisserie and bistro. Granted, the place was truly a feast for the eyes with its lavish display cases, and ornate cakes with their euphonious names — but it wasn’t the place I’d go to for dessert. I found the cakes, complicated as they were, to be too froufrou for my taste, all style and no substance. And the prices! wooh, how prohibitive.
Then the food magazine I write for sent me to interview the owner of Bizu. When I met Anabel, my whole view on Bizu changed and now I’m a fan with a terribly expensive addiction to their pistachio macaroons. (They cost P25 each!)
Bizu started out as a kiosk at Glorietta back in 2001. They introduced macaroons, those circular glories of egg whites and crushed almonds to Filipinos who had until then only known macaroons as gloppy coconut and condensed milk confections. Then there were those cakes, individual in size and costing as much as P195 each. With names like Samba, Opera, and Amour, they evoked images of romance and French dreams. A few years of this, and now the Filipino loves and embraces all things French, but of course not as much as Anabel.
“I just wanted to introduce the French dining culture to Filipinos, to introduce the European pastries,” Anabel says of her decision to open Bizu. “We’re different from other patisseries in our look and style. We don’t have the same products.” Truly, this is not the place to go to if you want the traditional sans rival or rum cake. Bizu is the incarnation of its owner’s passion for all things French. “It’s about time we came up with something like this in Manila,” Anabel tells me. “I had the opportunity to learn how to make these kinds of cakes, so I grabbed it. I think it’s just the coolest thing!” she exclaims.
Bizu is a full-blown bistro that serves all meals, and those in between. I particularly like the afternoon tea at Bizu which is served from 3-5. Come with a friend and share a 3-tiered tray of savories and sweets washed down with your choice of tea. I liked the mushroom in vol au vent pastry, and the lemon (limone) tartlet was pretty good too. What sent me however, were the scones, maid of honor, and the Eccles (ECK-uhls) cake. These are traditional English pastries similar in that they are both encased in a flaky pastry (usually puff pastry); the maid of honor had a filling made from milk curds, egg yolks, and butter; while the Eccles cake had a sweet raspberry filling.
It’s not well known, but at Bizu, you should try the French hot chocolate. Have it thick or thin in a mini or regular cup, it’s a wicked brew of French cocoa powder and milk. Not just an ordinary drink, it’s a concentrated does of pure chocolate, perfect for dipping or dunking or drinking straight up. Oh, the sin! It’s stick-to-your-lips good. Look at the cover photo above and see how it sticks to the sides of the cup.
Of course, what would Bizu be without their macaroons? Pure egg whites and crushed almonds, each is tediously handmade. “I have one person who does it the whole day, from 7-5. He does nothing but macaroons,” says Anabel with a hint of incredulity in her tone. There are more or less 15 flavors available at any given time, although seasonal specials are offered. Presently, it’s the earth, wind, and fire line for rosemary, mint, and chili respectively.
A place speaks to you when you enter it. At Bizu, most people see and hear the words “French” and “expensive.” Anabel talks of how customers have come to expect only certain things at Bizu. “A cake with chestnut and frangipane didn’t do so well, and anything with coconut or banana won’t sell either. They expect everything imported ”“ they don’t expect anything local here. We have a calamansi pie where we had to put a raspberry surprise, coz if it’s all calamansi, it won’t sell.” I smell our colonial mentality at work here.
So insistent is Anabel on having only the best in her store that she talks of having to source several products. Bizu uses only Valrhona chocolate and Elle & Vire cream cheese, a cheese so expensive it’s not even available at retail. It would be wrong however, to mistake Anabel’s devotion to quality as elitist or snooty. “It’s a mindset,” she says as a matter of fact. “Our food just has to be like this.” And what about price? “If we have to increase our prices, we do. I would never sacrifice our products,” she says. I found her candor to be quite refreshing. I’ve seen too many restaurant owners go under because they engaged in a power play trying to keep their prices low while their products deteriorated.