While Metro Manila is known for its in-your-face demeanor — bright lights, colorful signage, loud traffic and stick-to-your-clothes humidity — there are still a few must-see places around town that are hiding in plain sight.
From hole-in-the-wall restaurants to bars concealed behind shelves and art galleries tucked inside world-class hotels, Manila’s hidden gems offer rare beauty, great food and nights unlike any other.
Nestled behind a 7-Eleven convenience store in a nondescript office building in Bonifacio Global City lies this secret hideaway. No sign hints at its location, but a passage behind a curtain concealed within a mock stockroom leads to a plush, modern bar. It’s a sophisticated spot centering around extensive drink selections (the rum-forward, chocolate-mole-bitter-splashed Pinay Colada) and indulgent bar food (bone marrow and wagyu beef tacos, spicy sausage and four cheese pizzettes).
Gallery C and C Lounge, Conrad Manila
Discover a fusion of art and elegance at the Gallery C and C Lounge within Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Conrad Manila. By day, it’s an unassuming contemporary lounge with sweeping views of Manila Bay. As the evening progresses, though, the space subtly transforms into a sophisticated bar with lighting and DJ-powered tunes. The lounge features stylish glassware, a stage hosting nightly live entertainment and terrace seating overlooking the bay.
Ruby Wong’s Godown at Admiral Hotel Manila
Step into Ruby Wong’s Godown, a jewel huddled within the Admiral Hotel Manila. This speakeasy is a journey through creative interpretations of old Chinese flavors intertwined with Hong Kong and Japanese influences. There are two ways into this secret world: a small anteroom leading to a lantern-adorned staircase and a bookcase entrance from the hotel’s lobby.
Wooden interiors exude history and elegance, with ornate carvings, vintage maps and red string streamers adding to the atmosphere. The drink roster boasts unique aperitifs such as The Rising Sun, a gin-based cocktail infused with umeshu (Japanese plum wine) and apricots.
Alibi Lounge and Bar at Crimson Hotel Manila
In Alabang, another business district south of Manila, you can find Alibi, a captivating speakeasy with changing passwords. Concealed within the homegrown hotel chain’s Crimson Hotel Filinvest City, this bar serves whimsical cocktails such as the cotton-candy-hued Sunset Strip and the enchanting Lucid Fluid. The menu has delights such as toasted brioche with prawn and chicken popcorn.
Ito Kish Café
Ito Kish Café is a sanctuary for sharing stories over coffee, reflecting the charm of San Pablo, Laguna, the owner’s home. With a reservation-only policy, this foliage-filled café caters to interior designers, artists, homemakers and design enthusiasts, providing a haven for quiet moments of repose and recharging.
Ito Kish, a renowned furniture designer, beautifully blends his heritage into the café’s naturally toned ambiance. Indulge in espresso-charged drinks like Nanay Sisang (a vegan tropical mix named after his grandmother) or San Pablo (a coffee-and-coconut blend paying homage to the city’s lakes).
Under the visionary leadership of Robuchon-trained chef Miko Calo, Metronome is a world-class restaurant situated on quiet Bolanos Street in an otherwise bustling central business district. With minimal signage, it’s easy to miss. Foodies know and love the address for its innovative take on tasting menus, refined flavors and spectacular service. Its tasting menus change regularly, but they’re always worth trying.
Mantra Indian Kitchen & Bar
Right beside Metronome sits this quaint restaurant crafting authentic Northern Indian cuisine. All curries, chutneys, sauces and flatbreads are made from scratch. Must-tries at Mantra include papri chaat, butter chicken with cheese-filled naan and a signature vegetarian platter made with tandoori broccoli and other meatless best-sellers.
The Back Room at Shangri-La at The Fort, Manila
Since The Back Room’s discreet opening in 2018, this 1920s-inspired speakeasy inside the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star property remains shrouded in mystery, accessible only to those aware of its hidden entrance. Found behind double glass doors, the nook beckons adventurous patrons to uncover its secrets. The bar’s spotlight shines on its impressive collection of more than 120 gin brands, including the house’s own Bee’s Knees, which is crafted with native dalandan (sour orange), malunggay (moringa) and sampaguita (the Philippines’ national flower) from its very own gin laboratory.
Hotel Bar at Pink’s
In the heart of Manila, Hotel Bar is a youthful and energetic hideaway you can discover behind the retro Hollywood-influenced Pink’s. With themed outings ranging from Motown Night to ‘90s Wednesdays, the bar offers a diverse experience. The bar’s rugged charm makes it a great place to unwind with an Old Fashioned and old-school hip-hop.
Oto delivers an all-vinyl playlist and striking drinks in its enticing cocktail lounge. Immerse yourself in the eclectic energy while savoring sips showcased in three sections: classics, signatures and modern classics with a twist. The former consists of timeless pours, such as daiquiris, while innovative concoctions, such as the Grey Poupon, a showstopper made with Dijon mustard cognac, passionfruit, vanilla, lime and peppers, highlight other areas.
Assembly Hall Poblacion
Transforming from a coffee shop in the daylight hours to a disco bar by night, Assembly Hall brings a dynamic experience in Makati City. For a firsthand look at the transformation, you have to walk through the adjacent admin office after 6:30 p.m. Once inside HereAfter, you’ll find plenty of spirited music and a host of signature cocktails (see: campfire latte) inspired by the business’ alter ego.
Experience Japanese cuisine with a cosmic twist at Kosumosu, a modern izakaya tucked inside the lively Poblacion area. With raw, industrial interiors exuding a vibrant atmosphere, Kosumosu offers a contemporary take on traditional Japanese flavors. From the Galaxy gyoza (ground-pork-filled dumplings) to the egg katsu sando (milk bread topped with fried quail egg), dishes here pay homage to various culinary influences.
Nestled within City of Dreams Manila, Crystal Dragon is a ground-floor gem at Five-Star Nüwa Manila that specializes in authentic premium Cantonese and regional Chinese cuisine. This modern Chinese restaurant has a sophisticated air with classic Chinese design elements. And with dining suggestions ranging from the roasted farm duck to the steamed four season dumplings, Crystal Dragon presents a treasure trove of Chinese culinary traditions with a contemporary flair.
Experience the allure of vinyl and finely crafted cocktails at 78-45-33, fondly referred to as an extension of the owner’s living room. This jazz-inspired bar — the name itself refers to the speeds at which records spin on a turntable — caters to those seeking a refined night out. Indulge in a remarkably smooth Negroni or familiarize yourself with Zoe’s Dirty Chocolate Cream Soda. Either way, the tremendous cocktails and music make 78-45-33 a destination for audiophiles and drink enthusiasts alike.