Two Spaniards were sitting in a bar in Alabang, pare, joder.
“I want to join the polo match, but my horse has sore eyes, pare. What am I gonna do?”
“Ill call my cousin – she’s in the beach house in Tali. She has an extra horse and a mallet she bought from Barcelona, pare. I’ll call her now! Pass my espadrilles, por favor!”
That’s every cliché about the Manila’s Spanish set in a nutshell - but this really is the story of exactly that: two tisoy boys (with very good karma going their way) opening a bar in Alabang. And it’s a doozy.
The tale begins with a chorizo and a wedding. Sort of.
Miguel Vecin is going to get married to his sweetheart Ria. As someone who lived in Spain for 20 years, he wanted to serve the delicacies he’d grown to love as part of their wedding feast. He had them shipped in, and the guests all enjoyed an abundance of jamon, chorizo and cheeses and so much more. The caterer loved it so much that he asked if he could buy some off of Vecin – and all these transactions went on even after the wedding. This is how Tierra de Espana was born.
Miguel Vecin and his partner Tinchu Gonzalez currently own and run Tierra de Espana, expanding it by also making and distributing an array of Spanish deli items to restaurants and supermarkets. After more than a decade of plying their wares, ideas of a new biz entered their conversation. It was time to take the next step – open something where they could serve all this good food.
After much navel gazing, beer swiggling, and mulling over it, the decision was made to open a pintxos bar. (Pintxos are classic Catalan bar snacks – basically anything on a piece of bread. If you choose well, you can make a meal out of it, and if you’re REALLY good, you won’t spend much either.)
The next hurdle was to find a location in the South, perhaps a sliver of BF where so many other food businesses had started. There’s a reason why there’s a load of restaurants along Aguirre – rents won’t blow up your bank account, and there’s a lot of appreciative people who live nearby who live gladly give you business if the grub is good and the price is right. (And when I say “a lot of people nearby”, I meant it. It’s the largest “subdivision” in Asia. Someone even told me that that factoid was in the Guinness Book Of World’s Records! Whatever the case may be.. it’s huge.)
This is when karma comes in. The two must’ve done something good, because manna just fell on their lap along Don Jesus Boulevard which just so happens to be so near where they live. The owner of the building has a little café on the ground floor at the back, wanted to change the concept, and asked the duo if they could do something with it.
It’s a hidden space, albeit a cozy looking one, with natural light streaming it, and it needed a bit of fixing up, but how can you say no to an offer like that? And just like that, after some rearranging, some hiring, upgrading, and minor building, the search for their space ended, and Bar Pintxo was born. Certainly a blessing, pare.
And now the people in the South, notorious for embracing chain restaurants and such, have a classic bar they can go to anytime. The idea is quite simple: simple food made from great ingredients, with the tipple of your choice – cerveza, vino or a mean sangria. A kicking music program. And no attitude, except to welcome you. You can come in your biz attire, or shorts and flip flops. Doesn’t matter. Drink a little, then eat a little, then drink again. And because of its location, you can be assured that very often it’s the people who live nearby who will be populating it.
It’s like Cheers, the Spanish edition, except Norm speaks Catalan.
And the pintxos? They’re delicious. Order the one with chopped grab, or maybe jamon and mushrooms, or their signature --- roasted red pepper stuffed with Brie and jamon. Their salpicao and gambas is a crowd pleaser too – so much so that they’re considering buying a rice cooker because too many people are clamoring for rice to eat alongside it. Some nights – usually weekends – they’ll even fire up a paella and serve it freshly cooked until supplies last.
This is the kind of place Manila needs more of. A place to stop in after work and where you can relax with a beer or two, or drop in with your buddies just to hang out. Casual and unpretentious. At the prices they’re charging, even students can come over on a date and have fun here. It’s going to be many things to many people.
Viva Espana, pare.
*Published in Rogue.ph