According to my phone, Manila is currently experiencing a fair and agreeable weather, with an average day temperature of 26°C. Unless you're required to wear a suit for work or you've a freezer for an office, you're probably dressed in your light clothes today: polo shirt and pants if you're a guy, or a breezy dress that matches your open-toed sandals if you're a lady.
But did you know that just several kilometers away from the metro's center, in a bar along the uphill climb to the peak of Antipolo, one employee is trembling in his thermal winter wear at this very moment?
That's right. While we're fanning our sweaty selves in our seats, this lucky guy is experiencing winter cool while carving ice sculptures for tonight's spectacle at Philippine's first ice bar: Zero Degree Manila.
I first learned about Zero Degree Manila on TV about a month ago. My first thought was: “Wow, whoever owns that bar must be crazy! Very brave and very crazy!” I mean, sure I've seen ice bars in international travel shows before and I did long for the experience. But never in my wildest dreams did I expect that I'll experience it this soon-- in this hot and humid country, at that! My second thought was, of course, to invite my closest friends and experience this ice bar as soon as possible.
We went to Zero Degree Manila one Friday night--apparently their busiest night of the week, as evidenced by the full parking in front. There, we met Arnob Bhattacharjee and his co-owners who were quite frenzied running the month-old business. Raymond Pagulayan, Operations Supervisor, gladly accompanied us throughout our Zero Degree Manila experience--explaining every now and then the different activities we can do in each of the decks.
At the basement of the building is our main purpose: the ice bar, in which Zero Degree Manila is most famous for. The small doorway down the stairs leads to the blue-lit changing room where jackets of all sizes are neatly hung. We chanced upon a small group who just came from the ice bar. They were all giggly and happy-- we couldn't help but feel excited as well.
With jackets and gloves on, we proceeded to the “warm room”-- a sort of buffer you have to go through before entering the ice bar. A minute after, we were given the go signal to enter the ice bar.
The ice bar was smaller than what I expected but was as cold as promised. With foggy breaths, we claimed two shots each of Filauin wine (their signature concoction) which come with the ice bar entrance fee of P200.
Served in a hand-carved shot glass, the liquor was just my type: chocolatey and just very slightly bitter. I loved it and will probably love it even more if only the ice glass they served me had more of the wine. The two complimentary shots from the shallow ice carvings barely warmed me up and made me yearn for more (and that's coming from someone who rarely drinks!). If you wish for a stronger kick (which, for others, equates to more bang for the buck), just opt for unadulterated shots of whiskeys, vodkas, and tequilas. Or maybe, just wait until your ice bar experience is finished and have cocktail all you can (P200) or beer all you can at the upper decks.
Anyway, in addition to the little ice couches, ice tables, and ice sculptures (which, by the way, change daily) that you could touch, the ice bar has floor to ceiling glass walls that showcase the magnificent view the metro's landscape. Where else in the world can you be in a thermal jacket while looking at a twinkling horizon of buildings basked in heat? This, I think, is the ice bar's biggest come on next to of course the chance to experience Philippine's first ice bar.
After around thirty minutes of enjoying faux winter, we exited the bar and went up to check out the other decks.
If you're into drinking in al fresco spots with live band as background, then the 2nd floor of Zero Manila might be right up your alley. But if you're like me, who “hangs out” for the food, then head to the 3rd floor where a warm buffet spread of around 15 dishes awaits.
Here, you'll find quite a spread of Filipino (and some International/fusion) dishes that are available for whoever takes advantage of their P200 eat-all-you-can promo. Popular items include fried kalabasa, adobo, calamares, pasta, and vegetarian lasagna. Additional P200 will be charged if you decide to avail of their cocktail-all-you-can deal. Two hundred pesos for an eat all you can deal in a restaurant with such a beautiful view? I say that's quite a steal!
We capped off the night with a few bottles of beer, talking about the experience we just had. We exchanged suggestions on how this concept that's brimming with potential could be more awesome. But as it is, it was a gimik night that's unlike any other.
I salute the owners of the Zero Degree Manila for their guts to open up an ice bar in a perpetually hot metro such as ours. Their concept is brave and brilliant and I do hope they could work on improving the place and experience further. I think scheduled snow fall like in the mall's skating rink would be an awesome addition. Or perhaps, bigger sculptures and more tables and chairs would do? Either way, one thing's for sure: with Zero Degree Manila Ice Bar around, even for just 30 minutes, we can escape our 26°C environment and enjoy good life below zero degrees.