As early as 5 pm, you can already see people trickling out office doors and making their way to their favorite hangouts for a quick meal or a couple of drinks to unwind after a long day’s work. Leading the pack in terms of popularity these days, are two fairly new spots that are aptly situated practically next to one another. Say hello to Bowler Restaurant and Bugsy’s Bar and Bistro, two resto bars in Salcedo Village that have been making quite the buzz as perhaps two of the best places in the area where you can expect excellent food and drinks within a cozy, comfortable ambience. And because I just happen to conveniently work around the corner from these two bars, I though I’d finally drop by and see what all the fuss was about.
Stepping inside Bowler for the first time is like being transported to jolly old England, thanks to its dark wooden cabinets, intricate floor tiles and colorful glass-stained windows reminiscent of an English pub. The place is dimly lit, with candles flickering on each table and the soft lighting from the chandeliers casting a romantic mood on the entire place. It is, without a doubt, an ideal place for an intimate lunch or dinner or simply for when you want to eat in peace without having to worry about blaring music or customers talking loudly from the next table. Personally, I love coming here for whenever I need to catch up with friends or if I need to impress a client over lunch (without necessarily putting a dent in my wallet).
Despite the fine-dining setting however, Bowler is far from stuffy and pretentious. I see all sorts of people in here—foreign expats in their suits, bankers in their office attires, funkily clad advertising folks and even the more casually dressed residents who live nearby, obviously just looking for a bite to eat. The waiters here are also friendly and efficient. After two or three visits, expect some of them to call you by your name already.
What’s an English pub without some cold draft beer and traditional English chow? Bowler’s Colonial English menu is home to many traditional dishes like their bestsellers namely, the Norwegian Smoked Salmon Fettuccini (P395)(my personal favorite), the Bowler’s Fish Fillet (P375), the Shepherd’s Pie (P320) and the Fish and Chips (P395), which are always fried to golden perfection and served with tartar sauce with just the right amount of tanginess.
Norwegian Smoked Salmon Fettuccini
Bowler’s Fish Fillet
Most of the items are big enough for sharing, making them perfect for those with hefty appetites or looking to split the tab with a friend. If you’re looking for something light and healthy to munch on, try the cottage cheese sticks!
Fish and Chips
When it comes to drinks, there are several on the list that customers keep coming back for. The Lychee Martini (P175) is a favorite cocktail among the ladies! Next up is the famous Bowler Bomb (P200), made up of 6 different kinds of alcohol and is not intended for the weak. Another popular drink is the Berry Sensation, a cranberry based cocktail with cherry brandy. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, Bowler also has its fair selection of wines, vodkas, whiskeys, etc. to choose from.
Although not always necessary, I still make it a point to reserve a table whenever I plan to drop by here. With word getting around about this new addition to Salcedo Village’s roster of bars and restos, it’s always best to be prepared.
Some of you may be familiar with Bugsy’s already. The original branch that opened in Ortigas almost two years ago is a favorite weekend spot of many in the North thanks to its yummy comfort food, affordable prices and casual environment. A few months ago, its second branch opened along the streets of Salcedo Village, just about 50 steps away from Bowler. And judging on how difficult it is for me sometimes to get a table during the week, I’d say this branch is definitely making a killing with its customers.
Named after the American gangster Bugsy Siegel, Bugsy’s is the epitome of your friendly, neighborhood bar where absolutely anything goes. The entire place is divided into two sections: smoking and non-smoking, with each room having its own little bar. Plush red sofas, giant mirrors and black and white photos add to the cozy interiors. Once again, the crowd here is pretty much your mix of office folks and nearby residents, all looking for a place to chill out after work comes to a halt. Some people come in as early as 2 pm though, when there’s free Wi-Fi being offered for customers all the way up till 5 pm. This makes it a perfect alternative to coffee shops for that mid-afternoon caffeine fix or meeting.
When the sun sets, however, that’s when the folks really start piling in. It’s a given that the drinks are yummy and pretty cheap (for Makati) but one of the biggest pulls of Bugsy’s is their legendary Buffalo Tenders (P175), crispy boneless chicken fillets cooked ala Buffalo wings style and served with a shot of creamy Blue Cheese dressing. I have yet to come to Bugsy’s and not see at least three tables without this dish on them.
Other best-sellers include the Bugsy Siegel (P595), a 1-inch, 400 gram USDA Angus rib-eye steak and the Bugsy’s Cured Beef Surprise (P185) , their version of tapsilog. Being a major steak lover, I highly recommend the Bugsy Siegel. It not only tastes amazing, it’s great value for money! It’s easily big enough for 2 to 3 people to share. No doubt about it, I’ll be coming back for that one after my No-Meat-During-Lent diet ends.
Bugsy’s Cured Beef Surprise
Whether you decide to go to Bowler or Bugsy’s is merely just a question of preference (or luck-- depending which place you’re lucky enough to find a free seat in). But if you’re looking for an after work hangout away from maddening crowds and loud, blaring music, then these two places are your best bet. Good food, affordable drinks, great ambience and bartenders who know you by your name. Now if those aren’t bars you can call home then I don’t know what is.