There’s something to be said for keeping things pure, simple, and local. In this day and age when people are becoming more conscious of what they put in their body, there is an increasing demand for organic food. At the same time, we’re becoming more aware of our environment which is why the market for sustainable products is ever-growing. And then there’s the fact that we’re slowly but surely learning to appreciate home-grown ingredients. Manilabake, operating under the banner of Serye Café Filipino since 2012, takes all these elements and combines them to produce some of the best baked goods in the Metro. Formerly located in Katipunan Extension, they have moved to the Serye Café Filipino branch in Eastwood, Quezon City.
While rice is our staple carbohydrate, bread has also been an integral part of our culture largely thanks to foreign influences. Our friendly neighborhood bakeries serve timeless classics such as pandesal, Spanish bread, ensaymada, and more. Manilabake essentially does the same thing. Apart from being a little fancier than you average little bakery, they take pains in making sure that they make bread the right way. That is, in their definition, not using any shortcuts, eschewing unnecessary additives, and only utilizing the best ingredients that they can get their hands on, a mix of local and imported but they always try to put the local front and center.
I sat down with proprietor Gretchen Consunji-Lim and marveled at her passion for what she does. Almost immediately after I was seated, she asks one of her staff to bring out some of their raw ingredients such as muscovado, honey, salt, and grains. She proudly tells me that they make their own flour and encourages me to try the raw ingredients so I can better appreciate them. Her enthusiasm is contagious and we proceed to have the most fascinating conversation about bread that I’ve ever had in my life.
While Gretchen and I chatted, I got to try samples of their bread. The first of which was the Bonuelos (P35/pack of 10), which come in two varieties: plain and sugar-dusted. The round, bite-sized pieces of sweet and pillow-soft bread are so good that you have to watch yourself around them. It’s so easy to pop 10 pieces in your mouth without having noticed that you’ve already eaten too many. They also have a version of Bonete (P5/piece) which is a kind of bread that is popular in the southern parts of Luzon.
Manilabake has what Gretchen calls “effortful” Pandesal (P8/piece). It earned that monicker because it takes approximately 12 hours to make, from waiting for the dough to rise properly to baking. Gretchen believes that the pandesal tastes better if you go through the whole fermentation process for the all the nutrients to really seep in. As with all products that are carefully and meticulously made, you can really taste the difference. Their pandesal is airy but packs a delicious and distinct bread flavor. It’s as if by allowing the ingredients to breathe, so to speak, they reach their full potential and come together to form what is undoubtedly one of the best pandesals I’ve ever had the privilege to eat. I don’t usually wax poetic about pandesal but I’m making an exception for this one because I think it truly deserves the distinction.
If you’re a fan of soft loaf bread or “tasty” as moms and lolas usually like to call them, Manilabake has a soft and fluffy milk loaf that is adorably referred to as Chubby Milk (P120). If you want something that’s a little denser, go for their Sesame Roll (P12/piece).
Other must tries are the Empanada Ala Cubana (P70) filled with beef and bell peppers. The nicely flaky crust makes a satisfying, soft crunching sound as you bite into it. The Macapuno Pandan (P145) is a miniature pandan-flavored layer cake with toasted coconut on top. The cake’s green hue on the inside, by the way, is naturally occurring.
Manilabake also carries an assortment of noteworthy food products such as Adobo Paté (P120), Vegetarian Bagoong (P115), special tsokolate, melba toast, muscovado cookies, and calamansi polvoron, to name a few.
I asked Gretchen where her love for local products came from and she told me that food fairs and childhood trips instilled in her a deep appreciation for home-grown goods. This is evident in her bakery. What’s also evident is that Manilabake strives to make good, truly nutritious bread because they believe that their consumers deserve nothing less. It’s heart-warming to see an establishment that deeply cares for its patrons and goes to great lengths to give us products not just full of integrity but full of heart as well.
Manilabake is located at the Serye Café Filipino branch in Eastwood, Quezon City. They are open from 11am-11pm on Thursdays through Sundays and 11am-12mn on Fridays and Saturdays.