Wild Poppy: Poblacion’s Newest Rooftop Brings Together Casual Cocktails and Asian BitesJune 15, 2016
Poblacion has truly shed its sordid reputation and has now become one of the capital’s most frequented food neighborhoods. This year has seen a particular rise in hip, casual eateries and boozy drinking holes, from relaxed coffee shop Commune, to another South American joint Empingao, to rumored bar Ruins. What’s coming up now though are blocks of restaurants, tiny compounds that house one creative idea to the next. There are a few in development in the area, future homes to barbeque joints, craft breweries and even a Bucky’s counter.
One of the first few places to open their doors is The Wild Poppy, a casual space that is bound to gather crowds with its easy approach to food and cocktails. Their story began with an idea for a rooftop space, which the partners noticed was the hip norm virtually everywhere abroad, but was lacking here in Manila. This too is where The Wild Poppy gets its name, a cheeky nod to the relaxed outdoor garden they wanted to recreate.
The result is an approachable restaurant that is a perfect complement to the Poblacion crowd of establishments, yet stands out from them. The rooftop is exactly what the neighborhood lacks, and the food markedly different from the mostly Latin American choices that populate the area. The interior is hodgepodge in a way that feels both on-trend and homey, perfectly Instagrammable, which is what most aesthetic-driven people look for these days.
The vibrancy of the decor is matched only by their food, which has Southeast Asian leanings, and plenty of spice to go with it. There is an obvious influence from previous collaborator Nicco Santos, with mantou buns and Asian ingredients, but accessible to those who frequent Poblacion. A chicken rendang bun has all the piquancy of chilli in a creamy, sludgy, messy bite, and the vinegar accompaniment to some crisp coated bits of chicken offers the same heat. A beautifully rendered kimchi reuben sees flaky, succulent bits of housemade corned beef paired with fermented kimchi serving as the accent instead of traditional sauerkraut.
There are crispy tiny shrimps too, served alongside an intensely Thai-Indian mix of curried sauce, which goes well with an herbal, fragrant rice which recalls the base notes of Hainanese grains but with the aroma of cilantro. Even sides are surprising; a Japanese-inspired corn dish adds some pale lobes of kesong puti for more dimension.
The impressive price points extends to their cocktail list, a welcome respite from the expensive cocktails which have become a little bit of a norm in the city. You might not be getting top shelf liqueur, but the folks at The Wild Poppy don’t skimp on fresh ingredients, with fruits, juices, and syrups, enhancing their short list of libations. An old fashioned takes on more savory notes when thyme is introduced, and gin and tonics are turned into refreshing cucumber frosts. A rum cocktail takes on a whole other identity when macadamia nut syrup provides a sweet, nutty background.
If you weren’t convinced before that Poblacion was hip, this new addition certainly will. Early into their conception, The Wild Poppy has already gathered together the eclectic types that live in the area, including their friends and neighbors. Day to night, it transitions easily from a pleasant small bites-led eatery to a full on relaxed cocktail bar that only delivers good vibes.