I have a confession to make. Many, many moons ago, when I was one-and-twenty, I hung out at Streetlife, a sort of restaurant complex in Makati where you got issued a passport when you got in. This would give you access to all the restaurants within the area. At the end of the meal, the cashier would go over the stamps in the passport and tot up your bill; you paid for the cumulative total in one go as opposed to paying up at each individual stall. The concept was pretty much modelled after the Marché Mövenpick concept that has become so popular in numerous locations across the globe; sadly, the concept didn’t quite fly with local diners and Streetlife folded up barely a couple years later.
But, truth be told, it wasn’t the food that had me in thrall at Streetlife: it was the music. At the time, I was dating the vocalist of a hip band that did covers of the bands that were de rigeur listening for us denizens of the 1990s: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Blind Lemon, the Lemonheads, Smash Mouth, the Spin Doctors, and the Smashing Pumpkins. I’d get a call on my trusty ol’ Nokia 100 and zip on over to Streetlife after work (fortunately, the ad agency I was working for at the time was in Salcedo Village and was but a short walk away). I’d snag the table closest to the stage, pick up a cheeseburger and some cheese fries, grab a peach iced tea from another stall, sit back, relax, and swoon when Mark and his band went onstage.
Fast forward to eighteen years later: I’m still in advertising albeit the agency I work for is in the BGC rather than in Makati. Mark is married now and is teaching Comparative Literature at a prime university in Merry Olde England. We still talk online from time to time and he first found it rather funny that, at this point in my life, I’ve started hanging out again – and I’m into the live scene again. The biggest draw for hanging out after hours is, au naturel, the music (and, sod it all, that’s the story I am sticking to!). But, where I crash after hours every once so often, the food is just as appealing.
I am, of course, talking about the Boiler Room.
Yes, that Boiler Room; the Happy Mondays Boiler Room. The “What are Clem and Ian playing tonight?” Boiler Room. Or, if you ask Clem and he does give you an answer, the “Hang it all; Midge just pulled another French exit!” Boiler Room.
Owned and operated by the team behind Mario’s Kitchen, the Boiler Room started out in the noughties as Gweilos. If you were seriously into the band Orange & Lemons, you may have seen them perform live here during their heyday. I wasn’t into the scene at the time and I was working in Quezon City, so I never really got the chance to hang out there, but I’ve been told that gig nights were always a wonderful, exciting experience for both the band and the fans.
Fast forward to early 2015 and the Boiler became the venue for Dragonfly Collector‘s Happy Monday gigs. Some nights, he’d do Beatles sets; on others, he’d cover Morissey and The Smiths. There would be Brit Pop nights, New Wave nights; even retrospective evenings featuring music from O&L and The Camerawalls – all of which (or most of it, anyway), of course, were composed by Clem. And he would do acoustic versions of songs from his latest album, The World is Your Oyster; always a fun night, really.
And, of course, while listening to one friend or the other (young folksinger Ian Penn always opened up for him) and meeting old and making new friends, food always serves to make the evenings more enjoyable. In my case, the small bites off the appetiser menu have always been appealing. An order of Amanda’s croquettes (P 200.00; top photo) features a small, cast-iron pan holding several globes of breadcrumbed and crisply-fried mash flavoured with honey-glazed ham and made peppy with a mix of sharp Cheddar and the smoother queso Manchego. Each bite is excellent on its own, but becomes even better when dipped in the small dish of richly tomatoey marinara sauce that comes alongside. A similar dish would be the coxinhas (P 250.00), a Brazilian spin on croquettes made more savoury by the use of chicken, cream cheese, onion, and celery.
Other small plates that go beautifully with a bottle of beer (for preference, a Cerveza Negra; Super Bock stout if feeling indulgent), are the Boiler’s spin on gambas (P 360.00; prawns and button mushrooms cooked in a piquant mix of lemon, garlic, and paprika) or the more veg-friendly ‘shrooms (P 360.00; think gambas sans the prawns). You could also share some of the dishes with friends as in the case of the tartine with ricotta, pesto, and mushrooms: think of a shortcut pizza where a savoury basil pesto is slathered with fresh ricotta and mushies on baguette slices.
And there are the chili poppers (P 300.00), the Boiler Room’s take on jalapeno poppers. Unlike the Tex-Mex/MexiCali classic, however, these things are huge. Green siling haba (banana or finger peppers) are stuffed with two kinds of cheese and bacon, rolled in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried till golden. These also come with a dish of marinara sauce, but this – to me, at least – is virtually unnecessary as the peppers are plenty flavourful albeit a trifle incendiary. (That said: be sure to have a drink on hand to douse the flames in your throat ASAP.)
If you’re dining solo, any of the appetisers makes for a satisfying meal on its own, but if you’re hankering for something more substantial, the Boiler Room also delivers with a variety of mains. By far, the chicken Parmesan (P 250.00) is one of the most popular dishes on the menu: a panko-crumbed chicken fillet atop fettucine pasta made gorgeously pungent with a generous amount of proper Parmesan cheese. Otherwise, if you’re feeling peckish still, the four-cheese pizza (P 450.00) topped with a gooey, highly fragrant blend of mozzarella, Emmenthal, feta, and Cheddar is great for munching on; do not, under any circumstances, turn your nose up at the hot sauce.
While the food, as stated earlier, is very good, it’s the company I’ve missed these past couple or so months. While each of us has had their own responsibilities to deal with and I’ve been ill of late, Clem and Ian are still on the road and won’t be back till mid-December. I miss Monday nights at the Boiler Room. I miss the music. Sod it all: I miss my friends.
Note: Dragonfly Collector and Ian Penn are currently down south for the Mindanao legs of The World is Your Oyster – Philippine Tour. For Halloween weekend, catch the boys at the following locations:
- Friday, 30 October 2015 – Karumata, Cagayan de Oro
- Saturday, 31 October 2015 – Bar Around the Corner (BATC), Iligan City
The tour is brought to you by Lilystars Records and is sponsored in part by Gist, Jam 88.3, Pinoytuner, Radio Republic, Panay News, Dr. Martens – Philippines, and 57 Studios Manila. For more information regarding the tour, check out the official website at http://www.dragonflycollector.com or follow the official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ilcollettore.