Starting a new breed of resto in Greenbelt: Philip Cruz and Carlos Chan at Bloom Café + Bar in Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati
Photos by JOEY MENDOZA
Philip Cruz & Carlos Chan’s new resto blooms in Greenbelt
CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2020 - 12:00am

What happens when the Construction King and the Snack King get together to open up a new restaurant?

Philip Cruz is a scion of the FF Cruz construction family, known for building roads and major infrastructure around our metropolis. He went to high school in Australia, studied architecture at Pratt Institute in New York City, and earned a master’s in industrial engineering at Columbia University.
His wife, Ching Cruz, is one of Manila’s best dressed, and her interests cover fashion, beauty, culture and the arts: she’s on the board of the Asian Cultural Council.

For 40 years now, Philip has been good friends with Carlos Chan. A leader in the snack and beverage industries, Carlos is a trailblazer who ventured into China in the ’80s, founded his brand Oishi in the mid-’90s, and made it a phenomenal success among snack lovers worldwide (Oishi’s operations range from Southeast Asia to South Africa).

The older brother of Ben Chan possesses the same Midas touch in business, though he’s likely to tell you it’s a matter of hard work, luck and timing. Named honorary Ambassador to China thanks to the respect and trust he’s garnered there, he has been listed in Forbes as one of the Philippines’ wealthiest businessmen. And by the way, he’s also a gourmet.

If these two longtime friends put their heads together and partnered on a gustatory venture, what sort of restaurant would they dream up?

Well, it’s called Bloom Café + Bar, and looks set to become a millennial magnet with its chill yet chic vibe (conducive to hanging out), all-day-dining concept, and menu of comfort-food favorites pegged at very reasonable prices.

Bloom is located in the spot formerly occupied by Nuvo in Greenbelt 2. Philip was one of the owners of that immensely popular expat bar, and, together with Carlos, decided to secure the location for Bloom.

“Ayala said that they want to renovate Greenbelt 3 to a high-end place, and asked if we could spearhead the type of crowd that they want,” Philip says.

“Ayala’s going to put up all the exclusive shops,” adds Ching. “We're starting the high-end look, but all our prices are very cheap.”

Designing Bloom’s high-end look are the Almario sisters, Cynthia and Ivy, of Atelier Almario. Design doyennes favored for their textured, modern-tropical aesthetic, the sisters are always partners with the Cruzes in their restaurant ventures. (Another resto they designed for the couple, Simply Thai in Greenbelt 5, is doing well.)

They brought the Bloom moniker to life by creating a verdant, garden-like setting indoors, planting flowering trees in the middle of the dining area, putting (faux) grass strips in the floor, and hanging Isabel Diaz’s floral paintings from Ching’s personal art collection on the walls.

“We just wanted it simple,” says Cynthia. “Everybody says, ‘Bring the outside in,’ but we literally meant it, because even the way we treated the floors — we tested different densities of the grass to make sure that it was even,” she laughs. “It's just a very chill, relaxed vibe.”

Even the tables and French bistro chairs are inspired by outdoor furniture, and the sisters put in different kinds of seating, like a communal area for “sociable singles that love to mingle,” family-style tables, more intimate arrangements for dates — even a bar-height table with comfy swivel chairs that make you “taller” than everybody else.

“Philip went to Cebu and he was the one who sat in the chairs — he was so hands-on with the furniture production,” notes Cynthia.

No detail was left to chance. Even the floral-printed server uniforms were designed by Albert Andrada.

Instagrammable Food, Drinks & Interiors

In such a relatable, comforting environment, it follows that the menu features comfort foods that have proved to be millennial favorites from here to New York City, like an artisanal burger, fried chicken and waffles, and steak frites. In fact, the owners brought in chef Noel dela Rama, who’s based in NYC, to develop the menu.

“We had Noel come up with 40 signature dishes, and he was here for four months to see to it that it was executed properly,” says Philip.

In the two weeks since Bloom opened, an early favorite that customers have been coming back for is the Truffled French Fries (P285), which are crisp, cut thinly, topped with shaved Parmesan and truly addictive. I popped one in my mouth and found I couldn’t stop.

Another standout is the Wild Mushroom Soup (P295), a velvety and flavorful concoction of cream and three kinds of mushroom.

“We offer a different kind of food where most of the millennials, before they eat, they take pictures and then they Instagram,” Philip says, referring to the highly photogenic nature of Bloom’s dishes and drinks. Try the Exotic Purple Ginger Agua Fresca, a sparkling water-based drink flavored with floral infusions and fruit purees that is sure to earn you lots of likes on IG.

Both Philip and Ching, discerning eaters who have a professional chef at home to prepare their meals, wanted to share that high quality of food with Bloom’s customers, so they hired not only chef Noel but also project consultant Lauro Franco, who trained in Switzerland and has opened restos in Europe, San Francisco and Shanghai, to oversee the F&B side of the restaurant.

Consequently, Bloom offers another hot food trend — all-day breakfast — which should appeal not only to early risers but also the weekday brunch crowd. You can choose from a wide range of yummy options like fluffy pancakes, waffles, arroz caldo (made according to a secret heirloom recipe from the Elizalde family), avocado toast, Shakshouka (eggs poached in marinara sauce and served with warm ciabatta bread), and omelet soufflé — a dish Ching heartily recommends (all breakfasts average around P375).

Since the café transforms into a bar at night, Bloom offers the popular European aperitivo, craft G&Ts, and single-malt whisky tasting flights like one highlighting exquisite Dalmores of different ages. On a long tray you’re served glasses of 12-, 15- and 18-year-old Dalmore whiskies, each paired with a small slice of sugar-free carrot cake, yuzu cheesecake and double chocolate cake, respectively.

First I sipped the three neat, then the server adds a drop of water to open up the flavors of each whisky before you drink it; lastly I took a bite of each dessert and, mid-chew, took a nip from the glass before swallowing. This is definitely an experience any whisky fan or the curious shouldn’t miss, and, according to Franco, Bloom’s price of P1,200 for a Dalmore flight is a bargain.

“Ayala also allowed us to use the garden opposite, so the idea is for us to do an alcoholic gelato bar, so think of mojito, rum and coke, red wine with grapes, but in a gelato format,” he tips. “So when I serve the gelato I will put the alcohol content.”

Bloom will open the gelato bar in the first quarter of this year, and the outdoor seating area will also serve as a smoking lounge. Inside the restaurant, the second level also acts as a champagne bar and private area for functions.

I asked Ching why they called the restaurant Bloom, and she answered, “Well, because it sounds like the birth of something — something different.”

* * *

Bloom is located on the G/F of Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati. Call 7757-3698 to 99 for reservations. For more info, visit www.bloomcafebar.com, Facebook: Bloom Café + Bar, and Instagram @bloomcafebarph.

 

 

BEN CHAN CARLOS CHAN FF CRUZ PHILIP CRUZ
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