One of my fantasies was spending a relaxing evening at a piano bar. I would imagine myself sitting on a chair at the VIP lounge, sipping red wine with a cigar on hand while listening to jazz music. Then a group of gangsters enters the bar, opens fire with their machine guns, and I retaliate with pistols akimbo… Wait.
For some time I’ve felt uncomfortable going to classy bars. Being in the company of wealthy people sipping champagne and eating those dainty appetizers is already intimidating. And then even a bottle of beer there would cost you an arm and a leg (or a few digits). I also thought the atmosphere there exude an air of exclusivity that could make most people feel unwelcome.
So when I had a chance to visit the Top of the Century last Halloween, I hoped I could change my impressions of classy places like these.
Top of the Century is one of the main establishments of Century Park Hotel in Manila. This piano bar takes pride of its slogan, “the perfect rendezvous as you end your day”, by offering a relaxing atmosphere and some of the hotel’s best in international cuisine and entertainment.
Top of the Century has a wide selection of beers, cocktails, liquor, and spirits. It also serves sandwiches, appetizers, pizza, and other light snacks.
Every night (Monday to Saturday), patrons can also enjoy jazz and acoustic music from various hotel and lounge performers. (I heard balladeer and Aliw Awards awardee Art Manuntag is one of Top of the Century’s mainstays.)
As soon as I entered Top of the Century, I seated myself at the counter at the center of the bar. (It must have been the piano that attracted me.) The bar, which is at the 19th floor, has a marvelous view of Manila’s skyline at night. Inside it’s a moderately spacious place but it’s cool and comfortable. Not as fancy as I thought it is, but really nice nonetheless.
I started the night with the bar’s version of blackcurrant smoothie (hint: this is not in the menu).
The smoothie was followed by a serving of home-made smoked salmon. The salmon had a light, soft and smoky taste, which goes well with the bed of fresh lettuce and salty crackers. (There’s a wad of mayo and wasabi to taste too.)
I then tried three of Top of the Century’s special cocktail creations:
“El Kapitan”, Century Park Hotel’s drink of the millennium (rum cola in a tall glass with a wedge of lemon),
As the night passed, the music became livelier, and the surroundings became more entertaining. Some of the patrons were singing onstage, belting out their favorite tunes to the amusement of their companions. I realized everyone (including myself) was starting to act more relaxed and warm up to each other. Top of the Century was showing a warmer, lighter, more welcoming side to it. I felt like I was part of, if not one with, the crowd. And what better way to express gratitude for making me feel welcome, than to break out in song as well.
So much for my classy piano bar fantasies (having John Woo-inspired fantasies aren’t always good anyway). Oh well, singing a jazzy version of Sting definitely made my night after all.
Visiting Top of the Century is a unique experience for a foodie like me. It doesn’t matter that dining there could cost much (a minimum budget of P500 should be enough), and you have to conduct yourself as befitting a patron of a classy place. What mattered is that you learned new things, experienced new tastes and new environments beyond your usual watering hole and food stop.
And learn something new I did: price doesn’t mean everything. Savoring delicious food and cool cocktails, enjoying great music, as well as enjoying the company of happy people, makes what could be an expensive night-out at a new place more than worthwhile.
(P.S. I’m still keeping my promise not to drink alcohol, despite the obvious. It’s not everyday that you get to visit places like these anyway. And just so you would know, I only added 500g to my weight. after all that eating and drinking. I’m staying at 85.5kg, hee hee.)