The façade of Magnum Manila. Photo: Handout
MANILA – Two years since its successful launch in the Philippines, Magnum is back in the headlines with its most ambitious project yet: an actual café that revolves around the popular ice cream bar.
For celebrity brand ambassador Raymond Gutierrez, Magnum Manila, which opens on April 8 at the Sky Park of SM Aura Premier in Taguig, is a dream come true.
“I’ve been with the brand since Day 1 and in the beginning we were saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a café?’ Suddenly that dream has come to life,” he said during a preview last Friday for select food bloggers.
But this dream comes with a caveat: Magnum Manila will open for only one year.
Magnum’s brand manager Bryan Chanyungco explained that it was not difficult to convince the SM mall to agree to a short lease. The concept of the “Magnum Pleasure Store,” after all, isn’t new as the first Magnum café opened in Jakarta, Indonesia back in 2011. Other outlets were also set up in world capitals including New York, Milan and London.
According to Chanyungco, SM Supermalls’ senior vice president for mall operations Steven Tan has seen a Magnum store abroad and had expressed willingness to partner for the Manila café since last year.
“It was held for us for a year and they were really, really excited about it,” the Unilever Philippines executive told ABS-CBNnews.com, pointing out that the café is more of a “marketing” exercise for Magnum.
“We are not expected to earn from this store. What we’re expecting really is for this to build the brand. At the end of the day, Magnum Manila is the ultimate experience of Magnum, showing (consumers) a lifestyle of personal pleasure and indulgence,” he stressed.
But while Magnum Manila is described as a “pop-up store,” the café is as fancy as it gets. This isn’t the traditional ice cream parlor of years back as it boasts of sleek, ultra-modern interiors designed by architect Ed Calma and custom-made artwork made from Magnum sticks.
A collage of the interiors of Magnum Manila. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
That’s also because the Manila store will be the “global flagship” for the succeeding Magnum cafes, which will soon open in Cannes, France, Madrid, Spain and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “It’s going to be the same model that we will roll out in 21 countries after we launch this,” Chanyungco said.
Moreover, Magnum is really more of an “adult” ice cream bar, Chanyungco explained “It’s about adults, who need that moment to de-stress and let go of adult responsibility and be a kid again.”
In fact, the menu of Magnum Manila isn’t just limited to ice cream preparations. Chef Him Uy de Baron of Nomama fame was put in charge of developing savory dishes for the café.
Two of the main entrees at Magnum Manila: Carbonara and Pan-Seared Salmon. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
But even kids will surely love the Cajun Spiced Chicken Poppers, which, given Nomama’s east-meets-west cuisine, can be described as a cross between Japanese chicken karaage and the now-trendy buttermilk chicken. Even if you don’t dip that chicken bits in the bacon gravy, this is terrific starter and quite addicting too.
The full menu includes salads (the Steak Salad was refreshingly light) and even soup (the Pumpkin Soup was as expected, slightly smoky with good texture).
During the preview, the guests were asked to choose between the pasta carbonara, pan-seared salmon, mushroom burger and karaage sandwich. The carbonara, made trendy with a sous-vide egg topping, was sublime, while a guest expressed satisfaction with the salmon served on mashed potatoes.
But this isn’t a Magnum café for nothing. Despite the high marks given to the hot dishes, the star will always be the desserts created by the award-winning pastry chef Miko Aspiras.
“Our savory menu is comfort food. It’s not alienating and people will appreciate a good savory meal,” Chanyungco said of the food. “But the desserts, I swear, they are meant to blow off the minds of people. I have no doubt in my mind that the desserts will shine.”
Magnum sampled four special ice cream preparations, which Aspiras described as highly Instagram-mable. He isn’t merely boasting.
Rainbow Dream. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
The multi-colored Rainbow Dream will definitely make you smile just by looking at it: a slice of cream cheese rainbow cake with yellow, green, blue and red layers, drizzled with cake crumble and served with a white chocolate Magnum bar.
Pink Friday. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
The Pink Friday is a girly romantic fantasy: a block of strawberry marbled cheesecake, nibbles of Speculoos tea cookies mixed with strawberry nerds, fresh strawberry slices and a white chocolate Magnum bar covered in pink chocolate.
Despite the adorable plating of these two desserts, Magnum Manila will probably be defined by either the Cookie Dough Skillet or the Death by Chocolate.
Death by Chocolate. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Although the term already sounds like a cliché, the Death by Chocolate is literally an overload of chocolate in varying textures: from the silky richness of the dark chocolate lava cake base to the chunks of brownies and crunchy chocolate pearls, topped by a chocolate truffle Magnum bar.
Cookie Dough Skillet. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Still my bet goes to the Cookie Dough Skillet, which has a base of warm cookie dough topped with some chocolate and pecans and two Magnum bars. It’s a modern twist on the classic cookie ala mode with the added pleasure of the crunchy-chewy dough.
However, Chanyungco stressed that the heart of the Magnum Pleasure Stores is the make-your-own-Magnum bar, where customers can personalize their own Magnum ice cream bar from 18 different toppings ranging from classic add-ons like almonds and crushed chocolate chip cookies to more trendy items like chili flakes and sea salt.
The Magnum bar. Photo: Handout
“I wanted to try the chili flakes, and I loved it,” Gutierrez said, while Chayungco chose potato chips, nerd and also the chili.
Customers also get to choose their ice cream bar, as well as the coating (which includes dark chocolate, milk chocolate and salted caramel), and the final drizzle.
“Make your Magnum is all about personal pleasure and indulgence, I go back to that. It’s all about giving the people the choice of what’s your pleasure for today? It’s pleasure made by you,” Chanyungco explained, noting that customers lined up for up to three hours in Milan and up to two hours and 45 minutes in Sydney just to try the Magnum bar.
A personalized Magnum bar with pretzels, potato chips and quezo de bola. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com
Chanyungco is confident that Magnum Manila will also be a success but despite this, they are still sticking to the one-year pop-up period.
“We’re not in the business of running a restaurant. That’s not our expertise. Our bread and butter at the end of the day is manufacturing and distribution,” he explained.
“If we go into this, we’ll go into this big. And this is big. But at the end of the day, we go back to our roots. If it works, then it works, then we’ll see. But for now, we’re pretty clear that it’s a year.”