Last week was an extra eventful time for Scottish chef-restaurateur Colin Mackay who had just reopened his Blackbird restaurant for dine-in service last June 23. Rumors of his Thai restaurant, People’s Palace, permanently closing down went viral, leaving some of the 20-years-old restaurant’s most loyal customers on the verge of tears.
This prompted Mackay to immediately send out a clarification that People’s Palace is just temporarily closed. His message read, “I received so many messages and the occasional eulogy! About People’s Palace being closed for good. Someone misinterpreted the announcement that’s been posted on our website since March when we closed down in compliance with the government’s directive on restaurant operations. We aren’t closed for good. Just until the government relaxes their transportation policy so our staff can travel to work (many are still stuck in the province), malls hours are extended, and there is a more reasonable stance on dining in. For now it’s not sustainable in Greenbelt. I hear from my guests that they are not comfortable with visiting the mall at this stage.”
But there’s some good news for People’s Palace habitués as select dishes are now being served at Blackbird located in nearby Makati Avenue. In that same message, Mackay adds, “Blackbird however has reopened as of Tuesday and some guests are slowly coming back. They tell me that they feel safe here. We have worked hard on training, a new menu and revised service. I’ll let you know once we reopen People’s Palace. Hope you are well and I look forward to seeing you again soon.”
For those hungry to eat out, Blackbird may be a great option as your very first restaurant experience. Pre-COVID Blackbird was one of the country’s most popular restaurants, and I also found it to be one of the most beautiful. It was easily one of the most booked venues for weddings and events. The restaurant is housed in the former Nielson Tower, home of our country’s first international airport. The site was redeveloped by Chef Colin Mackay’s restaurant group, while retaining the integrity of the airport’s original Art Deco design, and using mostly locally sourced materials.
Blackbird boasts a cozy bar and lounge by the entrance (which was once the check-in area) and a spacious main dining room/grill room in what used to be the passenger terminal. The airport’s lone control tower is now a private dining cabin (that can be booked for up to 10 guests) accessible by winding stairs. An outdoor dining area with its own bar took over the old tarmac. This alfresco space will most likely become Blackbird’s most popular spot, as outdoor spaces tend to lower one’s risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Beyond its beauty, Blackbird is also known for its consistently good food. Thus, it is a relief to see that, like its previous menus, this new one is still filled with European classics and contemporary Asian finds, making it more accessible to a lot of people, palate wise. While the revamped menu may not be as big as before, it is still interesting, especially with the addition of some new items.
Fans of People’s Palace may have momentarily panicked that their fave Thai restaurant would be closing for good. But they’ll be happy to know that Blackbird now serves some of its bestsellers, starting with the crowd favorite Prawn, Pomelo and Coconut Salad; Fried Prawns wrapped in crispy noodles; a good version of the Thai staple Pad Thai Goong; and two curry options, Green Chicken Curry and Red Duck Curry with lychees.
Blackbird regulars will be happy to see some of their favorites on the current menu: Prawn Scotch Eggs served with betel leaves and coconut chili sambal; Twice Cooked Beef Short Ribs; Kerala Fish Curry; and Crab Capellini.
Those looking for something new may want to check out the more interesting new additions to the menu that I myself am dying to try. The Soft Shell Crab Laksa is one of them, but unfortunately you can’t order it for takeout or delivery, only for dine-in. There is also Spiced Grilled Lamb Chop with potato masala and spinach dahl, plus a new Chocolate Hazelnut Semifreddo dessert that Head Chef Kerwin Go describes as his ode to one of his favorite chocolates, Ferrero Rocher.
According to Blackbird regular Doc Gerard Henson, this new dessert is to die for, and he would gladly go back just for that. I can’t help but wonder if it is even better than Go’s famous Burnt Butter Ice Cream Sundae which is studded with chocolate brownie, candied popcorn, and salted caramel, and that comes in a hefty portion which I’m willing to bet you won’t want to share.
According to Go, the team strives to make the dining experience the same as before, combining consistent quality and exceptional service that they have always been known for. Aside from the usual safety protocols that all food establishments are required to put into place (maximum 30% capacity, minimum 1-meter apart within a table, no face to face, etc.), Blackbird went the extra mile and also repainted, cleaned the airconditioners, and disinfected the whole place.
Blackbird’s Group F&B Manager JP Migne and the team have been happy to see many familiar faces when they reopened, some of whom had never been out of their homes since quarantine started. Migne is thankful that they chose Blackbird as their first destination outside their homes. But they also understand that not everyone feels safe yet to dine outside, which is why takeout, pick-up and delivery service is still available.
Blackbird GCQ, Nielson Tower, Ayala Triangle, Makati Avenue, Makati City, (02) 8828-4888, (02) 8828-1937, (0917) 889-2782, IG @blackbirdatthenielsontower, https://blackbird.com.ph/menu-print.pdf for new menu, open daily 11 am to 9 pm