The idea of a Food Park is fun to me. I like the idea of a place you can walk around, trying out different styles of food. You can go a little bit crazy and not have to play by the rules. That is how it was for me anyway when we recently went to a new Food Park in Manila called The Yard Underground.
Inspired by the London Underground, The Yard Underground in Pasig has a playful industrial style throughout. Just opened this year, it is the second inception of this food park. The first opened last year in Quezon, we haven’t tried it yet. Apparently it proved so popular with locals, students and people living in the Metro that the owners set up this new one in a more central location between Kapitolyo and Ortigas.
Food parks are becoming big business in Manila and around the world, it seems. This new funky concept of using shipping crates and upcycling materials to make shopfronts, tables and chairs has been around for a while. People are moving sideways from going to nice restaurants and sitting in a quiet booth to eat gourmet meals and sip a glass of Chardy – don’t get me wrong, I do love a bit of a fancy night out. But these days finding an outdoor area where friends can gather informally and just relax without fear of the children being too noisy or throwing spaghetti on the walls, just seems appealing. Food parks are something a little bit different to the norm, and they also offer variety. Depending on which one you go to, you will find a range of cuisines on offer.
Opened from 4pm until midnight, The Yard Underground has around thirty stores offering a range of food choices. There is a bar called The Chemist where you can get cold beer and cocktails. We started our evening with a gin and tonic as we sat back and took in the atmosphere. When we arrived it was relatively quiet but quickly became busy as the crowds filled the space. I walked around asking revellers where they got various fancy looking drinks and meals from. I was quite awestruck by the artisan milkshakes and juices on offer. Our first meal was from Saigon Sadie, a plate called Gigi Goodnight. Fried pork rolls with skewers and chicken spring rolls, served with buttery rice. It was tasty and an easy plate to share with the family. We decided to move upstairs and try to find somewhere cooler to sit, as it was really hot.
Our next meal came from Above Sea Level, a place that only sells butterflied squid. It looks quite the event when it is presented to you flayed on a skewer, with plastic gloves for you to wear as you tear it apart. Look, this is not really my thing, but the boys like squid so I thought they might like to try it. The flavour is really strong, with heavy seasoning in the batter, so it is not to everyone’s taste and they did not finish eating is. While the boys were figuring out how to eat their squid, I went next door to Amo Yamie Crib and brought a fairy-tale themed icecream for FB and I to share. I have to say that was the highlight (when is it not?). The icecream was thick and creamy and in the bottom of the cup, little liquid filled bubbles that popped in your mouth created a bit of a party atmosphere.
Finally, we hit up Frost for a bit more icecream action. I don’t usually feed my kids that much icecream, but this was a special occasion and a few beers in, I just thought ‘meh’, it’s a treat. The kids love watching the icecream being made on the cold plates. Cheap entertainment is what I call it. We kicked back with cold beers, finally finding a cool place to sit, while the children went wild hyped up on sugar and the thrill of being out at dusk. The lights began to flicker on around the park, bringing the colourful landscape alive, and the band tuned up, ready to kick off for the evening. We didn’t hang around for that as we are boring parents these days and get our kids home at a suitable time for bed.
When I spoke to SB about our experience there, he had some different thoughts to me. He said he didn’t ‘love it’ as the food was not really to his liking and it was hot and stuffy and a little bit stinky. I said I like the vibe and the icecream, and pointed out it is always hot and stuffy here, and the ‘Manila Stink’ is kind of part of life here. So I guess when you venture out and explore, it really is up to you as to your interpretation. I urge people to get out, explore and try new places. You never know where you will find a hidden gem. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Where: The Yard Underground. Christian Route cor. Hillcrest Drive, Pasig, Manila, Philippines
When: Monday to Sunday, 4pm – 12am
Parking: Street parking is available at 20peso.