It's 230 am and I've just returned from hours and hours of dancing at the informal preview party for the Salon de Ning of the Peninsula Manila, which is set to open formally next weekend in time for the holiday season. What a beautifully decorated and well-conceptualized venue for drinking, dancing and enjoying music!
The private party hosted by the Peninsula for a couple of dozen people, to "test-drive" Salon de Ning, began at 730 pm. But we first attended the black-tie gala dinner for the opening of Resortsworld (which featured an entire evening's entertainment by Lea Salonga, followed by a performance by members of Earth, Wind & Fire at the hotel's private club -- more on that in our next entry) before going, so we arrived at SDN at about 11 pm.
Bea Tantoco on-stage at Salon de Ning
By then the party was in full swing, with Bea Tantoco and her band singing, and lots of people on the dance floor. It was just hopping, but what first caught my attention was the interesting and lovely decor, which made the salon opulent, intimate and intriguing all at once. Having just arrived from Istanbul two nights ago, however, I was reminded of various places I had seen on my trip. At first glance, SDN looked to me like a cross between a souk, a palace boudoir, a villa and an elegant salon in Istanbul. This could have been a series of rooms at the harem of the Topkapi Palace or the suite of a lady with very good taste at the newly-renovated historical Pera Palas Hotel.
A Turkish feel -- at least to me
"This reminds me of Turkey," I said to GM Jonathan Crook, the moment I saw him. Even the complicated colors and intricate designs made me think of stuff to be found in the Grand Bazaar. Later on I got the full tour of the place, and I so admired the clever way the designers -- with lots of input from the hotel staff -- put everything together, and using many things from the Philippines as well. The use of local materials is not immediately apparent except when you eventually inspect everything close-hand. Every nook and cranny told an interesting story of a life well-lived and a lady much-admired, with a fabulous collection of things. I could have spent hours exploring SDN's interiors if I had not been so busy on the dance floor.
Black stockings on chandeliers
One room, which was actually a set of two rooms, had dozens of shoes and vintage bags all over the place in a sort of messy but intended chaos. The chandelier in one room was made out of glass shoes, while the lamp in the other was so ingenuously fashioned out of black patterned stockings. Yes, black patterned stockings dangling from the ceiling!
These rooms too had extremely comfortable chairs, and one room in particular -- my favorite, actually -- had what I think is the best seat in the house. It's an elevated enclosed space with a sofa for two (although tonight, I sat there with two guys, so it's quite roomy) that is directed straight at the stage, giving one enough privacy but also the best views in the house.
Meanwhile, in the main area in front of the band, I marveled at the lovely lamps made out of all kinds of colorful glass and other materials, and the columns covered with patterned capiz. All very exotic but with a really great effect of taking you away from the everyday grind -- just what you want to do on a Friday night, for instance.
Madame Ning in a collage
Even the lovely portrait of Madame Ning, a fictitious glamorous lady whose imaginary life SDN here and in other Peninsula hotels is based on, right at the entrance, is so cleverly put together. It's a collage of photos of all the artworks hanging in the rooms of the Peninsula Manila! Also, upon entering, to the left, is another intriguing rooms with the theme of the 1930s and King Kong actually peering through the windows and his left paw clawing across one of the walls. (Here's a photo of his giant paw on the wall)
Meanwhile, the music itself was great -- a good mix of very new, contemporary and some oldies from the 1980s and 1990s. Bea Tantoco and her group were very good and their choice of music made many people want to dance. There were old favorites like Rock With You and newer hits like the theme song of the latest Sex and The City movie. When Bea and her group finally finished performing past midnight, a Filipino DJ who apparently used to be very big in the club scene in China came on, and gave a very refreshing take on new and old as well. I think I spent hours on the dance floor!
Unique drinks and bar chow
I had a quick peek at the drinks and bar chow menu as well, and it truly is different from almost anywhere else. There were all kinds of really interesting drinks like a Salon de Ning special with a name that temporarily escapes me and even a drink called Halo-Halo which (if I remember right) mixed lambanog with actual ingredients for halo-halo. They also had all kinds of Philippine liquor.
So I began my week in one great club (the famous club Reina right by the Bosphorus in Istanbul on Monday night, together with Group 2 of the Travelife Magazine Turkey Tour) and then ended it in another halfway around the world (Salon de Ning in Manila); as you can imagine, it's been a pretty eventful week. And what a great way to end it at SDN. SDN will certainly be Manila's classiest music and dancing/ drinking venue.
Bravo to Jonathan Crook, Oliver, Garch, Stephanie Chong and the rest of the Peninsula Manila team for going for something so innovative, glamorous and comfortable -- which, as you can imagine, is also a combination that's so hard to get right. I've also seen photos of SDNs in Peninsula hotels in other cities like Hong Kong and New York and, frankly, I think the SDN at the Peninsula Manila is the prettiest yet. And, of course, there's simply no other place like it in our city, and certainly no other place so well and refreshingly designed. It opens formally next weekend -- do go and visit next month!
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