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Hidden In Plain Sight, La Collina Gives Us Distinct Spanish-Italian Vibes In The Heart Of Poblacion

In one corner of bustling Makati stands a discreet-looking establishment that differs from the neighboring buildings. At first glance, with its bright red canopy, the place exudes a European feel, making you question for a second that maybe, just maybe, you were transported from Poblacion’s crowded neighborhood to some picturesque sidewalk café in Florence or Madrid. La Collina can certainly have that effect on you, especially once you start feasting on its Spanish and Italian specialties.

 

 

Local fare made sustainably

At a young age, Anita Celdran dreamt of having her own restaurant. La Collina, which translates to “the hill” in both Spanish and Italian, is the embodiment of her childhood wish. If all went according to plan though, La Collina would have been located in the cool hilly ridges of Tagaytay, as the restaurant’s name implies. But fortunately for us city dwellers, fate had other plans. Anita ended up settling in an old two-storey corner house in Poblacion, which she renovated and thoughtfully fitted according to her beliefs as an environmentalist.

Growing up in a family that loves to eat and with a mother who is an excellent cook, Anita developed a profound appreciation for food. Because of her deep-rooted passion for all things flavorful, natural, and earth-friendly, Anita upholds conscious product sourcing and fair food practices at La Collina. As an active member of Slow Food Philippines, Anita adheres to the movement's objectives—which includes using locally-sourced organic produce, directly purchasing from the food producers, and following the seasonality of ingredients—as exemplified by Slow Food’s Km 0 project indicated on the cover of the menu.

 

A Spanish and Italian menu

For Anita, it was a no-brainer to combine Spanish and Italian food on the menu. Considered as “cousins” in terms of culture and culinary traditions, both countries also observe the same core belief when it comes to their respective cuisines—that even the simplest ingredients, when prepared very well, can be made into a masterpiece.

To start with, the restaurant’s antipasto selection makes for perfect small plates to set the mood for your dining experience. The Bruschetta duo—with roasted eggplant and savory artichoke dip as a choice of topping—goes so well with the fine Spanish and Italian wines the restaurant carries. Another option is popular Italian street fare, Arancino, made of deep-fried breaded rice balls stuffed inside with creamy mozzarella. For a real treat, you can have Frito Misto, an assortment of seafood deep-fried in a flour batter. Don’t forget to squirt a bit of lemon juice to accentuate the flavors.       

Bruschetta

 

Arancino

 

Frito Misto

 

For La Collina‘s Ravioli, Anita insists on making the pasta dough from scratch, rolling it until extra thin and delicate, to match the special filling that uses hard-to-source fresh blue crab from Bacolod. Cooked until al dente then sautéed in butter sage sauce, picante tomatoes, and a few other seasonings, the ravioli is finished off with chopped basil to complete this ever-indulgent pasta dish. 

 

Ravioli

 

“This is a dish that everybody loves, (moreso) drools over,” Anita exclaims about her signature Spanish specialty. True enough, everyone salivates once the deep-bottomed cazuela of Fabada Asturiana is brought in. The secret to Anita’s Fabada is the use of, not just one kind of chorizo, but five different varieties altogether, plus smoked pork and perfectly-tender white beans that have been very slowly simmered, developing a complex flavor the longer it cooks. Anita insists on serving her Fabada on the soupy side, since this is how it is traditionally done in Asturias, the province where it originated.   

 

Fabada Asturiana

 

Paella, when done right, is the most sumptuous dish that can grace a table. La Collina’s Paella Mixta doesn’t disappoint, even after the long wait, with its abundant mix of fresh seafood and a variety of meat toppings. Anita remains mum on the kind of rice she uses for the dish. This really intrigues us as every saffron-infused grain is so addicting, down to the much sought after soccarat, the crusty rice stuck to the bottom of the paella pan, more commonly known in Filipino as tutong.   

 

Paella Mixta

 

If you still have room for dessert, we recommend Crème Catalan, a lighter version of our dense leche flan but just as satisfying, especially with the addition of fruits, and for the night we were there, sweetened cherries. If you prefer an Italian option, then you can have the velvety smooth Panna Cotta with hints of luscious vanilla bean. Before serving, the dessert is topped with a tangy raspberry coulis which Anita prepares herself.   

 

Creme Catalan

 

La Collina's Panna Cotta

 

If the night is still young, diners can hang around the bar and ask the bartender to prepare any of the in-house cocktails, especially the signature sangrias, whether the refreshing white wine-based Blanco with vodka and infused with citrus and cucumber, or the bold red wine-based Rosso mixed with Campari, Cointreau, and oranges.

 

Blanco

 

Rosso

 

With its quaint atmosphere and Old-World-meets-Poblacion charm, La Collina is a great place to wine and dine your date, or else enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner among friends and family. Even better, this March 1 at 7 pm onwards, La Collina presents a night of cool, classic jazz with the trio of Rey Infante, Colby de la Calzada, and Glenn Lucero—reason enough to find your way to this hidden gem in the heart of Poblacion.

 

 

 

4558 Molina corner Quintos Streets, Poblacion, Makati City, (02) 879-7401

Open 11 am – 2 am, Tuesday to Sunday

 

Photos by Paul del Rosario