Colin Mackay’s 'Sala' Turns 20 And Reopens With A Lighter Look
Unknown to many, social media shy Sala Restaurant closed for renovations mid-August 2017 and reopened last November 2017, just in time to quietly celebrate its 20th year anniversary, without much fanfare but with a fresh new look.
It was in 1996 that Scottish chef and restaurateur Colin Mackay relocated to Manila after several visits, to eventually open SALA—his very first restaurant on Julio Nakpil Street in November 17, 1997. Back then, Julio Nakpil Street was considered the restaurant central of the once hip and bustling Malate. Its opening marked a major milestone in Mackay’s career and culinary journey that involved earlier stints as a wine distributor and waiter, before he immersed himself more in the kitchen as a chef and caterer.
Rhubarb Crème Brûlée
Mackay was considered one of the trailblazers of the Malate restaurant scene in the late 90’s, and the brains behind Malate’s legendary street parties. He eventually opened other popular concepts that included his Thai restaurant People’s Palace in 2000 and a posh dance club lounge called Joy in 2001. Unfortunately, the Malate area eventually experienced a sharp business downturn, and by 2005, only Mackay’s establishments were the only ones left standing.
People’s Palace led the exodus to Makati in 2006, when it moved to its current location at Greenbelt 3, soon followed by the opening of Mackay’s Sala Bistro concept right beside People’s Palace in April 2007. Mackay then completed his exit from the Malate restaurant scene in August 2007, when he opened Sala at its current location at the podium level of the Locsin Building in Makati, where it took over the former site of the Luz Gallery, a historic space built by the late National Artist Leandro Locsin for his artist friend Arturo Luz.
What to expect at the newly renovated Sala?
At the helm of the kitchen is Sala and Sala Bistro Executive Chef Stefan Langehen, who works in collaboration with Mackay, who remains to this day, very much immersed in the day-to-day operations of all his restaurants, including the very popular Blackbird at the Nielsen Tower. At Sala, they are now aiming to continue to serve, according to Mackay, “Familiar and delicious cooking of mostly new dishes, with some from the last 20 years, featuring interesting European ingredients cooked in a classical manner.”
The dining area received a complete makeover, including the outdoor seating area, while the kitchen got a new fit out. The main dining room now exudes a lighter, more feminine look, as the restaurant got rid of its dark, wooden wall panels and flooring, and replaced it with light grey panelling and taupe terrazzo floors. Blush pink and duck egg blue upholstery, punctuated with fine gold accents on the chairs and banquette, completes the shift to a lighter color palette. When asked for the reason for the renovation, Mackay replied, “I believe it is important to reinvest in anything that you do. The renovation of Sala was part based on the wear and tear of 10 years, but at the same time to update the room to a more current style that complements the style of our cooking.”
To match the restaurant makeover is an opening menu of all new dishes that may prove disappointing at first for regulars craving some old Sala favorites. But, Mackay reassured that some original dishes will soon reappear, as the menu will be more dynamic, with a weekly changing lunch menu, a tasting menu, and a more concise à la carte offering.
Early dish favorites based on three random (mostly lunch) visits include a fontina mushroom soufflé with porcini cream, a rustic rhubarb cream brulée with orange and thyme madeleine, and a lychee rose water pavlova topped with roast rhubarb and strawberries.
Sala Restaurant, LV Locsin Building, 6752 Ayala Avenue, Makati City Tel (02) 750-1555 or email email@example.com Open lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday (closed on Sundays) Complimentary basement parking available from 7pm Follow the author on IG and Twitter @cyrenedelarosa