Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Zula Residences (formerly Zula Manila Hostel): Serving Authentic Mediterranean Comfort Food and a Backpacker’s Home Away from Home

Zula Hostel Manila and Restaurant

I’ve been passing along that area in Makati Avenue for quite a while and I hadn’t known that a new establishment now occupies the area where the space that the old Fersal Hotel used to occupy has been turned into a restaurant now serves authentic Mediterranean food. Located right in the heart of Makati City’s commercial business district, Zula Manila Hostel and Restaurant  (now called Zula Residences) opened its doors to the public mid of this year, 2019. The storefront looks commanding and honestly I was thinking it was a place you’d only want to go to on special occasions. Glad to know I’m entirely wrong. Together with my foodie friends Rence and Kat, who’s a professional chef, we decided to check out what does Zula Manila has to offer. 

Zula's interior

I learned later that Zula is actually a hidden gem of a restaurant cum backpacker’s inn (yes, there a rooms available for occupancy upstairs in their hotel) waiting to be discovered by both food/coffee enthusiasts and traveling backpackers. Zula Hostel isn’t just an inn for backpacking travelers but is also a great place to try and sample Mediterranean cuisine that had always been exciting. 

Some of the foods we've had at Zula Hostel

Before opening the restaurant, the people behind the said resto actually took their time to do some research on Mediterranean cuisine by visiting Israel and trying out all the recommended dishes as well as do their studies on food and development, a requirement for those who are in the food industry. The effort was there for they really didn't need to do such, but they wanted to serve authentic Mediterranean food which aren't limited to souvlaki and tzatsiki. 

Zula coffee in cute espresso cups

When it comes to restaurants, Mediterranean cuisine has this diaspora dining scene—from street food to home-style cooking—they all give your discriminating palate some kind of exercise. I highly recommend Zula’s coffee. They are serving some of the best coffee beans I’ve ever had in years—and surprisingly, the coffee beans are sourced from guess where? You’d never guess it right! They’re from Sultan Kudarat! Who would’ve thought they do have best-tasting beans from that part of the Philippines? Usually, the popular beans we know are those from the mountainous part of the North. The coffee wasn’t bitter as I had expected it to be, but it does have the rich and bold coffee taste. 

Zula Spanish Coffee

Zula Hot Mocha
Zula Hostel offers an unparalleled dining experience for both locals and foreign visitors who might be staying for a night or two at their hostel upstairs. It’s a perfect place for some relaxed dining, celebrations and business lunches or meetings. With their cozy vibe, exceptional food and service, I won’t be surprised if more people would be coming here through word of mouth alone.  This is a great place to frequent for relaxing afternoons or pre-dinner drinks. It’s also a plus that the restaurant offers al fresco dining with tables and chairs where customers can enjoy the vibrancy of its city location. 

Fried Cauliflower from Zula Hostel and Restaurant
I love their Foolproof Shakshouka [Php300]—made from poached eggs in tomato and pepper sauce, seasoned with a secret mix of spices and served with fresh salad, tahini and battard. This dish is best to be consumed while hot. You would want to dip their soft sesame bagel or their pita bread on the shakshouka and finish them up until the last morsels of the dish. 

Tahina sauce

Zula Sauce

Zula Manila's Shashouka

Another worth mentioning is their Labaneh {Php250]—Strained Greek yoghurt, grilled artichokes, tomatoes, chopped walnuts, spring onions, zaátar, drizzled with silan and olive oil and served on sesame bagel. I’m telling you, their soft sesame bagel is to-die for!!! I’ve had bagels before but those I’ve tried are really tough ones. Zula’s bagel breads are so soft that I wouldn’t really mind having them alone even without the labaneh or the shakshouka to dip it in. 

Zula Manila's Labaneh

The honest-to-goodness huge soft sesame bagel and bread from Zula Manila Hostel restaurant

Anyway, going back to the food, the serving is huge, you can share it with another person. Every dish we’ve had that night were flavorful too. I tried their pita breads as well. But what had truly pleasantly surprised me that evening was the surprisingly delicious pickled lemon of Zula Hostel. It was the first time I had ever encountered pickled lemon.  But I loved it right away! It balanced all of the strong flavors I’ve had from the dishes that were served and cleansed my palate. They concocted their very own pickled lemon and it enhanced the flavors of each dish with its tangy yet salty-sour taste. I really wish Zula would be able to come up with a bottled pickled lemon someday because I’d love to bring one home. If this happens, I’m sure, I’m going to be one of the first in line to purchase them.

This is the pickled lemon I'm raving about from Zula Manila Hostel and restaurant
My friends and I also enjoyed Zula’s version of Arayes. Arayes [Php350] are pita bread sandwiches stuffed with minced lamb meat, tomato, onion, and different spices. Although it’s a popular market and restaurant food in the Levant region, Arayes are ideal choice for barbecues and cookouts. Baked, grilled or toasted—it doesn’t really matter for as long as Arayes are served crispy outside and juicy inside. They are preferably eaten fresh from the oven/grill along with fresh yoghurt and pickled green olives. It’s such a filling meal. If you’re hungry but you want to grab a bite, order this dish and you’d be satiated right after. 

Zula Sabuch Salad

If you want to go for something healthy and light, try their salads. Fantastic food choices! We’ve tried Sabich salad [Php200]. They say it’s considered a street food in the Middle East. It’s supposed to be served as an eggplant pita snack. But here at Zula, they had them reconstructed and served with hard-boiled eggs, roasted eggplants, tomatoes, sliced potatoes, onions and greens. It is then served with Tahina sauce and balsamic vinaigrette. This sabich salad is great for those who are on a diet or would want to have something healthy.

Zula's Halva Parfait

For those with sweet tooth, you won’t go wrong with any of their desserts. You have two options: you can have Halva Parfait [Php200] or if you’re up for something new, go for Malabi [Php200]. The Halva parfait is made of a rich and creamy mixture of vanilla halva and cream and topped with pistachios and drizzled with date syrup. What I loved best about Halva is that even if it’s sweet, it doesn’t hurt your throat. The sweetness is just right and to be honest about it, a cup would make you want to as for more. 

Zula's Malabi

As for Malabi, I’d have to say it’s not for everyone. It does have an acquired taste. I love it better than Halva Parfait because it tastes a bit different for me. It’s not as sweet as the Halva too. It reminds me of the rose water mist I’ve had back in my college days. The Malabi is made from coconut cream pudding with some pistachios and desiccated coconut. What makes it different in terms of taste is the presence of the rose water syrup. But don’t be intimidated by it, it is still worth giving the Malabi a try. It has an interesting taste and texture and it’s not as creamy and as sweet as the Halva Parfait. Think of panna cotta in rose water flavor. That’s exactly how Malabi tastes like. 

Last but not the least, I love Zula's restaurant because it has an open kitchen. You can watch the chef at work while they do your own food. This way, you can always be assured that your food was cooked in a safe and clean environment. 

Zula's open kitchen

Since Zula is actually a hostel, we were also given a tour of the rooms. The hostel is very eco-friendly and they have separate switches from your AC to your phone or gadget charger outlet so you can still charge your gadgets even when you leave the room. By doing this, you get to help them save energy.
The beds are comfy with 300 thread count and the private rooms have duvet as well. I don’t recommend them for families though because the rooms are built for backpacking travelers and those that need a room to stay for a night or two. The rooms do not have televisions too but they do have fast WIFI connections and a night lamp for some reading.

Zula Private Room Bed

Zula Hotel's ceiling

Zula Mirror

Zula Hostel's mirror

Zula Hostel's wall

Zula Shampoo and bath essentials

When you come and visit both the restaurant and the hostel, make sure to check out the interiors as well. The restaurant downstairs had interesting colorful Machuca tiles used as decoration on the wall, they also have an interesting industrial lights and tables as well. The hostel has a unique ceiling too with a few signs and quotes that I’m sure millennials would be able to appreciate. I would say that Zula is an Instagrammable restaurant and hostel. But there’s definitely more to Zula than just that.

Zula Hostel's Machuca Tiles

It’s worth the trip to Zula Mnl. Definitely worth the try. I love the ambiance, the food and the staff are efficient and accommodating.

Zula Restaurant and Hostel is located at 7840 Makati Avenue corner P. Guanzon,
Poblacion, Makati City
(02) 573-1462
They are on soft opening until September 5, 2019!
4-Sharing Mixed Dorm [Php635/net]
8-Sharing Mixed Dorm [Php520/net]
Private Room Php2,340/net good for two pax].

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