Todd English Food Hall Opens in Manila!

Franchises of foreign restaurants are not uncommon in Manila, but father-and-son tandem Ricky and Eric Dee, together with SM Aura Premier, takes the foodie scene several notches higher by bringing in the first-ever restaurant owned by a New York-based celebrity chef. Todd English Food Hall, the first of its kind in Manila, opened to the public last March 27, introducing the concept of the “food hall” -- a communal dining area where guests pick their desired food from several live-cooking sections or stations.

While I am devastated that I never got invited to their exclusive media launch (LOL), at least I went as a regular diner and got to experience Todd English Food Hall for what it really is (bitter!). Yes, it’s not a buffet—that’s perfectly obvious once you step in, because they hand you a menu. The menu contains Asian, European, and American dishes from each of the 9 stations.

Clockwise from top left: Beer, pizza, pasta and salad sections.

      Other restaurants in SM Aura Premier:


When I first read other blogs, I thought you could go around and ask them to cook whatever you like from each station then just promptly faint when you see the bill, but apparently it doesn’t work like that. Instead, the a la carte menu simplified everything.

Steaks, burgers, and fish are grilled from the open-kitchen-style station upon ordering.
Todd English Food Hall exudes a very classy ambience (lakas maka-sosyal) that still manages not to intimidate. (OK, maybe my new haircut infused an extra dose of confidence in me, haha!) There’s an island bar section from which you can order wine and draft beer. The other sections are positioned around the dining hall—grill, pasta, pizza, raw, salad, charcuterie—all in open-kitchen style.

A rack that doubles as a divider showcases Todd English Food Hall's wine selection.
The dessert section showcases a limited sweets selection, offset by an ostentatious cupcake Ferris wheel display. They say it looks like the original food hall in New York—I, to be honest, don’t care and just want to get fed.

Cupcake wheel in front of the dessert station displaying cookies and cakes.
Cookbooks and food products for sale at the retail gallery.
I had dinner at Todd English with my friends Aleli, Selle and Alej and we agreed to ditch the appetizers and order four entrees. We were seated right in front of the pasta section, in chairs that kept sliding and gliding (that’s how polished their floor was!) I thought I was in a rickety ferry. Serving us was Vic, who was friendly but not too attentive. I only notice service when it’s really good or really bad, and for Todd English it’s actually near the positive end of the spectrum; everyone’s friendly, but due to the amount of people going in, they didn’t notice a wave of my hand or two. But that’s forgivable!
Chefs busy at the pasta section
My Todd English dates.
Aleli’s Food Hall Burger arrived first: freshly-ground 4-cut beef patty topped with homemade smoked bacon, BBQ sauce, and gorgonzola, enveloped in a toasted Brioche bun.

The flavor was subtle and well-balanced, no ingredient trying to outshine the rest. These types of burgers are the ones you could finish easily despite its size—don’t you just hate burger sauces that are too overpowering?—and the Food Hall Burger is an excellent choice!

The Food Hall Burger, P390

Selle chose the Goat Cheese Ravioli—pasta pockets filled with goat cheese that explode inside your mouth when you bite into them. Seriously, the sensation was like that!

The pasta was handmade and cooked al dente. The serving looked small but it was actually heavy on the stomach. With a hefty price tag of PhP530, and with the additional pressure of being a “bestseller”, I’d say it lived up to our expectations.

Goat Cheese Ravioli, P530
A bloodbath would have ensued had we not ordered Alej’s choice: the Homemade Cured Bacon. Hinting of a Christmassy flavor (thanks Alej for the words), the dish came with a side of broccoli, carrots and potatoes, on a bed of squash puree.

This slab of very tender and slightly sweet meat is the best bacon I’ve ever tasted! If you like bacon slabs such as those from Mr. Jones and Poco Deli, you’re going to fall in love with Todd English’s version!

Homemade Cured Bacon, P450
Now on to my selection. I have always wanted to try the Duck Confit—blame that to watching too much cooking shows—but it’s ridiculously expensive. When I saw that Todd English serves my much-coveted dish for PhP650 (still pricey I know, but A LOT cheaper than other high-end French restaurants) I knew I had to get it.

The Todd English Two-Way Duck features the meat cooked in two ways: a leg confit and a sous vide duck breast. Owing to the long preservation process and to the meticulous cooking method, both are incredibly tender and flavorful.

The confit is duck leg cooked in its own fat—I could almost hear my arteries vibrating. But the flavor was so rich, I found it hard to resist forking another chunk. You’d think the sous vide duck breast would be bland like your ordinary chicken breast, but the slow-cooking ensured that the taste and tenderness were equal in and out.

The dish came with a side of red cabbage and sweet potato puree. I am getting used to eating proteins without rice—hell, if all my daily ulam tasted like this, the rice addict in me could perish for good.

Both my hands and taste buds were clapping with glee as I finished my meal—but as I chewed the last bit of duck, I felt a sense of restlessness. I could’ve sworn I saw the word “truffle” on the menu. Specifically, a Mac and Cheese with Truffles. How could I visit Todd English and not try their truffle pasta?!?!

So right then and there I hailed the server and demanded an order of the pasta. Cooking it took quite some time, but when it arrived at our table, the mabaho (pungent) scent wafted to my nose and I knew I was in heaven. Apparently, it wasn’t the one with the shaved black truffles I saw in Jin Loves to Eat—FINE. I forced myself to beweep my underprivileged state get contented with truffle oil and this al dente macaroni with cheddar, parmesan and Fontina cheese. The cheese sauce was subtle instead of rich and creamy—the weird thing is, it tastes better and better with each bite, as my friend Aleli also observed. I’d say it’s a sophisticated version of Moonshine’s, but the two are not comparable.

Mac and Cheese with Truffles, P450
We didn’t try the OMG dessert, afraid that we would end up throwing cusswords at random passersby so after finishing off the truffle we asked for the bill. Over-all, our Todd English experience was an awesome one. It gave us a feel of the new food hall concept, one that’s very easy to embrace. The food was nothing short of extraordinary—all well-balanced, delicate, exquisite. The ambience and service are pleasant and they complete the posh experience.

If you’re looking for outstanding international cuisine, a trip to SM Aura just might give you that. Todd English Food Hall is not the overrated restaurant you might expect a celebrity-owned establishment might be. Their goal is simple, to provide delicious food, so be ready to be satiated and arm yourself with heaps of appetite.


Todd English Food Hall
5/F Skypark, SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Operating Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00am-10:00pm
Twitter: @tefoodhallmnl
Budget: PhP500-PhP700/head

Have you dined at Todd English Food Hall? What was your experience? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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