By now, it is an oft told tale as to how former Peace Corps volunteer and college professor Jim Turner was so inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books that he founded a bar called Hobbit House entirely staffed by “little people.” Since it opened in 1973 along mabini St., Malate, the bar has become so famous that it has since opened a branch in boracay.
From its original location in 1801 Mabini St., regulars now flock to its new site in M.H. del Pilar St., which is just a short walk away from the Ermita Church. The bar was moved to its new address in 2007.
Unlike the unassuming façade of its old building, Hobbit House can now be easily seen from the street with its huge mural, which features the lead characters of Tolkien’s book. Up front is a huge, colorful circular door. Once guests pass through the door, a bell will be rung to announce their entrance.
Inside its candle lit interiors, one can recognize the paintings of scenes from the Tolkien trilogy as well as posters of local folk legend, Freddie Aguilar. Compared to the tight space of its old quarters, Hobbit House’s new home is so much more spacious.
Pidoy Fetalino, on of the club’s old timers, says that the reason behind the move was that the landlord wanted to tear down the property. He admits that every time he passes by the old location, “Memories from the past would come flooding back.” Now all he wants is “for the bar to continue so that my children and their children will have a chance to experience it.”
Bringing the stage alive that evening were Pinoy rock legends, “The Jerks.” As it was in the old location, Hobbit House’s line up features an interesting mix of folk, rock, and blues plus a bit of jazz and reggae. The current performers include top rated solo acts and bands such as Maegan Aguilar, Blue Rats, and Marc Velasco. Of course, Freddie Aguilar still performs here every Monday and Friday night.
Upon entering, some of the customers would go straight to the bar area, its shelves lined with an extensive array of liquors and spirits. You can find everything here from Vodka to Tequila to the local coconut liquor known as “Lambanog.”
If you find the choices overwhelming, you can start off with a beer. Not only do they stock the standard San Miguel beer, they also offer imported beers such as Harp Irish Lager, Duvel and in fact, over 150 kinds of beer, ale amd cider are available. There is also a long list of cocktails and mixed drinks available. But if you’d rather not wake up with a hang over, you can opt for one of their fruit shakes.
To go with your drink, the menu offers a mix of local and western specialties such as Pinoy style beef steak, New York Cut steak, and Tomato basil and garlic pasta. The staff recommended that I try their popular Taquitos which are mini tacos perked up with a sweet, slightly spicy salsa. I also tried the English Sausages with mashed potatoes. The sausages were meaty, nicely spiced and cooked just right. They had the right tenderness but not oily. It was served with an interesting salad of tomato, feta cheese and jicama on the side. It was above average bar chow if you ask me.
If the action here is getting to much for you, you can take a breather by heading to the “Remembrance, Ye Olde Bistro” located just next to the stage. The area is sort of like a den or a “chill-out-room” for the club’s regulars (but anyone can enter). Unlike the décor in the rest of the club, this den looks more like a private men’s club. The walls are lined with century. This is one of the bar’s most popular gathering areas.
But Hobbit House would be just another bar in Ermita were it not for the little people. Friendly, charming and ever smiling, they are the reason why the bar is what it is today. Every night, you will find them gamely posing for yet another round of photos with tourists and travelers, giving folks back home something to talk about.
Everything is already in place for the Hobbit House to continue where it left off. While it may not have the same intimate atmosphere as in the previous location, given time, the bar will develop its own unique ambiance. When it manages to do so, it will fulfill Pidoy’s vision to see the bar continue on to the next generation. Daily 5pm-2am Manila 1212 M.H. del Pilar cor. Arquiza St. (Arquiza Trade Center) Ermita 521-76-04 17D.