There’s a game I like playing with friends whenever we enter a new hip café or restaurant. I call it, “How hipster is this place?” It gets one point for every item ticked off my unofficial checklist: 1. Mason jars, 2. Chalkboards, 3. Mismatched furniture, 4. Obscure shop name, 5. Kitschy items for sale, 6. Kitschy items as décor, 7. Brick wall, 8. Vintage photos, 9. Expensive artisan menu, and 10. Artsy-fartsy interiors.
I had a meeting with the girls of BDJ Box last month and CO/OP Manila was walking distance from our San Juan office. Within five minutes of entering the place, CO/OP ticked half of my checklist, and after we wrapped up our meeting and I finished my last bite of brookie (a brownie-cookie mash-up), this café/lifestyle shop graduated from my hipster checklist with flying colors.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a sucker for places like this, as long as the prices aren’t ridiculously high and the staff doesn’t give off a snobbish, pretentious vibe. CO/OP used to be a residential area, but in 2014 they turned the place into a café and gift shop. I heard mixed reviews about this place—that the food isn’t worth the visit or that the inspiring interiors and vibe make up for the lackluster menu.
I’ve been to CO/OP twice this month, and my review falls more on the latter. Their café fare could benefit from improvements, but as a freelancer always looking for non-traditional cafés and working spaces to spend hours in, CO/OP provides just that.
There are walls of eye candy and shelves of quirky gifts and home items. You’ll need to exercise extreme EQ (alliteration intentional) to avoid coming home with pricey cute décor you probably don’t really need, from faux reindeer head wall mounts to eccentric coffee table book titles.
Their gift shop selection is a mix of local designer products and items imported from US, Europe, and other Asian countries, which explain the above average price tags. ₱2,850 for a cutesy gardening tool box? I actually peeked at my wallet to see if I had enough money to buy it, and then realized that quirky items are overtaking my bedroom. Next time, I told myself. I’m already planning my next meeting with my fellow writers at CO/OP—not for the coffee, but to take a look at Ridley’s novelty toys again.
On my way out, I spotted a grass head troll doll and reminisced the days I owned Russ Trolls and styled ’90s haircuts on my Mister Grass Head. I haven’t stopped thinking about buying one for ₱750.
CO/OP is located at 189 A. Mabini Street, San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines. Tel. no. (+632) 925-5885.