The Nook Cafe with Harry Potter (and the Maginhawa Hub)

Disappointment is a tough concept to predict, we’ve learned throughout our travels, primarily because it largely depends on the level of expectation that has grown root in one’s mind. What may be disappointing to some may be outstanding to others. What may be disappointing to someone may have been satisfactory to the same person if the expectation was correctly set. We’ve been badly burned by resorts and destinations that are made to glitter like diamonds in their websites, only to find a lump of semi-precious stone. We didn’t set any expectation when we set out to search for The Nook, coffee and books.

The Nook is found along Maginhawa Street, the main road in Teachers Village, adjoining UP Diliman in Quezon City. The streets of Teachers Village are named after traits, in Tagalog, like Matalino, Mayumi, Malambing, Magiting, Mahiyain, Mabait, Makapal ang Mukha. The food scene in Maginhawa Street has been promoted by both the private and government sectors, which is a good thing, as an addition to the other food stretch in Quezon City, Tomas Morato.

Ok, let’s address that puzzled look on your face — there’s no street in Teachers Village that is called Makapal na Mukha (the other street names mentioned are true, we assure you), although, in recognition of the majority of students who are not Teachers’ Pet, it would be fun to have a street named Makapal na Mukha, together with something like Marupok or Mapusok, perfect for Valentines Day food event.

Maginhawa Hub

We’ve heard and read a lot about going on a food trip along Maginhawa Street, which originally refers to a single street in Quezon City, inside Teachers Village that adjoins UP Diliman, but has expanded to include the surrounding streets.

Perhaps it’s time to change the label from Maginhawa Street to Maginhawa Hub. The food scene is no longer limited to Maginhawa Street, having spread to the surrounding streets. It’s a food destination, less sophisticated that the Tomas Morato area, but good enough to blossom into something wonderful with innovation from establishment owners and a healthy sense of adventure from food hunters. It’s not a place where you can throw the culinary stone and expect to enjoy the food on which the establishment where the stone lands. It’s still a food hunt, not a food trip, in Maginhawa. There’s a lot of dud here. If you get disappointed with your food choice in Maginhawa, it’s most likely because you didn’t look hard enough.

A few weeks ago, the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. June 26, if you’re nerd enough to want to know, is the first publication of the first book in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s really hard to miss those general information from all the write-ups about the event.

We know our Harry Potter. We’ve seen the movies. We can’t, however, call ourselves Harry Potter fans. That’s a label we reserve to our kids who’ve seen all the Harry Potter movies (many times over), have read the books (for the heck of checking if the movie is faithful to the storyline), have their own wands (heaven forbid the dementors suddenly attack our house), and have gone to the Harry Potter theme parks (they know their butter beer, trust us).

The Nook is NOT an official Harry Potter establishment. It’s important to highlight this fact, not so much because we don’t want The Nook to run into trouble with licensing requirements, but, more importantly, to set the right expectations.

We didn’t know what to expect when we chose, one weekend, to hunt down an establishment in Maginhawa which, we’ve heard, should attract Harry Potter fans. It’s called The Nook.

Finding The Nook

Harry Potter fans, immune to the dark hardships of the wizards and witches in Hogwarts, and the hidden places beyond the real of muggles like Platform 9 3/4 and Diagon Alley, wouldn’t mind the difficulty in finding The Nook.

Its address: 164 Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village, Quezon Ciy. Don’t for a minute think that it’s an easy find. Maginhawa Street stretches to around 200 meters and teems with establishments, big and small. The Nook is small, it’s red door hidden from plain sight. It doesn’t stand out because it’s one establishment in a row of identical establishments.

The Nook is at the end of Maginhawa Street nearest Anonas Avenue. It’s a building or two from, and on the same side as, Snacks & Ladders, another favorite of ours.

And if, for some reason, you still can’t find The Nook Cafe, don’t worry. Perhaps you’re a wizard/witch like Hermione Granger or Ron Weasley, oblivious of the wizard world when they started out. Then again, if you’ve stumbled on this article in search for information about The Nook, you’re most likely as stubborn as Harry, and we’re not at all worried about you finding out The Nook.

The Witching Hour

The witching hour — the supposed time when ghosts and monsters begin to roam your house — is 3:00 a.m. That’s a weird time for a restaurant or cafe to open its doors, which is why The Nook doesn’t open at that time. Neither does The Nook open at the usual opening hour, 10:00 a.m. The Nook opens at 1:00 p.m., after lunch during weekdays (11:30 on weekends), which is probably a hint for you to grab lunch somewhere. If you don’t get the hint, or if you’re just hardheaded, don’t worry, The Nook Cafe has complete meals in its menu to tide you over.

There’s a singularly important reminder about The Nook, but we’ll have to first talk about something else to make it clearer. We’ll have to characterize a nook.

It’s really a Nook

A “nook,” in ordinary parlance, is a “a corner or recess, especially one offering seclusion or security”. The Nook exactly fits the definition. It is a corner, a small corner. Think of it like a small room with Hagrid standing in the middle. Limited room for guests.

The porch, obviously found outside, can fit around 10 people. It’s al fresco. No airconditioning. Hot in summer, wet during the rainy season. It’s right in front of Maginhawa Street, which is the main thoroughfare in Teachers Village, so you’ll gather enough dust, Floo Powder really, sufficient to gain you entrance to the Floo Network. We don’t recommend staying on the porch.

The ground floor houses the counter that displays some mandrakes. Just kidding. No mandrakes here. The counter displays cupcakes and other food items, and takes up half of the limited space. There are around two circular tables at the ground floor, good enough for around two groups of 5 individuals to comfortably sit themselves. It’s air-conditioned, so it might be good enough for many, but for Harry Potter fans, it’s not the place where you want to hang out. You go where the action is — the loft.

The loft is the inner sanctum, the repository of a few artifacts which should give anyone, fans and non-fans alike, nice photos for Instagram and Facebook. At the top of the stairs, right above the shoe holders (go barefoot, respect the inner sanctum) is a rack holding a number of robes and the scarves for each House at Hogwarts. Red and yellow scarf for Gryffindor, black and blue scarf for Ravenclaw, yellow and black scarf for Hufflepuff, and black and green scarf for Slytherin. You can wear the robes and the scarves (we know you’ll ask that, so, you’re welcome).

The signage in front says “Coffee * Books” so you can find books at the loft. There are complete sets of the Harry Potter series, of course, and you can also find other books, including the Percy Jackson series and James Patterson books.

Then there’s the hammock, right beside the broomstick. It’s the best seat in the house — soft and airy cushion for the butt, away from the aircon vent that blows really cold air at the loft. Yes, it’s cold up there. Either the design is faulty or management is sending a message to guests not to stay too long.

There are three Japanese-style tables at the loft, sitting two people on each side. Eight people on each huddle, er, table, but we doubt that the loft can comfortably fit a total of 24 people for the three tables. Perhaps a maximum of 10 people.

Come Early

There you go. Two important pieces of the puzzle. If you put together the 1:00 p.m. opening time and the limited space, what comes to mind? It’s the one thing that we factored in when we checked out The Nook. Yes, my dear, come early. We arrived before lunchtime. We had early lunch somewhere (there’s a nice Japanese restaurant, Kazoku, also along Maginhawa Street) and proceeded to The Nook before the clock struck 12. It was already open and there were already two groups already inside, which allowed us to occupy the third table at the loft. No waiting time. We were lucky.

By the time our food arrived, around 12:30 p.m., the ground floor was already jam-packed, and by the time we left at around 1:30 p.m., the ground floor AND the porch were overflowing with people. There’s a healthy Harry Potter community in the Philippines, we suppose.

Cupcakes and Butterbeer

We ate lunch before swooping on The Nook. It’s one travel rule that we have: in case of doubt regarding schedule, eat early. An empty tummy breeds an impatient mind. Hunger nudges people to do stupid things. Come to think of it, maybe Voldermort is one hungry wizard, always angry, always seeking to destroy the world. If you arrive late at The Nook and you have to wait hungry, we fear you’re going to pick a figh, a very dangerous behavior in a cramped space filled with people who know how to use their wands.

The butterbeer served in The Nook tastes like the real thing. A pleasant surprise, although we’ve always thought you can have butterbeer by simply melting Butterball candies. What’s more surprising, and partly the answer to our question on how The Nook can reap some profits, are the cupcakes.

As our photo subjects changed from one scarf to another, we wondered about the viability of this cafe. There are no games, no fees (the games in Laruan and Snacks & Ladders are free, by the way). How can a small cafe make profit?

The answer came when we saw the price of the cupcakes — P95 each. If that hasn’t sunk in, we’ll repeat it — Ninety-Five Pesos. Our initial reaction was disbelief. This is not your usual cupcake price around this area. The cupcake price seems revolting because of the location. The Nook is located in Maginhawa Street, located at the heart of Teachers Village, with its image of being student-friendly when it comes to prices. However, if you look somewhere, BGC perhaps, you’ll find similarly-priced cupcakes like Cupcakes by Sonja.

Don’t take the cupcake price against The Nook. It has to turn a profit in order to survive. Better still, the cupcakes taste really good. We have only one standard when evaluating food: is it something that we’d like to taste again? We ordered the Leaky Cauldron cupcake, soft chocolate cake wrapped in crispy chocolate cover, and the Butterbeer cupcake, the cupcake version of the butterbeer (or butterball). We’d gladly go back for these cupcakes. All things considered, these cupcakes are far from being overpriced.

It’s always interesting to come in because of something but wanting to come back because of something else. We went to The Nook because of Harry Potter. We went home happy, and we want to come back, because of the delicious cupcakes. It’s like watching Empoy and Alessandra in Kita Kita — you go in without expecting anything, yet come out pleasantly surprised. But that’s our opinion. This post speaks of our experience and should not influence how you find The Nook. No two travels are the same.

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