A luxurious staycation at the Manila Peninsula’s Premier Suite

I have a confession. I’m a bit of a landlubber. I’m not very fond of taking plane flights and boat rides. So what’s a girl like me to do when she’s desperate for some time off from the humdrum of life? A short car ride away, within the thick of the urban jungle that is the Ayala Mall Complex, is an oasis called the Manila Peninsula.

We had the privilege of trying out their Premier Suite in all its 86 square meter glory. The suite is located at the far end of the hallway, to give you that feeling of seclusion. When you open the door, you are greeted by a powder room and then:

a spacious living room with a flat screen TV and a gorgeous all-glass window to give you a view of the city

and a small dining area where a tray of fruits and sweets welcomes you. After the living room, you are greeted by a huge bedroom, with a desk:

And an extremely inviting king-sized bed:

I did the mature thing and jumped on the bed a couple of times haha! After enjoying the amenities of the room, we headed down to enjoy the equally inviting swimming pool:

Around the pool were lounge chairs, and we quickly chose a quiet spot. Even the rain could not hinder us from enjoying a dip in the pool. Afterwards, we ordered a panini, which the waiter at the poolside bar delivered to our lounge chairs with a big smile.

The panini was absolutely delicious and fresh – parma ham, fresh mozzarella, and greens encased within crusty bread. To enjoy it by the pool made it even more of a treat!

If you ever find yourself in need of a respite from routine, consider the fact that there are many places near you that you can turn to for rest and relaxation. With the right company, that’s all you need!

Nail Spa Party Venues in Makati

Spa parties have grown in popularity over the recent years. They are the result of 2 desires of a modern day woman (and man): the need to relax and unwind by pampering one’s self and the desire to have a party that is a little out of the ordinary. Luckily, Makati and nearby Fort Bonifacio is filled with fabulous spa destinations! Here are some of our picks, and their corresponding rates.

1) Nail Tropics: Greenbelt 5 Mall

- treatment: P600 to P900 per person – you get to choose between a hand spa, foot spa, or both (with nail art)
- with unlimited complementary drinks (when we went there, the drink was green tea, but it’s not the Japanese green tea, it’s more like an apple green drink)
- the place is very conducive to relaxation. It’s nice and clean, the staff is hospitable, and the interior has a nice calm tropical feel to it. The place is not too cramped as long as you are just a group of 10
- there is a small area at the front where you can set up a small dessert or snack corner.
- 15% off for the celebrant
- minimum of 10 persons
- 4 hours use of venue
- If you plan on reserving the venue during peak hours or during a weekend, additional percentage costs will be included
- a service percentage fee is also included

2) Dashing Diva: Greenbelt 5 Mall
- the spa is a cozy corner located inside the Beauty Bar store.
- treatment: P950 / person for manicure/pedicure
- with complementary drinks
- minimum of 8 persons (anything more than 8 will actually be a little cramped already, in my opinion)
- 3 hours use of venue

3) Nail Spa: Near AIM Conference Center Hotel

- located near the AIM hotel, and near the Greenbelt mall as wel
- the interiors are gorgeous – a beautiful contrast of crisp white and striking blue. Several feminine touches adorn the place like the fancy frames and chandelier. The place is more spacious than the 2 above and is perfect if you want to have a more elaborate party setup.
- P12,500
- 3 hours use of venue
- one round of iced tea or hot tea
- extra hour: 1,000

The Spa: Fort Bonifacio

If you’re willing to go just a few minutes outside of Makati, there is one very beautiful venue in the Fort Bonifacio complex called The Spa. Upon entering, you are immediately transported to a Zen-like place.

There is actually a branch of The Spa in Greenbelt, but the one in the Fort area is the one best suited for spa parties. This is very pricey though. You have a P10,000 consumable fund for a minimum of 8 people. You also get to use their wet room.

You can choose among their many spa packages, from manicure / pedicure to their body massage. The latter seems to be a better choice for this venue. Their suite/villa rates for body massages are around P2,600 and up. A foot scrub or foot massage costs around P1,300 per person.

The problem with this venue is that you can’t just bring food from anywhere. You can only buy food from Cav, which is a pretty high-end place.

Home Manicure / Pedicure Service
Another option is to book a hotel or condotel room and hire a home manicure / pedicure service. This is a more intimate setting, and this will give you a lot more freedom to decorate the venue. It can also turn into a fun slumber party of sorts.

Have any venues to suggest? Post below!

Pumpkin Tofu at Umu, Dusit Hotel

Umu at Dusit Hotel is my favorite fine dining Japanese restaurant.

I love it so much that I’m dedicating this blog post just to one of their dishes – the Nankin pumpkin tofu.

Before I tantalize your taste buds with my description, please do throw out all misconceptions you may have with tofu. The dish has little to do with the white block you see so often in Oriental cuisine.

Let me start you off with this photo. I failed to take a picture of my own, but I did find an exquisite photo from an Umu review at Kristn.com

Isn’t it just beautiful? The colors are bright and inviting – yellow, orange, and green. The tofu is soft, custard-like in texture. The natural sweetness of the pumpkin stands out and it just the right amount of sweetness. The asparagus is crunchy – the texture is an ideal match with the custard. And the shrimp? It is cooked perfectly, tender but firm, and absolutely fresh. This unlikely trio rests on a light sweet and salty soy sauce, the delectable taste that seals the marriage of flavors.

I would like to talk about their Pinoy sushi rolls – the best, freshest rolls in town. Or their sashimi feast, which is served in a mysterious haze from the dry ice. Or their burdock and beef stew which is another delicate balance of sweet and salty.

But I will save it for another post. Today, I want to leave you with just the refreshing imagery of the Nankin Tofu.

Simple yet exquisite. And so thoughtfully composed.

Find out all that Dusit Hotel has to offer here.

Spring at BSA Mansion… And I don’t mean the season!

Last March, I was finally able to try out Spring at BSA Mansion.

What is Spring you ask? It is not the season we all daydream about. Though the daydreaming part may well be true. It’s a cozy little Chinese restaurant at the lobby of this condominium hotel.

Just a little bit of history. Spring is the brainchild of Ha Yuan, a restaurant that has been around China Town since 1956. Get all the good authentic home-cooked Chinese food of Ha Yuan, mix it up with a modern, fresh perspective and you get Spring by Ha Yuan!

The space in the BSA Mansion is small, which adds to the quaint quality of the resto. On one side, the open kitchen gives you a view of cooks whipping up your meals.

We tried the Soy Chicken Mushroom Misua. It was listed under dry noodle dishes, but only because it’s not a noodle soup dish. The overall result is nothing but dry. The noodles were all embraced by a delicious tasty sauce, and the chicken pieces on top were tender.

Misua Chinese Food at BSA Mansion Condotel

The dumplings in soy ginger broth were a perfect accompaniment to the noodles. The kick of ginger and tangy sauce really perked my taste buds. The wrapper was not too thick, and encased very moist, delicious bits of goodness.

Chinese food in BSA Mansion, Makati

We then had the HY Signature Lumpia. It would be a shame not to try their signature dish after all! As a fan of fresh lumpia, this one was tops and was loaded and packed, just the way I like it.

BSA Makati - Spring lumpia Chinese food

Finally, to cap off the meal, we had some sweet treats. I really wanted to try the pig-shaped red bean sweet dumplings because I’m a fan of red bean (and heck I love food that looks cute!) but alas, they were all out. I wanted a couple of other desserts, but they were out too. So I finally opted for an order of Taho with taro. The taho was refreshing, and the taro gave it an interesting new spin. I was not disappointed. I failed to take a picture, but here’s one from their Facebook page:

Taro taho dessert BSA Mansion

If you want good Chinese Food at an affordable price, then you best head on over to BSA Mansion for your treat! Good luck with getting your hands on their dessert menu, where some of their most imaginative dishes come from. Then do come back here and tell me how they tasted (and make me envious in the process!)

Here’s their full address:
G/F BSA Mansion, 108 Benavidez St. Legaspi Village, 1229
Phone Number: 403-1508

* The place is conveniently a short walk away from Greenbelt.

For more info on BSA Mansion condotel, click here.

Fondue at Old Swiss Inn, Somerset Olympia

If you’re looking for fondue in Manila, Old Swiss Inn is the place for you. Granted, there aren’t many fondue places in the metro to begin with, but it is also the restaurant’s quaint old-world charm that has allowed it to stand the test of time.

Since 1946, the Old Swiss Inn has been delighting locals and foreigners. A few weeks ago, I finally got a chance to experience it myself!

We seated at a very cozy corner. The wooden decor, the dim light, and the flags overhead felt like we had been transported to a cabin far away.

We tried their best-selling Waatlander Fondue. Before the fondue arrived, we were served a bunch of rolls. They were fresh and delicious, but I decided not to eat too much since our fondue would be dipped in bread cubes as well. When the black pot arrived, I was very excited. In a matter of seconds, our cheese dip was bubbling and brewing.

The mixture was good, though I felt like they went too heavy on the kirsch. I also feel like the bread would have been better toasted and crispy.

None the less, the whole meal was quite the experience. I would recommend that the fondue be shared by more than two people so you can enjoy their other dishes, like this yummy corned beef sandwich:

Photo was taken from http://oldswissinn.wordpress.com/photo-gallery/caterings/

For more info on Somerset Olympia, click here.

A Dimsum Buffet Feast at New World Makati

A few weeks ago, I was able to try out the dimsum buffet offering of New World Hotel in Makati, one of the 5 star luxury hotels in the city. At P660, you get unlimited dimsum and a free soft beverage, making it one of the more affordable dimsum buffets compared to other hotels in the metro. I also happened to enjoy a meal at New World’s Jasmine restaurant last year, and their ala carte menu was also quite delicious and MSG free. These two reasons were compelling enough for me to head back to Jasmine and try their dimsum feast.

I expected to be greeted by a table line full of bamboo steamers for you to pick up but instead, the restaurant just looked like it usually was – a sophisticated blend of Oriental design and modern art – with the exception of one cart full of bamboo steamers which the waiters were moving around.

Interior of Jasmine Restaurant, New World Hotel Makati

It turns out that only a portion of the dimsum was available from the cart. The rest were being served upon ordering. I was pleased with this setup because 1) I didn’t have to stand up to get my food (yes, I know, lazy me) and 2) I was ensured that the food was freshly prepared.

New World Hotel Dimsum Buffet

We started out with the basics – chicken feet, asado siopao, hakaw, pork siomai, fish siomai and beef ball. The hakaw was the star of this first line-up. A bite of it and you can clearly tell that the shrimp was absolutely fresh. And very plump too! The shrimp was packed inside the wrapper (which may I say was prepared just right – thin enough for the contents to shine, but thick enough to be noticeable and chewy). I instantly ordered another set of hakaw.

The pork siomai came in 2nd place. Again, it was fresh and loaded with meat inside – not the scanty ones you get in fast food joints. The fish siomai tasted a tad too fishy for me.

My appetite was certainly perked up and ready for another round of new goodies. So I decided to order the Wagyu mango roll, Asado pastry, congee, and glutinous rice wrapped in leaf (Ma Tsang – forgive me for my spelling).

The Wagyu mango roll is one of the hotel’s more contemporary, unique dishes, and was presented in an interesting way. A generous strip of Wagyu beef and mango were encased inside a deep-fried cage. A bite of it was a beautiful combination of textures and flavors. The taste of the wagyu did not overpower the dish – but I confess I actually wanted that to happen.

Wagyu Roll at Jasmine Restaurant, Makati

I’ve loved the Asado pastry of the hotel since Emperor Court and I was pleased to find that they still got it right! You take a bite of the sweet crispy airy pastry shell then get into the soft, sweet and salty asado filling. It was a perfect balance of texture and taste.

All you can eat Asado dimsum at New World Hotel

I was actually anxious about eating the glutinous rice. Sticky rice tends to be very filling so I was afraid I would become too full to enjoy more of the dimsum. But I took the risk anyway and dove in. Opening the leaves revealed a very unassuming clump of rice with brown streaks. I actually went “uh-oh” in my head at that point. I felt like I had made a big mistake. When I cut it open with my fork, I found that it was mostly rice with just little bits of meat. That made me even more nervous.

Ma Tsang - Jasmine Chinese Restaurant, New World Hotel

It was a refreshing surprise when I took my first bite. It tasted very flavorful! Flavorful enough for you to finish the whole piece without feeling nauseous and too full.

Perhaps the overall winner of the day, however, was the radish cake with XO sauce. My whole family loved it! The XO sauce really gave the radish cake a flavorful kick with just a touch of heat. The cake itself was crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.

Radish Cake Dimsum at New World Hotel

After a few more bamboo steamers, we were ready to get down to dessert. I had the almond cream soup. It was a very light, refreshing dish full of the aroma of almond, just the way I like it. They had chocolate and peanuts glutinous dumplings too, but everyone was too full to try it.

Overall, the experience was great. I look forward to them providing more dimsum variety in the future. Beancurd roll please? More unique dishes would be very welcome as well. I realized at the end that while getting your dimsum upon ordering had its advantages, it had one big disadvantage too – the speed of service. As expected, there were lulls in our meal while we waited for the dish to be prepared, which sometimes makes it a tad difficult to really get into the full buffet mode. None the less, I think the advantages still outweigh the disadvantage.

One thing you need to know: they have a strict no leftover policy, something I respect as it discourages people from ordering so much then letting it all go to waste.

Lunch is open 1130AM – 2:30PM and Dinner starts at 6PM – 1030PM.

You may call them at (02)811-6888 for more details and reservations. Ideally, you should make reservations, especially on Sundays.

Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel

In an earlier post, I mentioned Raffle’s afternoon tea and my desire to try it out. Well, I’m quite pleased to inform you guys that I’ve finally tried it out just a couple of weeks ago. The verdict? Let’s just say, I’d like to go back… real soon!

Allow me to regale you with an afternoon tea play-by-play.

As soon as we went in the Wrtier’s Bar, we knew we were in for a treat. The interiors was lavish and cozy at the same time. It felt like being invited to an affluent friend’s home and being asked to enjoy some tea in their library. You have high shelves filled with books and a few curios here and there. The seats are plush and comfy. The interiors have a few dramatic, regal touches, like the drapery tassels. We sat in a spot right across the grand piano where a skilled pianist weaved exquisite music.

The waiter came with a big smile and we ordered our afternoon tea set. He asked whether we wanted coffee or tea. We chose tea, and you guys should definitely choose tea, too! I mean what’s afternoon tea without the tea, right? ;)

The next question was what tea we wanted. The menu showed a list of teas that all sounded equally decadent and tempting so I asked the waiter what he recommended. He certainly knew his afternoon tea! He was able to describe them and guided us towards the best-sellers.

So we ended up getting the Sweet Paris tea and Mango Fruit. I loved that we got one teapot each. As he poured Sweet Paris onto my cup, a sweet caramel smell wafted through the air and soothed my senses. Yep, this tea tasted and smelled just as beautiful as the city it was named after. The Mango Fruit was tangy and certainly did not lose to Sweet Paris. It had its own personality – sunny and bright.

Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel

Sweet Paris Tea and Mango Fruit Tea at Raffles Hotel

Just a note: I wished the cups were daintier, like those fine China floral-painted teacups, but this is just my girly self nitpicking ;)

After a cup of tea, my taste buds were perked up and ready for the eats. Our table was graced with a plate of finger sandwiches.

Finger Sandwiches at the Writer's Bar Afternoon Tea

Finger Sandwiches (L-R): Ham and cream cheese, Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Egg Sandwich, Roast Beef

The leftmost, my favorite, is ham with a very generous amount of what I believe to be cream cheese. The second one is smoked salmon. I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, but I felt like the bread overpowered the taste of the salmon. It would have been more delicious had it been served with just one slice of bread, open-faced. A drizzling of some lemon juice would have also completed it perfectly. The third sandwich, cucumber sandwich, is nice and refreshing. The fourth is an egg salad sandwich. The fifth is beef, my second favorite. I appreciated that the beef was tender.

And then the second platter of food arrived and I was in afternoon tea heaven. Scones! The most delicious scones I’ve ever eaten! Scones are a tricky thing to bake. They’re slightly crumbly on the outside, dense yet pleasantly light and soft on the inside. They don’t rely on frosting so they have to be fresh and the dough has to be perfect. Raffles’ scones passed the test with flying, delicious colors!

Scones at Raffles Hotel Lobby Lounge

One should separate the scones from the center to apply the clotted cream and strawberry jam to get the perfect bite. And perfect it was. The cream was rich and luscious, and the jam was heaven! Unlike other jams, this one was the right balance of sweet and tart. And it was smooth, not clumpy like some commercial brands. I was honestly tempted to dump ALL the jam into one scone but controlled myself.

Now if the plain scone was delicious, the blackcurrant scone was just divine! I loved how the bits of blackcurrants added extra texture. I’m definitely coming back to buy a batch of these.

The last course was served in the quintessential three-tiered serving tray:

Raffles Hotel, Writers Bar Dessert Plate

On the top, you have tiny tarts, little pops of goodness. The second one brings you tiny cream puffs and eclairs – the outside was perfectly airy and the filling was just the right amount of sweetness. The bottom plate served flour-less chocolate cake that was served as a present – a befitting look as the taste was truly a gift! The macarons were also very delicious – crisp and crumbly on the outside, chewy on the inside. As a self-confessed macaron lover, it was like I saved the best for last.

All in all, the experience was really a delight for the senses. You better drop by, soon! :)

You may contact Raffles Hotel at: 555-9777. It is located in front of Landmark Supermarket, Makati

Fairmont and Raffles Hotel Opens in Makati

Fairmont Raffles Hotel from Makati Greenbelt

A view of the Fairmont / Raffles Hotel from the Makati Greenbelt Walkway

Fairmont and Raffles Hotel are the latest two accommodations to be included in the roster of ritzy hotels that are scattered around the Makati CBD.

Perfect Location
It is conveniently located just across the Landmark supermarket and the equally luxurious Greenbelt mall complex. To add to its convenience, the Glorietta parking area has just been expanded and an exit directly beside the hotel has just been opened. (Check out my post about other hotels near Greenbelt and Glorietta here)

A City Resort
One of the most impressive things about this hotel complex is the Willow Stream Spa – imagine a whopping 1,200 square meters dedicated to spa treatment rooms, a hair salon, a nail spa, mineral pool, and an outdoor pool that is the very definition of an oasis:

Fairmont Makati Hotel big swimming pool

Raffles Hotel Big Swimming Pool

Tea, anyone?

Raffles Makati Hotel Writers Bar Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel, Makati

I’m a sucker for afternoon tea. I used to enjoy an afternoon tea almost once a week back when T Salon in Glorietta was still open. Do you guys remember that resto? They served the best scones with clotted cream! Unfortunately, at that time, tea wasn’t such a big deal in the metro yet, so they closed down :(

In any case, I finally have a great substitute to that at the Writers Bar in Raffles Hotel, which serves an exquisite line of teas and a delicious range of sandwiches and pastries! Not only is the menu very enticing, the ambiance of the Writers Bar is tops. The first time I visited, it felt like I was at an extravagant yet cozy living room of a prominent wealthy man.

Next time you’re around Makati, be sure to drop by Fairmont Makati and Raffles Hotel, and imagine you’re at the very lap of luxury. For more luxury hotels in Makati, click here.

Introducing… Dusit’s New Sunday Family Brunch Buffet!

Sundays are synonymous to family days, and Dusit Thani Manila Hotel has the perfect idea to spend family time!

Eating has always been a celebrated Filipino tradition. We love good food and we especially love bonding and sharing stories over good food. Now, you can share a Sunday Family brunch feast at the lobby of this luxury Makati hotel, where you can choose from a crossover of cuisines from all around the world (and from all the restaurants in Dusit) – from Basix’ continental selection of sausages, pancakes, corned beef, cold cuts, cheese, and Hors d’oeuvre to Umu’s Japanese delicacies – sushi, sashimi, robata, and Tepanyaki to Benjarong’s Phad Thai to Tosca’s Italian treats.

Umu teppanyaki Dusit buffet

You also get a taste of Filipino through their lechon carving section (guaranteed to be a hit among many – just make sure you take it easy on the fatty parts of the pork everyone!) and a taste of Spain with a bountiful paella platter.

You can dig in and chow down every Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Price of the meal is P1,800 net per adult; P900 for children from 6 to 12; free for 5 years old and below. This includes unlimited drinks.

To make it a genuine family affair, the hotel also set up a Kids’ Zone with miniature soccer, basketball, golf, and bowling games so the kids are going to look forward to the Dusit Sunday family brunch too!

If you would also like to spend a night or two at Dusit Thani Hotel, click here for booking and info.

Celebrate Easter 2013 in Makati – Dusit, Shangrila, Intercon, etc.

Easter is just around the corner and many kids can’t wait to go egg hunting! Luckily for your kids, there are a lot of places in Makati with a huge line-up of fun activities just for them!

1. Head to Makati Shangri-La for a fantastical spin on Easter! This year’s celebration revolves around fairies – a sure hit especially among the young girls. The event will be held on March 31, 2013 at the Quezon Ballroom in the lower lobby level from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for P500+++ per person. Call the Restaurant Reservations at (632) 813 8888 to book a slot.

2. Cool off and enjoy lots of fun activities at the Dusit Thani Hotel. Their 2013 Easter celebration will be held on March 31 at the poolside and get this – kids will be able to hunt for eggs inside the swimming pool! Aside from this, there will be a bubble show, magic show, sand art activity, coloring activity, card games, and a kiddie fashion show! Purchase your tickets at the Concierge priced at PhP800 net per child (12 years & below) with one accompanying adult. PhP300 net for extra adult.

3. The Hoppy Hunt at the Rockwell Tent just outside the Powerplant Mall is another great option. From 2PM to 5PM on March 31, kids will enjoy loads of games. And adults would love this: a chance to win exciting APPLE gadgets! Ticket costs P550 for 1 child + 1 adult / P200 for each extra adult. Buy your tickets at the Power Plant Mall Concierge Desk or call 898-1702 loc. 2016.

4. The Hotel Intercontinental goes Safari this March 31, 2013. Head to their grand ballroom at 10:00 AM for a roaring good time! Easter egg hunt, games, and great food await you. Dress up as your favorite animal or in a safari getup or dress up your stuffed toy for a chance to win prizes! Don’t worry – no live lions will be there to scare you away.

5. At Active Fun in Global City, Taguig, kids can go egg hunting and egg painting. There will also be a magic show and tons of games. The place is certainly living up to its name! The event will be held on March 31, 9AM and tickets cost P500.

If you’d like to ditch the egg hunt and just go for great food, consider heading to the Berjaya Hotel (formerly known as Astor) for an Easter brunch to bond with family and friends, and, of course, fill your stomachs to the brim. You can head to Groupon to check out the details.

Which Easter celebration are you heading to?