Billy King at Prince Albert: One More for the Road

Chef Billy King, Prince Albert, Hotel Intercontinental closes

Chef Billy King returned to The Prince Albert at The Intercon for a one night only special dinner to bid the iconic restaurant adieu.

Chef Billy King, Prince Albert, Hotel Intercontinental closesThe new generation might not be familiar with Billy King but he is an exceptional chef who made a real dent in the Philippine culinary industry back in the ’80s. He was THE chef of Prince Albert who started the pan seared foie gras craze in the Philippines. Although Irish, he was THE authority when it came to French nouvelle cuisine in Manila.

Last December 9, it was great to see the King back in his element, reminding us all how to put the fine in dining. (Billy King lives a quiet life now as executive chef of The Manor in Camp John Hay and runs a luxury catering business. “Please don’t write about it, we don’t want to advertise,” he said.)

With his starters of carpaccio, terrine and escargot, King reminded old diners (and gave new ones a lesson) of his true mastery of the art of balance. The carpaccio, given dimension with the addition of scallops and shaved parmigiano, was perfect in serving its purpose of simply tickling the palate for what was to come. The escargot was light yet with bite. The duck liver terrine had the perfect balance of salty and sweet, the flavors delicate yet definite.

Billy King at Prince Albert Intercontinental Manila
Saumon et coquilles Saint-Jacques crues au poivre rose / Salmon and scallops with Pink Pepper Corn.

But the most memorable dish of the night for me was the seabass. I think it was with this dish that Billy King proved that he remains the King. This is the best seabass I have had all year. It was so beautifully soft. Think rose petals falling or a 3,000 thread count sheet. For all the new “fine dining” restos with molecular crap and visual deceptions going on in the industry, this one was a simple reminder that hey, fine dining has to be about the food. That you can eat. That is delicious.

Billy King, Prince Albert, Hotel Intercon
Loup de mer et jus d’homard au safron / Seabass and Lobster Stock with Saffron

Like the seabass, this lamb was also an ode to tenderness. It was also great to see truffles not stuffed in your face for display but serving the purpose of aroma and flavor.

Billy King, Prince Albert, Intercon
Carre d’agneau aux truffles noires / Rack of Lamb with Black Truffes

Dinner was capped with this chocolate mousse that was again beautifully balanced – not too sweet, decadently chocolately.

Billy King, Intercon Prince AlbertI have to admit, this King reigns supreme. Now if he would only come to Manila more often …

Billy King, Prince Albert, InterconPS. The Intercon will close its doors for good at the end of the year. (Related in the Inquirer: Goodbye, Intercon.). Chef Cyrille Soenen who was executive chef of Prince Albert in 2000 will also have a one-night only dinner tribute. However, this is now fully booked / now closed for reservations. Prince Albert, though, will remain open til the end of the year if you still have one last fix of that famous prime rib. Look for Rod. Call +632 793 7000 for inquiries.

PPS They have a room sale too!

 

Spacious Hotel in Milan

Hotel Poliziano Milan Agoda

ADI Hotel Poliziano Feria AgodaIf you will be attending a conference in Milan, consider booking outside of the city center.

We stayed at Hotel Poliziano Fiera when we attended the chef’s congress Identita Golose, which was held at the at the MiCo Milano Congressi, in via Gattamelata.

It’s on the traditional side, i.e. unlike a lot of boutique hotels on the Agoda list, it doesn’t have hipster designs or art. BUT, check out this old school piano with candelabras! Pretty cool.

Hotel PolizianoI can see my dad singing here with his lolo buds. LOL.

Hotel Poliziano Feria AgodaFor breakfast, you can also muni-muni at this terrace. It’s quite nice. Unfortunately it was so cold when we were there (February) that although I attempted to have my morning coffee here, I was forced to go back inside.poliziano 5 terraceThe lobby is also pretty spacious. So if you’re a big family on a trip or meeting up with friends, they won’t feel cramped at all while waiting for you at the lobby. (Off topic: Doesn’t that painting look like a Baldemor?) I say this because the hotel we stayed at in Paris had this itsy bitsy lobby that my friends were standing while waiting for me.

Milan Italy Hotel Poliziano AgodaAnother plus factor for this hotel is that the rooms are quite spacious. There’s space for that mat for your morning yoga.

poliziano 2Getting to the city may take around 20 minutes by train. Note that it’s not a subway that they have nearby (around 2 blocks away) but also an old-school kind of train (parang PNR/cable car). But by taxi – and we took a cab everywhere because it was so cold – it’s just around 10 minutes away from everywhere.

There are also nice neighborhood eateries around the area. Anyway, it’s Italy. Food is good everywhere!

You can book via agoda.com HERE.

Photo credits: Margaux Salcedo, agoda.com.

How Dos Mestizos’ Binggoy Remedios Escapes from the Bustles of Boracay

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay Aklan

Boracay is one of the most popular beaches in the world, ranked 7th best beach in the world by Trip Advisor. But it’s become quite the party place, compared by some to Ibiza, more than the laid back pristine beach that Boracay originals first fell in love with.

So what have the originals done? The guys who moved to Boracay decades ago before techno became a music genre?

Well I don’t know about the rest but Binggoy Remedios, owner of Dos Mestizos, has managed to leave the bustles of the new Boracay without actually leaving the island: he has created his own little paradise just half an hour away, in Malay, Aklan. So he’s near the sand and the restaurants that have grown with the Boracay’s development, but still able to maintain the lifestyle of serenity and oneness with nature that he moved to Aklan for to begin with.

He calls his home Finca Verde. It started out as just his home with Niña Bustamante and daughter Chabeli but now the 1.5 hectare property has four huts that are available to guests. We were privileged to stay in this one with this gorgeous bed:

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanFinca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanI was amazed at what they had done with the property. Binggoy admits that he just “ouido’ed” building it and Niña proudly shares that the labyrinth was built by Binggoy and even the “tiles” in the toilet were rocks from the river attached to the property.

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay Aklan
The labyrinth at Finca Verde using rocks from the property’s attached river

Daugther Chabeli’s playground is pretty huge! She literally crosses a river and says hi to the cow on the adjacent property!  Finca 12Mommy Niña, meanwhile, keeps busy with their little “farm”. They grow arugula, special greens and herbs.

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanThey literally just pick from here if you want a salad or just want to jazz up your dish with tarragon or cilantro. And when they want juice? Buko doesn’t get fresher than this!

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanThey also showed us this 100 year old tree just down the road.

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanAnd in the afternoon, Niña showed us these local berries, just below the hut.

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay Aklan
My sister Goldee picking indigenous berries at Finca Verda

If you have time, visit the Motag Living Museum, where Englishwoman Louise personally gives a guided tour for a fresh perspective of our agricultural history, which we so awfully take for granted. She makes it all sound exotic and interesting – which it really is! We totally underappreciate our farms and our peoples. Louise lives right next door to Binggoy and Nina and we caught her by her hammock as we walked around the grounds.Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanFinally, at night, you can make a bonfire right here and cook smores to match a bottle of whiskey. Then look up. The stars here are so bright you almost believe you can reach them.

Finca Verde Binggoy Remedios Nina Bustamante Resort Farm Boracay AklanAn unbelievable escape!

Finca Verde
By reservation only.
Brgy. Nabaoy, Malay, Aklan
+63 998 545 7279

beachadventurer@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

A Gem of a Hotel in Little India, Singapore

One Farrer Hotel, Little India, Singapore, Agoda

one farrer hotel singapore little india

For the past nine years, I’ve been going to Singapore at least once a year. Sometimes twice. I have never stayed at the same hotel twice though because it is just such fun exploring the different options in this very vibrant city.

Last year, I got to check out two really sexy hotels in hip happening Chinatown  and another hotel in Bugis. I must admit that I did not think that Little India would be as competitive but One Farrer was impressive beyond belief. Whaddaya know – Agoda is really full of delightful surprises.

On this last trip of mine for the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards,  I was lucky to find myself in a gem of a hotel in Little India. At first I was hesitant because Little India is not too well known an area for visitors but after seeing the 8.4 rating on Agoda.com plus the photos, I was convinced that One Farrer Hotel & Spa was a hotel I needed to check out.

And I’m happy I got acquainted with this hotel.

Super accessible. My first question every time I book a hotel is accessibility. How far is it from the train station? Even if a hotel is not in the city center or where most of my activities would be, as long the train station is a block away, I’m good. This one of Farrer was perfect because One Farrer is actually a stop! There is literally a Farrer stop and exit on the MRT line.

Crazy comfortable beds. Next most important thing to me is the bed. The quality of the sheets is important. I don’t know the threadcount of these here but I could sleep in these sheets all day.

Another plus for this hotel is that they have window shades that you can “pull down” by remote. You could sleep in a click! And yet another thing I noticed with One Farrer – you don’t need to insert your key for the lights to go on. You can keep your key in your purse!

Refreshing breakfast by the pool. I am not a breakfast person. I always skip hotel breakfasts too because they are all the same: eggs, cereal, sausages – boring, boring, boring. I’d rather dash out for a kaya toast. But how can you resist breakfast in this hotel when you get to greet the day with this gorgeous pool and view of the city?

#iwokeuplikethis

The Bar. I saw signs in the elevator teasing for happy hour. Wouldn’t mind get happy in this setting!

Room with a View. It’s almost as if you were staring at a postcard! I took this photo from my room. Just with an iphone.

Impeccable service. The staff are alert, quick to act, accommodating, helpful. I needed something printed, it was brought to our door. Restaurant reservations were easy. Directions were given properly. Taxis were called immediately. I couldn’t complain.

This apple marks an entrance. Another entrance has a red apple. They’re supposed to represent good and bad, with Greek mythology references (though I thought the apple first made a cameo in the bible with Adam and Eve?). … Well, whatever the source, this hotel was the apple of my eye!

PS A few floors of the One Farrer building is home to some doctors’ clinics. So if you need to get some liposuction after all those food festivals … grab and room and recover in utter luxury after! 😉

One Farrer Hotel & Spa
1 Farrer Park Station Road, Little India, Singapore 217562
Check it out at this link in agoda.com.

Nobu Hotel Manila: Zen in the City

Nobu Hotel, City of Dreams Manila. Design. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.

It’s true, what Paulo Coehlo said in The Alchemeist: “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” I had just posted this rant on my Facebook page  …

Margaux Salcedo Facebook Post December 2014… a few days later I’m experiencing a fantastic staycation, checking out Nobu Hotel at the City of Dreams Manila.

Margaux Salcedo margauxlicious nobu manila view
View from the 8th floor of Nobu Manila

The City of Dreams will have its grand launch early next year yet but Nobu Hotel has opened and I was surprised to see quite a number of guests checking in already. The Philippine economy must be doing well, somehow!

5 Things About Nobu Hotel that left an impression on me:

1. The very zen yet hip designs at the lobby

The interiors are apparently by the Rockwell Group. No, not the Rockwell in Makati but the Rockwell Group that designed various Nobus around the world. Check out their designs of Nobu Caesars Palace here: http://www.rockwellgroup.com/projects/nobu-hotel-caesars-palace.

This tall girl  – actually they are all tall and become even taller with their four-inch heels – will greet you at the lobby.

margaux salcedo photo nobu manila lobbyBut what really caught my eye were these zen and spartan yet colorful and very hip lobby seats!

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila lobby 2. The very zen rooms

This bed is so soft I could sleep in all day. Although the effect may also be that I rested so well, I needed less sleep. I konked out at 11:00 pm after several glasses of wine but – I guess my body said I was already full batt and ready to face the day again – I was up by 6:00 am the next day!

Nobu Hotel Manila City of Dreams
I could marry this bed.

All the elements of the room reek of zen. Check out the spartan toilet. How about some yoga in the shower?

Nobu Hotel City of Dreams Manila Photo by Margaux Salcedo3. The fact that you can have breakfast at Nobu Restaurant

Rooms are now being offered at an introductory rate of P9,888 nett for two adults and one child in a deluxe room. This includes the breakfast buffet.

Of course they won’t be serving the Nobu a la carte menu but the breakfast buffet is a stunner in itself plus look at how pretty your breakfast surroundings will be:

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila interior designAnd you can order creations by Nobu Manila Executive Chef Zachary Hillberry like this green tea muffin or the smoked salmon on a rice cake.

margauxlicious nobu manila breakfast

Margaux Salcedo Nobu breakfast salmon4. Room Service

I confess: I had two breakfasts. My excuse is that I woke up so early. But the early bird truly gets the worm. As I got to order in and have an amazing Nobu-fied Tapsilog. Nobu got the fave Pinoy breakfast tapsilog and used instead Wagyu beef and quail eggs and added some seaweed. It’s sooo expensive but also really good.

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila Tapsilog5. The Spa

They have the most gorgeous spa.

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila Spa Margaux Salcedo Nobu Spa bedEverything has been well thought out. Down to what you would be staring at when you are facing down.

Margaux Salcedo Nobu Manila Spa 3If you just want to escape from the hustle and bustle of Manila for a day without actually getting away, this is the solution for you.

Nobu Hotel at the City of Dreams
Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard
(go to Macapagal Avenue and turn left at City of Dreams)
Telephone:+632 800 8080
Fax:+632 890 8080
http://www.nobuhotelmanila.com/

BIG Hotel, Singapore: Functional chic in a great location

BIG Hotel, Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.

IMG_9543Soon after the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, I was invited back to Singapore for one of the dinners for World Gourmet Summit. Easy me (haha), I flew back in a heartbeat.

I was planning to stay in Chinatown as I fell in love with that area the last time I was there (more on that later). Singapore’s Chinatown has become a hip venue. It does not feel like Chinatown at all. Feels like Malate back in the ’90s.

This time, though, we ended up in Bugis. I was not a fan of Bugis until this stay. Apparently it’s their arts area. The design center was around the corner from our hotel.

We stayed at a hotel called BIG.

BIG 15 front deskThe first thing that struck me was the hotel’s attention to detail. This is the front desk, with this striking painting. But note the weighing scale on the side to help you make sure your luggage is not overweight when you check out (brilliant! at other hotels you have to ask). And how cute is this hat stand?

BIG Hotel, Singapore. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com
Lobby waiting area.

After being led to our room, we were briefed on how to operate the switches: you have the option of doing it the regular way (light switch on the wall) OR you can use a tablet! There is a photo of the room on the tablet with indicators of where to push to switch on the lights.

BIG 6BIG 8 tabletThe room reminded me of a hotel I stayed at in New York years ago called the Hudson. Designed by Philippe Starck, the breakfast area is like a mess hall and the rooms are supposed to look like dorm rooms – but with far greater style, of course.

At BIG, the rooms are bigger (rooms at the Hudson are puny!), possibly because of their amazing use of space. In our deluxe room, instead of a cabinet, you can hang your clothes on hooks and a wall metal shelf. Instead of compromising with a single sized bed, a queen sized bed keeps its post but is shoved sideways to the wall.

It’s makes sense. Who really uses a cabinet anyway for a quick weekend trip? Plus, you get the benefit of a large bed even on a tight budget. And, might I add, the beds here are perfect. Sooooo soft. Felt like 500,000 thread count sheets. Ok, a few extra zeroes but you know what I mean!

I also really liked the way the designer used very relaxing shades and textures. The colors and wallpapers really help you calm down after a tiring day of walking, walking and more walking. One wall resembles cement bricks while another was like teak. It’s supposed to be a Scandivian-inspired design but to me it felt like upscale Muji!

Below the bed is the safety deposit box and a LOT of room for your bags or shoes. Really brilliant maximization of space.

BIG 20 roomsThe breakfast place called the Nook I surmise is supposed to resemble a school cafeteria. It gets really full around 8 am, a  testament to how booked the hotel is!

BIG 21 nook collageI liked this touch of using footprints instead of arrows to direct you.

IMG_9458 confess though that I did not eat at the Nook because we went out to discover more restaurants. But the brewed coffee was a necessity after a wine pairing dinner at The White Rabbit for the World Gourmet Summit the night before! It’s from a dispenser so you can chug down as much coffee as necessary to wake you up! (Make sure you bring the coupon they give you upon check in.)

If you find yourself checking in here, you’ll be relieved to know that the hotel is also near a couple of MRT stations. My sister and I found the Bugis station most convenient as it was also like a Glorietta mall with all these shops you can pass through before riding on the train.

After your day of fun, just before you hit the sheets, you can grab a drink at their Wine Bar. Check it out – my dream closet:

BIG 4BIG 5And just like in college, there’s a dart board and scotch!

IMG_9507My kind of place!

Traveler’s tip:  If you book via Agoda (which I have been doing for several years now), you may be able to get a room here for less than P5,000 a night! I used Agoda to book myself at various stops in Italy, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Saigon, even Tagaytay, and I can honestly say that they give really good deals. In fact at some hotels, I was surprised to find it cheaper to book via Agoda than to book directly with the hotel!

Oh, this hotel also has cute references to “BIG”. To clean your room, the door sign says “I’ve made a BIG mess.” The hotel pen says “Living it Big”. And check out where they keep the blow dryer:

BIG 2BIG deal 😉

BIG Hotel 
200 Middle Road, Bugis, Singapore 188980
http://www.agoda.com/big-hotel/hotel/singapore-sg.html 

 

 

Raffles Opens in the Philippines

Margaux Salcedo Photo Raffles Lobby
Margaux Salcedo Photo Raffles Lobby
The Writer’s Bar of the Raffles Hotel Philippines

One of the highlights of 2012 for me was staying at this chichi hotel in London called The Savoy:

“To stay at The Savoy is to follow in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas, Claude Monet and Katharine Hepburn.  An iconic hotel brilliantly reinvented for the 21st century where an unashamedly old fashioned glamour sparkles with a new lustre.  Perfectly positioned on the banks of the Thames, the excitement of London is waiting just beyond the world famous entrance.”

Margaux Salcedo Photography Savoy Hotel London
The gorgeous Savoy Hotel in London

So what joy when Fairmont Raffles Hotels International opened the adjoining Fairmont and Raffles Hotels in Makati! And happily, their version of the hotel in this neck of the woods world does not disappoint.

I haven’t seen the rooms of the Fairmont, which is supposedly more for the business traveler than for the leisurely tourist. But check out this room at Raffles:

Margaux Salcedo Photography Raffles Hotel Makati PhilippinesNice and cozy. Perfect for the independent traveler.

But if you need bigger space – to entertain business guests, for the kids, or whatever other reason, there’s this suite:

Margaux Salcedo Raffles Hotel Philippines SuitesBigger than your apartment?

But it wasn’t the space that captured me. It was this:

Margaux Salcedo margauxlicious Raffles Suite bar

Only losers drink from itsy bitsy hotel room bottles, Raffles declares.

But seriously, the attention to detail at this hotel is impeccable. From the beddings to the mother of pearl detailing on the cabinets to the art on every floor. The chair below, for example, greets you as you land on your floor. This is no ordinary chair. And I wish I knew who the artist was. Same with the birdcage-like structures that are just resting by the elevator. Meanwhile the room’s mini-bar has these mother-of-pearl accents. And while SM’s Kultura may have imitations, you know this is the kind that is defined by quality.

margauxlicious raffles collage 3 roomsThe lobby is also blessed with amazing art. Whoever the curator of Raffles is, hats off to you.

At the Writer’s Bar, they have biographical art showing musician Levi Celerio.

margauxlicious Raffles 1But the commitment to fine Filipino finds is not confined to the walls. The tribute extends to their menu!

margauxlicious Raffles 3Didier Derouet, Raffles’ Executive Pastry Chef, is French. He was born and raised just off Paris although he worked for 20 years in the United States, serving no less than former President Bill Clinton at the St. Regis in Washington DC. But he married a Filipina, a Waray at that, and moved to the Philippines, where he has fallen in love as well with our produce! He fondly recalls, “I went to my wife’s province and looking around I saw mango, bananas, passion fruit, guava. ‘You live in a fruit basket!’ I told her.” He especially loves panocha, even more than muscovado. “I brought it once to the US and made banana bread with it and it was incredible!” Thankfully, Raffles allows him to play around with these flavors. So at Cafe Macaron, the hotel’s patisserie, they serve ube macaron, calamansi guanaja, and buco pandan pralines. And the all day buffet Spectrum takes the hotel’s commitment to local produce a step further: in its center is a live beehive, with bees from Baguio a-buzzing as you pick up your glass of honey mascarpone!

Beyond dessert, instead of California maki, Spectrum also offers lechon kawali sushi and bangus belly sushi. The lechon kawali sushi will make you smile at its cleverness: as you bite into it, while in your head you are expecting something Japanese, when you start to chew, there’s no mistaking that lechon taste – it’s all Pinoy!

Margaux Salcedo Photography margauxlicious raffles hotel philippines sushi
Lechon Kawali Sushi!!!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the hotel, there is Long Bar, a cult bar in Singapore most known for the Singapore Sling but also for the tradition of throwing peanut shelves on the floor in rebellion (rebellion na yun sa kanila) against the strict government policy prohibiting littering. In utter respect for the city they now also live in, Raffles Makati has created the Makati Luxury Sling, a sweeter, richer take on the Singapore Sling that boasts of 24K gold atop its foam (warning to purists: this is a very sweet drink!). There is also the Makati Manhattan, which uses the proudly Pinoy Don Papa Rum.

margauxlicious RAFFLES 27 makati slingOf course luxury comes with a price. The Makati Sling is over P500 – it must be the 24K gold! But the fact that it’s available and that the hotel is even encouraging “staycations” probably means that either the rich are getting richer or maybe the economy is looking up after all!

Can’t wait for their French restaurant to open this 2013!

Raffles Makati

+632 555 9777
1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue
Makati City 1224 Philippines