I LIKE going to Alabang every now and then. The place has a different vibe and feel to it. So, whenever I get the chance to be in Alabang, I really take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the Alabang lifestyle – carefree and vibrant, modern and pulsating yet in certain ways laid-back and relaxed.
Just recently, my husband Raff and I took a ‘working’ break in Alabang and enjoyed a staycation at Vivere Hotel & Resorts located along Bridgeway Ave., Filinvest City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City. Vivere, which is the first five-star hotel to have been accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) back in May 2001, is a 12-year-old hotel that looks simple and unassuming from the outside but holds a hundred and one surprises once inside.
The hotel just renovated its Skylounge Restaurant on the 31st floor and transformed it into the new all-day dining facility called The Nest. It’s an open-air rooftop restaurant that offers al fresco dining with a magnificent 360° view of not just Alabang but of Laguna de Bay. The place actually has a roof over it, marked by pillars made to look like white cages, and it has an air-conditioned indoor dining area for diners who prefer indoor dining and for really warm days, but most diners prefer to stay in the open-air area beside a ‘half’-swimming pool by the ledge, from where one can enjoy a breathtakingly beautiful natural phenomenon called sunset. Some people avoid the ledge, thinking that they might fall off, but there’s actually a one-meter allowance to it and soon it’s going to be lined by glass panels or plants, so there’s really no danger of falling off.
The Nest, which was launched when we were there at Vivere, actually “creates an avenue for people to bond, to nurture, to go home to,” says hotel GM Elvie Sanchez-Quiazon. Its interiors are nature-inspired, with twigs and wood as accent materials used to create birds, flowers and trees. Located on the 31st floor, it is naturally breezy and is the only al fresco dining facility in the rooftop among hotels in Alabang, so a lot of diners really come to dine here.
ENDLESS FOOD CHOICES
The Nest opens for breakfast very early in the morning, 5:00 a.m., and its breakfast buffet is extensive, with a salad bar, a cold cuts area, soup and congee station, the whole range of breakfast food items such as bacon and corned beef, an egg station, plus hot dishes on chafing dishes to choose from. The hot dishes are so filling and the selections are so wide that you can actually have brunch with them. Consider these selections: Cheesy Garlic Baked Chicken, Teppanyaki Fish Fillet, Fish Kebabs with Cilantro Yoghurt Sauce and Embutido. There’s also a wide range of desserts to end your breakfast with, and this is the only breakfast buffet where I found seeded and peeled pomelo as part of the fresh fruit selections. Naturally, I had my fill. It’s also one of the few places where you can ask for Cappuccino for your morning beverage instead of plain Brewed Coffee. I love a good cup of Cappuccino, served at its perfect temperature, especially in the morning.
But before we got to enjoy breakfast, Raff and I first got to have lunch at Vivere. It was lunchtime when we arrived and joined good friends Lualhati Fausto, Fernan Nebres, Gillian Gacuma, Beau Zulueta and Dandi Galvez of Philippine Star as well as Maan Pamaran and Noel Pabalate of Manila Bulletin. Since The Nest was still undergoing finishing touches at that time, we had lunch at the Business Center at the lobby which was converted into an intimate dining place.
Vivere’s charming GM, Elvie Quiazon, welcomed us and had us served with a sumptuous lunch from the a la carte menu. We had Paella Marinara, Salmon & Lapu-Lapu Duo, Prawns Sinigang, Crispy Binagoongan and Cowboy Steak (all of 500 grams of farm fresh, succulent, bone-in steak that the guys savored with gravy). Dessert was also a feast with a Dessert Sampler (petit portions of Mango Crème Brulee, Red Velvet Cupcake and Frozen Brazo de Mercedes) paired with full servings of Red Velvet Cake, Mango Crème Brulee, Apple Pie ala Mode and Frozen Brazo.
NO TWO ROOMS ALIKE!
After lunch, we were checked in to our rooms on the 29th floor, which formed part of the Penthouse Club Floors along with the 30th floor. On this level, no two rooms are alike, and you’d be amazed to find spacious townhouse and condominium units housed right inside a luxurious hotel. Our room was like a one-bedroom suite with a study room. I was awed when I entered to find a dining table beside a mini kitchen, and a living room in the main area. Further inside is the bedroom with a spacious living area and a work table, plus a toilet and bathroom with a walk-in closet and a separate bathtub from the shower room. Super cool! Outside, there is also a study room with a full work table and a daybed beside it. The daybed is so big and comfortable that the study room can actually serve as a second room.
We also went around the room occupied by Hatty and the rest of the Philippine Star group. Since there were five of them, their room was like a multi-level townhouse unit with a spacious living area and adjacent dining table and mini kitchen plus one room on the lower level and two rooms up a flight of stairs. Double cool!
So this was what GM Elvie meant when she said that Vivere is the only hotel with 16 room categories because, well, the rooms are classified into Deluxe Room, Executive Suite, Business Suite, Premiere Suite, Imperial Suite, Regal Suite and Royal Suite in the regular floors; and Penthouse Deluxe, Prime Executive, Premiere Penthouse, Grand Premiere, Penthouse Imperial, Penthouse Regal, Regency Suite, Vivere Grand and Presidential Suite on the Penthouse Club Floors.
For guests occupying Penthouse Club Floors, they have exclusive access to the Executive Lounge located on the 29th floor, which serves standard drinks and snacks and free-flowing coffee or tea for free. There’s also a chess set plus international reading materials and a view of the Alabang cityscape to keep guests happily occupied.
Vivere also comes with a gym and a spa to pamper guests with.
‘AVALANCHE’ OF FOOD
That evening, over dinner, the group finally got to see The Nest and enjoy al fresco dining on the rooftop, and it was pure magic, dining on good food amidst a cozy setup with city lights flickering in the dark night sky from below and the half-pool reflecting the moonlight.
Again, there was more than enough food to go by for everyone – Crispy Catfish Salad (green mango salad topped with crispy fried flaked catfish meat, onion, peanuts and cilantro leaves), Crunchy Southern Fried Chicken (crispy battered fried chicken, served with mashed potato, corn on the cob, fresh asparagus and biscuits and gravy), Beef Rendang (spicy, tasty and rich beef rending served with coconut rice, cucumber slices, hard-boiled egg, fried crispy anchovies and peanuts), Japanese Bento Box of Miso Marinated Salmon, Lamb Caldereta (lamb simmered in tomato sauce, flavored with Spanish sausages, bell pepper, olives and liver pate), Croute aux Champignon (fresh mushrooms in white wine cream sauce over slices of toasted bread, topped with sunny side up quail eggs), Prawns Thermidore (prawn shells filled with prawn morsel and mushrooms, tossed in white wine seafood sauce and topped with melted cheese), Beef Rib Fingers with Coffee Barbecue Sauce (succulent and tender beef rib fingers, pre-roated with spices and glazed on the grill with rich coffee barbecue sauce), Pesto Stuffed Salmon Steak (pan-seared salmon fillets stuffed with homemade pesto, served with fresh tomato and corn salsa and caramelized sweet potatoes), Pan-grilled Chicken and Garlic Steak (marinated grilled chicken thigh steaks topped with roasted garlic chips, served with steamed rice with grilled chicken drippings and grilled vegetables), Bistecca with Mixed Green Salad (400-gram imported boneless slab of ribeye steak, served with vegetable siding and two starches), Pesto Stuffed Mozzarella Sticks (served with tomato fondue) and Sigarilyas Express at Chicken Chicharon (tropical wingbeans cooked with shrimp paste in coconut milk, topped with crackling chicken skin) for the main meal; and Strawberry Cheesecake, Molten Chocolate Cake and Profiteroles for dessert.
Good food, great accommodations, awesome company… What else can you ask for? We all had a good night’s sleep that night and woke up fresh and fully charged for another beautiful day. We had a satisfying breakfast and each went on our way – back to work, back to “regular programming” and back home afterwards with renewed energy and a new experience to savor.
(Vivere Hotel & Resorts is located at 5102 Bridgeway Ave., Filinvest City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City; with contact number 771-7777.)