Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day the good old-fashioned way

I've mentioned before that hubby and I don't usually do Valentine dates. Never during our courtship days, not even after we got married.

This year however, we decided to make an exception. My only requirements for this Valentine date were the following:

1) A place where it won't kill me to drive and park (yes, hubby doesn't drive, I do. I don't cook, he does).

2) Somewhere we haven't tried but with good reviews.

3) Somewhere we don't have to wait in agony for a table or the food.

And with a text message, hubby asks "How about Manila Hotel? "

I immediately see a vision of us dining at The Champagne Room and I text back "Game!"

Most people know that I have a thing for old venues and anything french so having a date at The Champagne Room spells French Vintage Romance. In 2004, I was considering this charming venue for our wedding reception. Unfortunately, they ceased hosting weddings on that year (but resumed a few years thereafter).

For a little bit of history about what is probably the oldest hotel in the country, here's something from the Manila hotel website:

It has always been said that history never takes a holiday at Manila Hotel. In 1898, one of the first decrees was urbanizing and planning of the nation's capital, Manila. Architect and City Planner, Daniel Hudson Burnham was hired to pencil in his plans. He drafted a wide and long tree-lined boulevard that would begin at the park and at the spit's end of the bay, a boulevard that would be dominated on one end by a hotel.

On the commemoration date of the American Independence, July 4, 1912, Manila Hotel was inaugurated and officially opened. Four hundred handsomely groomed and elegantly attired guests were ushered in for a dinner American roast, Philippine lobster, and French champagne.

They came and they went during the twenties. In their Orient trek, notables and celebrities found their way to Manila Hotel, which is now dubbed by the elite corps as the Address of Prestige in the Far East.
The hotel's registry was once again chockablock with name-droppable figures especially in 1935. Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon invited Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was then approaching the end of his tenure as Chief of Staff of the US Military forces, to come and build the Philippine Army. For six years (1935-1941), MacArthur, his wife Jean and son Arthur made the Manila Hotel their home.
When war struck and gave the entire country a cruel blow, Manila Hotel rose to the occasion and re-emerged a statelier vaunted institution. Doors were reopened to people determined to live well on July 4, 1946.

The long list dazzled as the fifties and the sixties at Manila Hotel were graced by the likes of Bob Hope, The Beatles, Marlon Brando, Tyrone Power, Secretary John Foster Dulles, Senator Robert Kennedy, Sir Anthony Eden, Charlton Heston, Burgees Meredith, the Rockefeller brothers, John Wayne, Publisher Henry Luce, Vice President Richard Nixon, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson, and more.
While it was the social gathering place for many and for sundry reasons such as weddings, debuts, coming out parties and anniversaries, the Manila Hotel was also the chosen site for many activities and congresses of national and international significance. Among them were the ASEAN Summit meeting of October 1966 and the Philippine Constitutional Convention in 1970.

Even at the turn of the century, Manila Hotel's story and tradition of unparalleled service goes on, hand in hand with genuine Philippine hospitality. It continues to stand proud, meeting the challenges of today's discriminating guests and showcasing only the best the Philippines has to offer.
Manila Hotel embodies rich Filipino tradition and hospitality that revives experiences worth remembering.

And so, on the night of February 14, while most lovebirds were battling traffic in other parts of the Metro, hubby and I were cruising to the oldest city with light traffic --- except for the Manila Hotel driveway :-)

Below, the Manila Hotel lobby. I suddenly had a flashback of my Senior Year Graduation Ball. Eeek.

Hubby checking out the chocolates being sold at the lobby.

The corridor leading to the Champagne Room

Since we already made reservations for an 8pm dinner, we were more than happy that we did not have to stand in line and were given a table immediately after the maître d’ confirmed our reservation.

The iron-wrought grills, marble floors, chandeliers and crystal palm trees all contribute to the fine dining experience.

I've seen this room in the daytime and nothing compares to its lovely interiors bathed in sunlight.

I could probably sit here all day and be perfectly happy.

The Champagne Room is brightly lit compared to other restaurants with dim or "romantic lighting." Personally, I would rather dine where I could see both my date and the food. I was never a "dinner by candlelight" kind of girl.

A cozy couch for a couple.

Look hon, real silver! :-D

Hubby and I opted for Moet et Chandon champagne (because we are at the champagne room and we couldn't get a decent wine recommendation from the clueless waiter)

And now, the Valentine menu:

After the standard soft dinner rolls, butter and pâté, we practically had spoonfuls and forkfuls of different aphrodisiacs.

Melage de Huitres a trois
Medley of Oysters
Fresh with Oscetra and Champagne Mignonette
Chowder with Leek Fondue
Grilled with Pancetta and Lemon Cream

Humide Se Baignent de la Crevette et de la Coquille
Dans le Bouillon d 'Anis et de Gingembre Clair
Steamy Bathe of Shrimp and Scallop in light ginger and aniseed broth

Salad de Roquette Truffe Poivre Rotis Rouges, Pate d' Asperge
Le Fenouil Coupe Fin avec le Mozzarella Frais et Pingnol
Truffled Spicy Rocket Salad
with Red Roasted Pepper and Asparagus Pasta
Shaved Fennel, Pine Nuts and Fresh Mozzarella

Sorbet Rouge de le Petales de Rose
Red Rose Petal Sherbet

Le Boeuf Mini-rotit avec le Homard Laque La Reduction de Vigne Rouge et Tomate-Basil Confit
Naked Beef Mini Roast with Grilled Lacquered Lobster Red Wine Glaze and Tomato Basil Confit

I was so giddy as the waiter cleared our table for dessert complete with his silver sweeper and "crumb" pan. :-)

La Tranche de Gianduja avec la Framboise Parfait Fraises Immoral et Peche Defendue
Leche avec le Miel et les Amandes Toastes
Chocolate Gianduja Slice with Raspberry Parfait
Sinful Strawberries and Forbidden Peach
Licked with Honey and Toasted Almonds


All throughout dinner, the in-house string ensemble serenaded the diners with pop songs and show tunes while hubby and I were playing "Who can guess what song this is?"

Happy Valentine's hon!

And as the cars cleared out, I had a quick snapshot of one of Manila Hotel's newest event venues aside from its numerous ballrooms (outside of the hotel), Tent City.

Another thing I liked about this package dinner? I wasn't given an almost wilted rose. Instead, it was an aphrodisiac we could enjoy at home -- Strawberry jam!

The Manila Hotel
One Rizal Park Manila, Philippines
(632) 5270011

No comments: