Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vieux Chalet Restaurant and St. Moritz Inn, a Swiss getaway

I was treated by my wife Roshie last weekend for an overnight stay in Antipolo, half an hour drive from Metro Manila. The place was quite difficult to find at night as the place is very dark but when we saw this sign after asking some locals for directions that states "Vieux Chalet Swiss Restaurant" and the other side spelling out "St. Moritz Cottage", we knew we were at the right place. Picture below was taken the morning after.
Vieux Chalet is a restaurant serving Swiss cuisine and St. Moritz Swiss Inn is their in-house accommodation for those looking for a quick getaway from the city. Below is how the entrance to the place looks like in the morning. Unfortunately, no parking inside but you can park at the street just outside. The inclination is a bit steep though and you would have to make sure you got good breaks and have something to block your wheels from rolling off. The place owned by the Hassig family was opened for business in 1984.
We arrived dinner time at the restaurant and was gladly assisted by their manager, Rico Doy, who has been very friendly and accommodating to both of us throughout our stay. The place is cozy, specially at night when the breeze outside can be chilling. The restaurant has its homey, comfortable feel and very welcoming to diners.
decors, displays and setup inside the restaurant
The place has a nice overlooking view of Metro Manila skyline at night. If possible, request for a table by the window, specially the one at the middle as some view may have been obstructed by the growing plants and trees in the area.
our table setup
My wife had informed them that it is my birthday beforehand so a table with a greeting sign was waiting for us at the restaurant.
We were availing a package so food was already part of it, and there were a few choices at hand. These are the food items we had and shared that night, upon the recommendation of Rico.
garden fresh mixed vegetable salad
Italian farmer's soup, made of pumpkin and tomato with bacon
pork fillet mignon in onion-cream sauce
fish fillet in white wine sauce
Swiss chocolate cake a la mode, with a happy birthday greeting
me and Roshie
The inn was just a short walk downhill from the restaurant. There were only 3 rooms available for guests and we were given the Olivier Room. Each room is designed and decorated differently.
inside the Olivier room
TV with satellite cable service and DVD player
We also had a chance to use their Jacuzzi and sauna facilities that night. As it was cold outside, the water got cold easily but the bubble jet was very relaxing and we stayed for an hour or so before hitting the bed.
door on the left leads to the shower room and door on the right is for sauna steam bath
When we got back in the room, the staff did a bit of turndown service and left a pitcher of water for us, together with a can of drink I ordered earlier.
The next morning, we woke up before 9:30AM, just in time for our breakfast, which we preordered the night before. We ordered Swiss brunch, which we were told could fit for 2 persons and they had set and served the meal by the poolside.
 The pool was inviting but it was cold that day so we never had a chance to use it.
our table setup
fresh ripe mangoes
The Swiss brunch, comprised of ham, bacon, sausage, cheese, jam, etc. and was just enough to be shared for two (or for one person who is very very hungry).
After breakfast we just chilled out at the vicinity and explored the place before we checked out that day.
stairs leading to the restaurant
long table setup at the restaurant
It was a nice experience amidst a garden of nature, not to mention that it is just minutes away from the city. Too bad the time we had there was short. The place is also good for family get-togethers so we may be back soon for a little something.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Empire Hotel & Country Club

In my recent trip to Brunei, I had the chance to stay at the The Empire Hotel & Country Club due to hotel rates in the city or near the place where I will work is more expensive than usual as there is an ongoing convention in town. From the airport, I arranged for a saloon transfer from the hotel pegged at BND35 one way. The hotel is around 15 minutes away from the airport and upon entry on its estates, I was surprised on its vast size and came to realize later that the property is considered a resort.
The airport transfer had me dropped off at the main atrium, where the check-in counters are located. Later, I realized that rooms are scattered across different wings (or buildings) - Lagoon, Waterfall, Seaview buildings, as well as East and West Wings of the Atrium building. There are also standalone Villas scattered throughout the property.
gong at the drop-off/pick-up lobby

Check-in was a breeze, despite arriving past 10AM and guaranteed time for check-in is at 2PM. The room was already available and I was led back to the driveway to ride a buggy.
room keys and map provided during check-in
Did I say buggy? Yes, it's actually more like an extended golf cart. This is their mode of transportation specially on long distances within the property. You can ask for a buggy pickup from all lobbies of all buildings whenever you need it.
My room is located in Lagoon building. I was surprised that it is actually just behind the atrium building and a short walking distance away from where I checked in.
Lagoon North entrance
I opted for the Business Executive Package from the hotel, BND225+ per night, which included stay in a superior room, breakfast for 1 person and internet access throughout the stay. The superior room had a king bed and supposedly is the most basic type they have in the hotel. I was surprised on how big the room was (60sqm) as I expected it to be basic. Complete bedding and furnishings, ample closet and drawer space for my stuffs, nicely sized working desk which I have used a lot throughout the stay, a balcony where I stay to unwind at times and a big spacious bathroom.

It was surprising however that the TV is a bit dated (CRT/tube type) but it was okay and had a good selection of channels to keep me entertained at dull times.
The spacious bathroom was also a big plus. Nice to see that the tub and shower is separated and the marbled flooring, counters and walls were looks very luxurious. They also provided the usual toiletries like shampoo, shower gel, conditioner. lotion, toothbrushes and some cottons.
toiletries provided
shower room separated from the toilet
marbled countertop
Even the balcony area is spacious! The room is overviewing the buildings nearby and have a small glimpse of the beach down below the hill.

view from the room

Another thing, my room had its own wifi router. A big plus, specially for me who have quite a few devices that needs to connect. Internet connection was purely wireless and up to 5 devices is allowed to register to their system per room account.
After settling and resting a few minutes in the room, I immediately went out and explored the area nearby.
ceiling at the Lagoon building

the atrium of Lagoon building

some tables and chairs lagoon side

swimming pool at Lagoon building
 way going to the Atrium
back entrance going to the shops and atrium

Seaview building


near the shops

majestic pillars and architecture at the atrium

On my 3rd day, I also got a chance to explore the area further, down to the beach side, after my engagement with a customer that day that ended a bit early.

fountains near the swimming pool
swimming pool over looking the beach

salt water pool

beach side

lonely bench

other areas near the pool and beach side
dolphin statues on the hill
Marine Centre 

E-Kids Club

posting of daily activities within the property
On my 4th day, I also passed by the Country Club which is located at the other end of the compound, near the entrance gate.

ceiling at the country club

stairs leading down to The Bunker
play area at the Clubhouse
During my fifth and final day, and before taking a flight, I also managed to squeezed time to watch a movie at the in-house Cineplex.
entrance to cinema
lobby area of the cinema

Movies were priced at BND7. I was alone throughout the duration of the whole movie. Did I mention it was a horror movie I watched?
What about food and beverage outlets? The property has got a lot! Included breakfast is served at Atrium Café located at level 3 of the Atrium, where I eat daily every morning during my stay. The restaurant is very well visible when looking down from the atrium.
The buffet spread is complete, with noodle station, egg station, congee and soup station, fruits, deserts, cereals, pastries, meat salads, etc. You name it! They sure has got something for everyone's taste. I got different items daily during breakfast.
second day
third day
fourth day
fifth day
For dinner during my 2nd night, I had a chance to dine at Spaghettini. The place is a bit formal and it is advised that people wear something more than shorts when dining here. The restaurant is open daily for dinner, except on Tuesdays.

Spaghettini is accessible near the check-in counters via a flight of stairs leading up one level (level 6) or an elevator.

The place is quiet and cozy and very nice. Servers and waiters are very friendly and eager to serve the dining guests, making sure they have a pleasant experience.

 my table setup
bread and spreads

my food for the night - crispy skin salmon, parmentier salad, sautéed shitake, pineapple salsa, sea urchin essence!
For the third night, I went to Li Gong, located on a building near Waterfall building. The restaurant is open from Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner on certain days, they have All You Can Eat offerings.

entrance to Li Gong restaurant

inside the restaurant

As it was Tuesday night, I took advantage of their All You Can Eat Menu (BND22+) where I get to choose 5 viands from a menu, aside from soup, rice and desert. After finishing the items, then I can order again more. I had a really full meal and I didn't get to finish what I ordered.

deep fried squid with salt & pepper

stir fried prawns with dried chili

sautéed sliced beef with spicy pepper in oyster sauce

steamed fish fillet with garlic sauce
cheng du chicken

all together now!
buchi and honeydew sago
On my fourth night, as I went to the Country Club, I also dined at the in-house restaurant - Bunker Bistro. The restaurant daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The bar at the bistro. No they don't serve alcohol drinks here!

inside the restaurant

golf carts parked outside

tables setups alfresco

the greens


For dinner, I had cheese burger (served with fries) and for desert :chocolate marble, served with passion fruit sauce minty ice cream.
For lunch on my fifth and final day, I had ordered food from the Pool Deck.

my lunch - shepherd pie and roast beef sandwich, both served with light salads at the side

For dinner, before finally heading to the airport, I had the seafood buffet served at Marine Centre, in lieu of Pantai restaurant which is currently under renovation. The buffet is only served during Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Buffet is priced at BND46+ per person.

They had a wide variety of food, but I was dismayed as I expected more seafood. There were cold seafood (like oysters, clams, crabs and prawns) and small variety of sushi. On the other end are grilled selections like beef, prawns and chicken. Other than that, regular food meat, vegetable and soup items were available.

inside the restaurant

first plate

second plate

third plate 

final (desert) plate

The Empire Hotel & Country Club is a destination of its own. In fact locals and tourist do day tours here during spare time. The resort offers endless number of activities and one cannot be bored as there are activities in-house both inland and out in the water for everyone for kids and adults alike.