“So this is your first time in Taal Vista?” asked Ms. Marla Fresnido, Taal Vista Hotel’s Marketing Communication Manager, when she welcomed us in the hotel one fine Saturday afternoon. She was quite surprised when we said yes, explaining that most Tagaytay visitors would drop by Taal Vista for its panoramic view of Taal Lake.
I have passed by Taal Vista Hotel quite a number of times before, mostly for work, but I have never set foot on this beautiful property. So imagine my excitement when I was given the chance to stay here for two nights with my friend Aika, as well as taste the offerings of Café Veranda and Taza Fresh Table. It was a long weekend here in the Philippines, and the last time Aika and I were in Tagaytay together was five years ago when we celebrated her birthday. It was that trip that made us travel buddies since then. Enough about our history, let’s talk about how amazing this luxury hotel really is.
Taal Vista Lodge, as it was known then, was built in 1939 along “Ilong Kastila,” thanks to then President Manuel L. Quezon’s interest in developing Tagaytay City to become a tourist destination. A number of renovations and 76 years of topnotch service later, Taal Vista Hotel continues to innovate and provide world-class facilities that make guests come back again and again.
HIGHLIGHT of the PROPERTY
Anyone who has been to Taal Vista Hotel would say that it offers one of, if not the best view of Taal Lake from its view deck. No high-resolution photo can give justice to what you can see with your own eyes.
What’s even better is that the view deck isn’t exclusive to hotel guests. As previously mentioned, anyone can come in and take a few snapshots. Guests may also choose to dine in the Lobby Lounge, Café Veranda or the newly opened Taza Fresh Table. More about these restaurants later on.
Probably another highlight of the hotel is their hashtag installed in the grounds overlooking the lake. In the age of tagging and trending topics, Taal Vista Hotel is surely in the loop. Who wouldn’t want to have a photo with a somewhat gigantic hashtag?
One of the main reasons why Taal Vista Hotel has remained a favorite all these years are the people behind it. I can attest to their genuine kindness and concern from the time we arrived in Tagaytay until we went back to Manila.
As backpackers, Aika and I are used to commuting. Upon learning that we were taking the bus to Olivarez, Ms. Hazel Sarmiento, the hotel’s Marketing Communications Assistant, offered to have us picked up by the hotel shuttle when we arrive. We were at the Olivarez terminal at around 3:00 p.m., and after calling that we were already in the area, a van was sent to fetch us.
After a short drive along the highway, we were led to the reception area to check in. We were then surprised by the hotel manager, James Bevans, who welcomed us. A few minutes later, Ms. Marla and Ms. Hazel approached us and brought us to the Lobby Lounge for some snacks.
We talked about the hotel and how it has changed through the years. They then brought us to our room to freshen up before our dinner in Taza Fresh Table at 7:00 p.m.
Everyone was very accommodating, and we were endorsed properly to the hotel and restaurant staff. I commend them for that, as we didn’t have any difficulty in using their facilities and everything went smoothly.
On the day before we checked out, Ms. Marla informed us that she has arranged for our transfer from Taal Vista Hotel to Mandaluyong on our last day. We were so overwhelmed of that gesture because we didn’t request for any yet they thought about offering us a ride home. They really know how to take care of their guests!
When we got to our room, I was surprised at how beautiful and enormous it was. We were assigned to their Premiere King room in the Lake Wing, a 38-square meter bedroom with a king-sized bed, a really huge bathroom, and a balcony that has a breathtaking view of the lake.
The bathroom had complete amenities, including a bathtub, towels, and toiletries. It was so big that you can sleep there!
There was also a couch in the room, and it became Aika’s favorite spot. We were also provided with fruits and other goodies to munch on. It also came with a welcome note from Mr. Bevans. Sweet!
It was the perfect room for two tired travelers! We made coffee and stayed in the balcony, enjoying the cool breeze and waiting for the sunset. Come dinner time, we didn’t want to leave the bed but our stomachs were already begging to be fed.
If you think the room is already awesome, wait until you get a taste of the food they offer. We were very lucky to have dined in both Taza Fresh Table and Café Veranda, and each was a completely different experience.
We had our dinner and second day breakfast in Taza Fresh Table, then second day lunch, dinner, and third day breakfast in Café Veranda. I’ll discuss each meal separately, and you will probably be so hungry after reading this section.
Taza Fresh Table was launched just this February, and it takes pride in the fresh ingredients it uses for all dishes. The word Taza was derived from the Arabic word Taaza, which means fresh, so expect food that utilize the best ingredients that are meticulously sourced from local suppliers. Check out their menu here.
At the helm of the restaurant is Chef Jayme Natividad, a New York-trained chef who has worked in some of the best and top notch restaurants abroad.
Chef Jayme may seem serious at first, as he is very passionate with his masterpiece. But when he joined us in the middle of the meal and we started talking about Philippine showbiz, we saw that he was a really funny and cool guy. Trust me, you will really enjoy having him around.
Now let’s talk about the food. First of all, we were overwhelmed with the amount of dishes given to us. We were served, wait for it, 12 dishes, from appetizer to dessert, with each one in full serving size. So just imagine how full we were afterwards.
Here’s a rundown of what we had:
Hummus and Boquerones with flat bread – appetizers that are so filling that you’d think you are already having the main course. As expected, everything tasted fresh and made from scratch. It was so good!
Goat Cheese Caesar Salad – the greens were very crispy even with the dressing. And the homemade panchetta on top, to die for! This is a must try for those who are not veggie fans. I’m sure, you will change your minds after eating this.
Cream of Kale and Spinach Soup – the deep green color may intimidate some, but this soup packs a punch. Have a spoonful and you won’t think it’s made of Tagaytay spinach, kale, leeks, and potatoes mixed with creme fraiche.
Mushroom Soup – probably the best mushroom soup I have ever tasted. When you have oyster, shiitake, and button mushrooms in one bowl, you will not want to miss this.
Salsa Verde with Panchetta – when you have homemade panchetta and Laguna mozzarella cheese combined in one pizza, you won’t ask for anything else. We would have finished the entire plate if we didn’t have more food to taste. Two thumbs up!
Lobster Fettuccine – I have a confession to make: I have never had lobster in my entire life. And I would not have asked for a better way to taste it for the first time than with fresh, handmade pasta. So, so, so delicious.
Tomahawk Pork Chop with Cauliflower Mash – we were so full that by the time this one landed on our table, our mouths dropped. The meat was cooked to perfection, and the caramelized onions complemented it to the dot. We were all praises on the mashed potato, only to find out that it was actually made of cauliflower. Another brilliant way to eat vegetables!
Cannoli with Ube Ricotta and Langka Cream – I think I just went to dessert heaven with this one. Think turon (banana and jackfruit slices wrapped in spring roll wrapper) with ube jam but a hundred times tastier.
Peanut Butter and Watermelon Jelly Tart – this looks too beautiful to eat. We had to stop ourselves from diving in and just had to take photos of this beauty. You’ll forget your name once the peanut butter and watermelon jelly melts in your mouth.
Quezo de Bola and Olive Oil Ice Cream – we had a hard time choosing which tasted better, so we ended up finishing both desserts. Who knew that olive oil could taste so good as an ice cream? Chef Jayme suggested we add sea salt to it to balance the flavors, and it was magical. The caramelized pineapple also complemented this unique dish. The quezo de bola variant was served with cheese shavings on top, making it more flavorful.
Breakfast the next day was another story all together. Taza Fresh Table has a breakfast buffet during weekends, and we had a first hand experience of it. Aside from the buffet dishes, diners may also choose one of the ala carte dishes from their menu list. Did I mention that eggs benedict are unlimited here? Yes, UNLIMITED. The same goes for their beverages such as fresh juices. coffee, and hot chocolate.
Oh, and you have to taste their French toast. When it was suggested to us by the waiter, we thought it was just like any other French toast – sliced loaf bread dipped in milk and egg then fried. But we were so wrong.
What Taza Fresh Table had was the best French toast I have ever had. Right in front of me were two golden slices of baguette, topped with bananas and syrup. And when I took that first bite, oh my gosh, it was so magical. There’s a surprise in the middle! You have to try it to understand what I’m talking about.
Since we had our breakfast late, we decided to have our lunch late, too. Good thing that the lunch buffet in Café Veranda is available until 2:30 p.m. We planned to check out the new Ayala Malls Serin nearby, so we dropped by Café Veranda before heading out.
We arrived in Café Veranda just in time for the cultural dance presentation. It is the perfect way to entertain dining guests, especially foreigners who would love to see a piece of our culture.
Since I was still full, I opted to have a lighter meal. But one look at the dessert station made me change my mind. I felt like a kid in a giant candy shop!
We grew tired after all the walking in Ayala Malls Serin and Sky Ranch, so we rested for a bit in the room before going back to Café Veranda for dinner.
“Please feel free to order anything you want from the menu.” was Ms. Marla’s reply when I sent her a text message that we were on our way to Café Veranda. After going through the menu, we settled for Organic Mixed Green Salad, Crispy Taal Lake Tawilis, Bulalo (of course! Can’t leave Tagaytay without having this bestseller), and their signature dessert, Volcano Eruption.
We didn’t want to end our second night without having some cocktails, so I ordered Margarita while Aika had Tequila Sunrise.
As for our breakfast the following day, we had it buffet style in Café Veranda. This is located in their alfresco area and has more food choices. The cool Tagaytay air was an added bonus to the delicious food we were having.
Function rooms, swimming pool, kids’s corner, game room, Asmara Spa, Kultura Butik, ATMs, weekend market, fitness center
1. The Lake Wing rooms offer an unobstructed view of Taal Lake, but going to the swimming pool from that area requires a bit of walking. If you want to stay near the pool, choose a Mountain Wing room.
2. Staying in Taal Vista Hotel comes with free breakfast in Café Veranda. But just for an additional Php300, you may already have your breakfast in Taza Fresh Table.
3. There’s a weekend market happening in the View Deck (just outside Taza Fresh Table) every Friday to Sunday. Enjoy organically grown fruits and vegetables and other local products that are being sold here.
WHAT TO DO AROUND/WITHIN THE AREA
1. Get souvenirs from Kultura Butik – For those who prefer staying in Taal Vista Hotel for their entire vacation, there’s Kultura Butik for all your souvenir needs.
2. Drop by Ayala Malls Serin – Right next to Lourdes Church and one jeepney ride away from Taal Vista Hotel is Ayala Malls Serin. It opened its doors to the public just early this year, so expect a lot of shoppers going in and out of this three-storey mall.
3. Visit Sky Ranch – Situated right next to Taal Vista Hotel, Sky Ranch is a mini amusement park with food establishments and an expansive events place called The Venue. You will easily recognize this place when you spot The Sky Eye, a 63-meter high ferris wheel that will give you a wonderful view of Tagaytay and its neighboring provinces.
Note: The hotel stay is sponsored by Taal Vista Hotel, but the opinions in this review are my own.
Special thanks to Mr. James Bevans, Ms. Marla Fresnido and Ms. Hazel Sarmiento for the wonderful accommodation, and to Chef Jayme Natividad and everyone in Taza Fresh Table and Café Veranda for our sumptuous meals.