Would you like to give in to your flights of fancy and embark on an exciting journey?
A journey among extraordinary flavors, that is. 🙂
Well, head on then to Ridge Cafe at Timberland Highlands Resort up in the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. Here, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy the fresh mountain air as you dine in style, thanks to its opulent interiors and al fresco area overlooking the metro.
Here, your tastebuds can certainly go on a flavor tour, thanks to its recently unveiled Arabic Dinner Buffet.
Expanding gastronomic possibilities in the Rizal area
Every Saturday, from 6m to 9pm, you can eat your fill of flavorful and nutritious viands that boast of having Arabic, Mediterranean and South Asian origins, as well as free-flowing iced tea, all for just Php980++.
This exciting culinary curation is the brainchild of Timberland Highlands Resort’s new Executive Chef, Ranuka Hettiarachchi, who sought to include healthy Mediterranean dishes in Ridge Cafe’s buffet, as well as providing guests with vegan and vegetarian diets with suitable options.
Also, given that restaurants offering Arabic food are not that common in the Rizal area, local residents now have a new convenient destination if they want to expand their food horizons.
Representing exotic flavors from the Mediterranean and Arabic regions
Ridge Cafe’s Arabic Dinner Buffet presents travel-hungry foodies with the opportunity to enjoy signature dishes of regions such as Greece, the Middle East, Egypt and South Asia, all cohesively curated and mouthwateringly presented in their respective stations.
Carnivores will be (quite understandably!) drawn to the carving station where beautifully roasted beef striploin and leg of lamb take pride of place, accompanied by roasted veggies and a variety of sauces to choose from.
Those seeking healthier fare can always go to the cold section and check out the fresh salads comprised of crisp greens and veggies as well as filling proteins.
Then diners can hop from station to station to sample distinct tastes from various countries in a virtual food trip across the Mediterranean, Gulf and Indian subcontinent with these flavorful offerings:
Dessert lovers can also look forward to sampling the popular desserts from these regions as well as their favorite sweets in the dessert station.
While you can always take this journey by yourself, it’s best to experience it with family and friends!
Ridge Cafe also offers other buffet meals including:
Top of the Morning Buffet: intercontinental breakfast menu and classic Pinoy almusal favorites at Php650 net per person (weekends from 7am to 10am)
Filipino Buffet: favorite Filipino dishes with free-flowing iced tea at Php980+ per person (lunch from 11.30am to .30pm | dinner from 6pm to 9pm)
Are the heat and the humidity of the metro getting to you? Do you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Or do you feel bored to bits while stuck in your room as you work from home?
It may be high time for you and the fam to take a break from the daily grind and hie off to a quick getaway for a much needed change of scenery.
That’s what Hubby and I did this last weekend. Together with the kiddos -#ExhibitA and #ExhibitB – we went off to a mountain adventure to Timberlands Highlands Resort for some family bonding time and well-deserved R ‘n R.
Here are 8 reasons why you should, too!
1. You won’t have to travel far to get there.
Timberland Highlands Resort is a sprawling property located within Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal.
Thanks to the ever-reliable Waze app, we were able to reach the resort in less than an hour from our home in Pasig (not counting our lunch stopover in Marikina).
If traveling by car, it’s also around 40 minutes away from the Batasan area in Quezon City, and a little over an hour away from the cities of Manila and Makati.
Imagine being that close to your staycation destination!
2. It’s your escape back to nature.
Surrounding the Timberland Highlands Resort property are lush greenery with the Sierra Madre mountains as a backdrop.
With this high altitude and its situation away from the busy cities, the area boasts of fresh air and a cooler climate. As is typical with other green spaces, the area is conducive to outdoor activities and socializing while promoting both physical and mental well-being.
3. You can engage in revitalizing physical activity.
One of the physical activities that the fam can do together is taking a leisurely stroll through the path surrounding the property. Doing so brings you to various vantage points to appreciate the surrounding mountainside.
After your invigorating walk, you can all take a dip in the swimming pools to cool down. One is an infinity pool that lets you enjoy the view while taking a swim. The kiddie pool, on the other hand, features a slide and cascading water, guaranteeing lots of fun time in the sun for the little ones.
If the weather does not permit outdoor activities, you can always engage in physical exertions indoors, thanks to the resort’s well-equipped gym (which got a thumb’s-up from fitness buffs Hubby and #ExhibitA).
Did you know that the resort used to be known as Timberland Sports and Nature Club? The indoor sports facilities it was famous for – such as the basketball court, badminton court, table tennis and indoor rock climbing areas are still here for guests to enjoy.
4. The kids are sure to have a great time.
While all the grown ups are exercising and getting into sports, the kids can play and entertain themselves near the pool area, thanks a wide space they can run around in, and kiddie-sized chairs and plush seats. Here, they can learn a game of chess, challenge themselves with Jenga or even spot a mascot or cartoon character handing out treats.
5. You can settle down to a relaxing retreat.
After your very active day, you can wind down and relax in your well-appointed accommodations. The hotel has 70 fully air-conditioned rooms which can all accommodate two adults and two children sharing the bed with their parents, making the hotel perfect for a family retreat.
The Deluxe Twin is a 35-sqm room situated in the main building, furnished with comfy twin beds.
The Deluxe King, a similar-sized room furnished with a king bed and features a fitted bath tub, is also an options
At the newly renovated building annexed to the main hotel, you can find the 32-sqm Premiere Deluxe accommodations.
All hotel rooms are equipped with a safety deposit box, flat-screen TV with cable channels, Wi-Fi connection and a work desk. (The latter two, in particular, were very helpful during our first day there as I was doing remote work. I was able to log in to three consecutive Zoom meetings, and was presenting in two of them with nary a dropped call or frozen screen.)
Note: Mobile phone signal may be spotty in the room and at some other locations within the hotel so I would suggest logging your devices into the hotel WiFi. That way, you can be reachable via online messaging to your work colleagues and family members (if you want to be reachable, that is, hehehe!)
Other room features include toilet and bath (with hot and cold shower), dental kits, bath items such as soap, bath gel and shampoo from Aum Spa, a minibar, a coffee/tea set and bottled water.
The fam loved the crisp linens and the blackout curtains that helped us get a restful slumber after our activity-filled day.
6. Dine with a majestic view at Ridge Cafe.
Of course, any weekend getaway wouldn’t be complete without a gastronomic adventure, wouldn’t it?
Fortunately, the hotel two in-house restaurants, one of which is Ridge Cafe. It has an elegantly appointed interior dining room, as well as an al fresco area which boasts of grand view of the surrounding mountains and overlooking Metro Manila.
Every weekend, foodies can look forward to a sumptous breakfast buffet which includes:
The makings of classic Pinoy silogs such as Corned Beef with Potatoes, Tocino, Longganisa and Tocino (just add the Garlic Fried Rice and a sunny-side up egg from the Omelet Station)
Locally-grown fresh produce for salads or fruit desserts
A variety of freshly baked breads, including four types of pan de sal (regular, ube, cacao and malunggay).
Continental breakfast choices such as cereals, chicken nuggets and breakfast sausages
Kiddie treats such as mini pancakes and cookies
On weekdays and for other parts of the day, guests can order ala carte from a menu that includes Appetizers, Sandwiches and Burgers, Pastas and Noodles, Salads, Sushi, along with main courses and desserts.
Curious about the foodie possibilities here? I’ll tell you more about our dining experiences at Ridge Cafe here, here and here.
And should you fancy a drink while hanging out at the pool or viewing deck, you can always get refreshing beverage from The Pool Bar.
7. It supports local industries.
Timberland Highlands Resort recently partnered with local merchants in showcasing sustainable and home-grown products. These include brands such as Zarah Juan, TÙ by Modern Filipiniana, Gourmet Farms, Engkanto Brewery, Alab.Mnl, Lakan Lubi, Circa 1740 by Timplado, Better Snacks PH, Tu’ka Spiced Vinegar and more. Their wares are all prominently displayed and available for purchase in the Live Love Local corner in Ridge Cafe.
These are also great for souvenirs or pasalubong to your city-bound friends and relatives.
8. The management and staff are all geared up to provide you with a memorable stay.
All of these are just the tip of the iceberg, as they say, because more exciting developments are in store for guests and visitors, as envisioned by resort’s management.
These include additional restaurants and other exciting renovations (which will be revealed in due time!)
The resort also helps local communities by sourcing its manpower from nearby areas, upskilling and retooling them to provide world-class service to guests.
They’re always ready to give you a hand, so when you see them around, be sure to say hi!
Thanks to the above reasons, my family and I had a fun, restful and memorable stay at the Timberland Highlands Resort, so why don’t you treat your family to one, too?
If you’ve got a hankering for some #VitaminSea but are not keen on leaving the city, then Manila Ocean Park is definitely the place to be!
Having just reopened after nearly two years of being closed to the public, Manila Ocean Park is reinforcing its positioning as the all-season holiday destination with eight exciting attractions now ready for the hordes of urbanites like you who are raring for fun and adventure.
All that walking around and sight-seeing is sure to work up an appetite, though. Well, don’t worry, dear foodies, because Manila Ocean Park also serves up gastronomic delights that will satisfy even the most discerning gastronome.
These culinary creations are all curated by Manila Ocean Park’s Executive Chef Ranuka Hettiarachchi, who brings his extraordinary skill sets to bear in bringing distinctly gourmet dining experiences for the park’s visitors through its in-house restaurants.
Garden Dining by White Moon Bar
Garden Dining by White Moon Bar came about in May 2021 when the lockdowns were beginning to ease up but indoor dining was not yet allowed. By making use of Manila Ocean Park’s Barnyard area to offer al fresco dining, and serving up a refreshed menu of Asian fusion dishes, this newly opened eatery became a bright spot for foodies looking for restaurant-quality fare during quarantine.
Looking at these mouth-watering dishes, you would be hard-pressed to imagine Chef Ranuka whipping these up using just a griddle and stove, which was all he had available when this restaurant first opened.
While feasting on these dishes, you can quench your thirst with refreshing shakes and cocktails.
Garden Dining by White Moon Bar is located at the side entrance of Manila Ocean Park near The Barnyard and Sea Lion pool.
Makan Makan Asian Food Village got its name from the Singaporean expression that invites people to eat.
Located at the second floor of Hotel H2O off to the side of Manila Ocean Park, this restaurant presents an extensive array of tasty Singaporean hawker fare, staple Chinese dishes, and Pinoy classic faves, giving hotel guests and park visitors a viable option for their midday or evening meal.
With both familiar and exotic dishes on offer, Makan Makan Asian Food Village is a worthy food stop during your Manila Ocean Park adventure.
For more details and updates on its food offerings, follow Makan Makan Asian Food Village on Facebook and Instagram.
Garden Cafe by Hotel H2O
If you feel like you want to take a coffee break in the middle of your wanderings around the park, drop by Garden Cafe by Hotel H2Oo. Here, you can relax amidst a refreshing backdrop of foliage and open air, while you sip your handcrafted coffee or smoothie.
You may as well indulge yourself with some pastries while you’re at it. These confections are usually sea-themed and lovingly crafted by Chef Ranuka’s pastry chefs.
Mirror Glazed Sea-Themed Cake.
Aqua Bavarian Donut.
Want something to help you combat a hot day? Go for some iced coffee, then.
Don’t hesitate to sit down and take a break with your pals while having some coffee and pastries in this comfy (and very Instagrammable) nook.
Garden Cafe by Hotel H2O is located at the ground floor of Hotel H2OO, easily accessible from Manila Ocean Park.
It’s been more than a year into the quarantine, and while we have gone back to less stringent restrictions, there are many of our life’s former pleasures that some of us still can’t enjoy.
One of these is dining out, isn’t it?
The excitement of venturing outside our home, discovering a new place to try or a new dish to enjoy, and hanging out with our friends – all these and more make up the experience of dining out that we used to take for granted.
Thankfully, more of our favorite haunts are re-opening, albeit while adopting new ways to operate so that they could keep us, the dining public, as well as their staff safe from the still present threat of pandemic.
One of these pivoted but still very welcome returns to the local food scene is Manila Ocean Park’s Whitemoon Bar which recently launched its Garden Dining.
Situated in The Barnyard, Garden Dining by Whitemoon Bar offers a delectable array of Asian fusion dishes that can be enjoyed in a relaxing al fresco setting.
Here, diners can take a brief escape into the outdoors, surrounded by greenery and interesting bric-a-bracs, while they enjoy their meal amidst the gentle breeze from Manila Bay and chirping birds from the aviary.
Sri Lankan Chef Ranuka Hettiarachchi brought his considerable skill sets to bear in whipping up dishes for Garden Dining’s refreshed menu using just a griddle and a stove in The Barnyard’s recently converted kitchen.
Safely served in to-go containers yet still retaining the visual appeal of gourmet food, these dishes put a fresh spin on our old favorites. Together with fellow food, bloggers Jen of sandundermyfeet.com, Anj of anjcolumna.com and Nix of ieatandiwander.com, I was able to check out samples of Garden Dining’s offerings such as:
Onion Rings (Php120). Large slices of onions battered and deep-fried for an appetizing start to the meal.
Corned Beef and Cheese Toast (Php140). Truth be told: I’m not a fan of corned beef sandwiches but this made me change my mind. The combination of grilled cheese and corned beef is a highly snackable treat.
Kimchi Fried Rice (Php190). A blend of tangy and spicy flavors, this fragrant rice complements the viands served.
Pork Satay (Php180) and Chicken Satay (Php160). Seasoned meats grilled to smoky deliciousness and served on skewers with sauce on the side.
Spicy Asian-Style Seafood Spaghetti (Php250). A hearty and delicious taste of the sea with loads of seafood and noodles tossed in a slightly spicy sauce.
Whether you’re looking for refreshments or in the mood to imbibe, Garden Dining by Whitemoon Bar also has a great selection of drinks for you, such as:
Watermelon Shake (Php130).
Pineapple Shake (Php120).
Ginger Honey and Citrus Immune Booster (Php100).
A variety of red and white wines from its wine list such as this 2014 Elfo Salento Negroamaro from Italy (Php230/glass).
We’re still a long way from enjoying everything we used to enjoy before the pandemic, but with places such as Garden Dining by Whitemoon Bar, we can recreate those experience we look back on so fondly and even make new memories to cherish.
Garden Dining by Whitemoon Bar is located at The Barnyard, Manila Ocean Park, Luneta, Manila, open for outdoor dining Thursdays to Sundays from 3pm to 9pm. For reservations and inquiries, call +63 2 85677777.
To know more about its latest promos and offers, follow Manila Ocean Park on Facebook or Instagram.
Disclosure: Together with fellow food bloggers, I attended a food tasting held at this restaurant. Food items mentioned here were served to facilitate this feature article