Thursday, August 9, 2018

Coming Home: A Weekend at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle

Fratres Scholarium Christianarum. Brothers of the Christian Schools. Words that have been ingrained in my memory for years since childhood, bringing back memories of the once imposing figure of Bro. Francis Cody and his ruler. Good times. And for one weekend, I get to re-experience it all over again at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle...


From the institution that molded my formative years, a weekend stay at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle almost felt like coming home. And in many ways, it was a homecoming of sorts. Just a short walk away from my old university, returning to this part of Manila just brought back many fond memories. And one weekend at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle promised even more...


An integral part of the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde institution, Hotel Benilde Maison de La Salle is the flagship hotel of the pioneer school in the hospitality industry. Located at the heart of Manila, Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle places you right in the center of it all, which includes the historic old city, the colonial Malate Church, and a bustling nightlife district with the Makati CBD and the airport within easy reach. For years, I've known De La Salle College of Saint Benilde managed a full service hotel as a training ground for aspiring professionals in the hospitality industry, in fact I've known and met some real great chefs who graduated from the institution. A weekend at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle also appealed to me not just for nostalgic reasons, but to experience first-hand the level of training and service from the institution. And I wasn't disappointed.

From the minute you enter Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle, there is that pervading air of warm yet professional courtesy from the security to the Front Desk, kicking off a chain of continuous experiences that defined a memorable weekend. Straightforward with that reassuring warmth, my weekend was looking great.


Modernized and updated, Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle is smartly appointed exuding a casual yet elegant vibe. Redefining a hotel experience that's sleeker and more complete, Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle is definitely one of the smart and practical options this side of the metro. The newly renovated 12-storey property includes a Roof Deck providing panoramic views of the metro, but only two floors are allocated for guests with the rest used for events, functions and classrooms of De La Salle College of Saint Benilde. The length of the hallway leading to the guest accommodations is impressive, but it gets better once you enter your room...


Simple, functional yet comfortable, each room has all the amenities for the modern traveler. Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle offers a total of 49 well-appointed rooms from Dormitory, Superior Twin, Deluxe Queen and Deluxe Queen PWD, Deluxe King, One Bedroom Suite, and a luxurious and spacious Presidential Suite to suit any budget or requirement. When the Pope made his historic visit to Manila some years back, his staff and security were billeted at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle. And why not. It's a full service hotel with its own plunge pool at the Roof Deck, gym, 24-hour Business Center, and efficient meeting facilities. Whether for work or play, staying in this side of the metro becomes a smarter choice.  


The muted earth-toned palette of my Superior Twin makes you feel immediately at home. And the sight of the velvety smooth and plush linens on the soft mattresses immediately calls you. With a 40-inch LED Smart TV, free Wi-Fi high-speed internet access, clean and spacious toilet and bath, coffee and tea-making facilities, mini-bar and automated service calling, all the essentials are covered. On the walls, distinct patterns in shades of white and green symbolize the stiff white collar with its unique middle split design worn by De La Salle Christian Brothers. Called the "Rabat," the white bib-like collar was an ever-present symbol during my grade school, high school and college years, and it's just so reassuring to find it once again here at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle. 


A functional work space with all the required plugs and outlets for your mobile devices keeps you connected with the rest of the world, just in case you need to submit that urgent report. And with a comfortable sofa by the window, that's easily my favorite spot in the room.

Like many hotels, Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle advocates sustainable practices. You'll find gentle reminders in the spacious bath, along with essential toiletries so you don't have to pack much. It's touches like these that bring Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle up to standard for the modern traveler.


A peek at the Presidential Suite provides a proper perspective on the scale, just in case you want the extra space. And again, the familiar Rabat of the La Sallian Christian Brothers become a mnemonic device adorning the carpet.  

With a separate living area and a spacious bath with a tub, I'm told this is where the administrative head of the Pope's delegation stayed during the historic visit. The variety of rooms from basic accommodations all the way to the Presidential Suite adds to your many options at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle.


And if you want to catch a glimpse of the city, head up to the Roof Deck.


Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle's fine dining restaurant, Vatel, is also located at the Roof Deck. Unfortunately, the school term was over but the students will return next trimester to run the restaurant.


The hotel's pool is also located up at the Roof Deck. A few laps with the skyline in front of you, now that's pretty cool.


Keep up with your physical regimen without skipping a beat at the hotel's gym...


...or simply quit counting calories and enjoy your stay at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle with a sumptuous dinner at Cafe Romancon. The cafe, located at the ground floor, has a homey and warm ambience, serving up uncomplicated and comforting cuisine. Start your dinner with a hearty bowl of Carabaccia (P 130) with Tuscan onion simmered in rich beef stock topped with flavorful cheese croutons...


...or the rustic Cream of Butternut Squash (P 130), a thick and creamy squash and vegetable bouillon topped with smoked bacon. Each sip warms both the palate and body, preparing you for the next course. Other soup options at Cafe Romancon include Cream of Mushroom (P 150) and Minestrone Soup (P 150).


In between sips and tasty bites, why not have a refreshing seasonal Fruit Shake (P 120)? The Watermelon and Pineapple Shake are some of the soothing options at Cafe Romancon.


Make your mom proud and don't forget to have your vegetables with Cafe Romancon's garden-fresh salads...


The Kani Mango Salad (P 190) is an excellent choice offering both vibrant flavors and contrasting textures with mixed greens topped with shredded crab sticks, dried mango strips, crunchy vermicelli noodles, ebiko and generously drizzled with a sweet and creamy Japanese mango dressing to complete the flavors. The use of sour dried mango strips is an interesting choice, adding a rich tartness to the salad. Cafe Romancon also offers the classic Caesar Salad (P 190) and Marinated Grilled Vegetable Salad (P 120).


For the mains, the Friesian Express (P 350) was highly recommended, with seared hanging beef tender laid on rosemary pan jus and served with seasonal vegetables and crisp country style potato wedges. Be sure to inform the staff how you like your steak, so they can prepare it accordingly. Elegantly plated, the dish was just slightly grilled beyond medium adding a chewy bite to the texture but all in all, it still was an enjoyable dish.

The Chicken Teriyaki (P 290) and Norwegian Salmon (P 390) are also must-try dishes at Cafe Romancon. Other tasty options include Cafe Romancon's signature sandwiches like Beef Burger and Grilled Vegetable Sandwich and pasta dishes such as Seafood Linguine, Bolognese, Penne Carbonara and the local Pancit. 


Dinner won't be complete without dessert, and Cafe Romancon's Sizzling Brownie may just be the answer for that perfect ending.


With a moist brownie topped with ice cream, the dessert is completed with the pouring of milk leaving a bubbly layer on the sizzling hot plate. It's an indulgent dessert, but the brownie had more of a soft cake-like texture rather than the usual chewy and fudgy density of a brownie. But impressive, nonetheless.


If you still have a sweet craving, there's always Cafe Romancon's Homemade Gelato (P 99/scoop). My favorite? The Chocolate Bacon Gelato.


After a sumptuous dinner and a restful sleep, blue skies finally appeared in stark contrast with the rains the day before. Breakfast awaits, at Cafe Romancon...


A cup of freshly brewed coffee gets you on the right track, and you're ready for a sumptuous breakfast at Cafe Romancon.

Another cup gets you going, and the courteous staff ensures my cup is never empty. At Cafe Romancon's live Egg Station, eggs prepared just the way you like it are prepared and served a la minute.  An omelet with everything on it? Yes, please. Make that two. With extra cheese. And mushrooms.


The Breakfast Buffet spread at Cafe Romancon featured gourmet cheeses and freshly baked bread...


...along with savory mains like the Fried Dory with Caper Mayo...


...the Steamed Chicken with Scallion...


...and Pork Hamonado topped with peppers. Fresh fruits and cereals round out the spread for that perfect start of the day.


The more traditional Arroz Caldo may be more to your liking, so have a bowl with all the condiments and come back for another.


A loaded plate for breakfast sets a positive tone for the rest of the day, just the way it should be on an early Sunday morning.

After breakfast, I return to my sanctuary for a quick snooze before check out, remaining in awe at the young professionals of Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle who have chosen the hard and unforgiving career in the hospitality industry as they face so-called expert customers with their misguided subjective comments in the real world. 


But Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle prepares them well for the challenge. The fresh grads and students who made my weekend special are more than ready. And my weekend at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle far exceeded my expectations. It was an enjoyable and memorable weekend, just like coming home...

Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle is located along Arellano corner Estrada Streets, Malate Manila or call +63 02 230-5230 for inquiries and reservations. You can also check out their website at http://www.hotelbenilde.com/.

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