We Filipinos are basically the outcome of centuries of intermarriage between original settlers and the Philippines’ various conquerors. There were the Chinese, Japanese, Americans and Spaniards.
But in terms of cultural influence, it is our Spanish conquerors who have truly shaped our culture and traditions, thanks to about 300 years of colonization from 1521 to the late early 1900’s. Our religion was adopted from the Spaniards, our words are direct descendants from Castillan and thanks to the intermarriage of natural Filipinos and Spanish mestizos, the country still has a good number of old rich Spanish clans.
Philippine architecture was also largely influenced by the Spanish culture. Think of Fort Santiago and Vigan. Physical structures that can be seen in these places are representations of the old grandeur of the country during the height of the Spanish rule.
Unfortunately, as the country embraces new cultures, new designs, Spanish-style landmarks are gone.
This is why I couldn’t hide my appreciation as The Peninsula Manila decided to bring back the grandeur and old glamor of the Spanish era by renovating its 15-year old buffet dining restaurant to become a new symbol of elegance and sophistication, while transporting food connoisseurs back to yesteryears.
Strictly speaking, the Peninsula Manila launched its buffet dining restaurant in late 2009, replacing the old Nielsen’s place, which was lagging in the competition. But it was only recently that I tried the place along with some friends and colleagues.
Admittedly, the allure of other more expensive buffet restaurants such as Spirals in Sofitel, Paseo Uno in Mandarin and Circles in Makati Shangri-la has kept me from visiting this place but when I finally did, I was treated to a great surprise.
First and foremost, it is secluded in the right wing of the Peninsula lobby giving customers the privacy they so cherished.
And unlike other restaurants in its class, the Spanish-inspired interiors of Escolta is a star contrast to they grey and concrete color of the rest of the hotel. It is also a welcome change from the generic, dull interiors of your usual hotel restos.
The Spanish-era paintings, murals easily give the visitors an idea of the concept it was trying to project.
Just as the name insinuates, the restaurant is an homage to Escolta, which was considered Manila’s premier shopping and financial district during the late commonwealth period. At the time, despite the influx of Americans, Filipinos were still living the Spanish way of living…more relaxed, and laid back.
Looking at the number of private coves and well-lit dining rooms, that is exactly what Escolta wanted to give its diners. Customers instantly feel relaxed and laid back without having to worry about the loud chatter of other customers.
Its interiors which was generously mixed with wood, gives a feeling of warmth to all its diners.
But don’t let Escolta’s looks fool you. Its menu selections are quite current and in-demand.
Dining at the restaurant, I was also pleasantly surprised to realize that while it is a buffet restaurant, it did not fall to usual trap among these types of dining establishments.
Most buffet dining establishments try to bombard their customers with endless choices.
But more does not always necessarily mean better.
And in the world of fine dining buffet restaurants, presenting an endless choice of dishes and cuisines, sometimes leave customers feeling totally overwhelmed and unsure of which ones to pick if they are to taste each style of cooking.
What’s even more disappointing sometimes is for these types of buffet restaurants to push the limits by increasing its offering with the taste and quality of each dish being overlooked and compromised.
Escolta’s food selections were carefully selected to cater to the discerning taste of its clients. It offers cuisines that are just right please the gastronomic cravings of diners. It did not offer dishes that are left untouched in most buffet restaurants.It contains the salads, the meats, the Asian dishes, and the deserts.
Overall, Peninsula Manila’s strategy for Escolta really worked. It was located away from the noisy conservatory, assuring coziness and privacy for its diners. It was well conceptualized, and that’s not something you can say about the more expensive buffet restaurants.\
But more than its unique aesthetics, that great feeling of warmth and relaxation while enjoying the right selection of food, in my opinion, has been the biggest draw for Escolta so far.