The scorching hot sun, clear blue skies and calmest crystal waters greeted me as I stepped out of the plane. After eight hours of travel, I had finally arrived in Boracay. So much has changed since my last trip here 10 years ago.
While pristine beaches are still the main attraction amongst tourists, of late, a different set—namely gourmands—have descended on the island thanks to culinary events such as Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa’s Reservations in Paradise.
The annual event started out in 2013—even before The New York Times and Bloomberg declared Filipino cuisine as one of the food trends to watch out for—with the simple goal of uniting foodies over delicious food and fine wines in a gorgeous beach setting.
Now on its seventh edition the intimate, by-invite-only affair has doubled in number, but general manager Ann Busfield shares, “We will cap off the invited guests to 60, so we can maintain the quality of the food, wine and service.”
It’s stretched out over the weekend with exciting things to look forward to each day. Our first night saw us donning resort outfits and enjoying glass of wines—slightly more chilled to counter the humid weather—at the Solana Garden. Perched on a hill, it provided a picturesque view of the setting sun as we said hello to old and new friends while being serenaded by a harpist.
Dinner by Guest Chef Olivier Pistre
Organisers up the ante every year and this time around, they invited guest chef Olivier Pistre from Shangri-La Hotel Istanbul. He was challenged to create a six-course meal to be paired with the chosen Maison Louis Jadot wines. In two days, he amazingly crafted the potato ice cream accented with caviar and bacon bits, and the foie gras de canard confit served with caramelised apple to counter the heaviness.
The real showstopper was the Australian wagyu ribeye MB5, wood-grilled and Cohiba-smoked to the right doneness to keep it tender. When savoured with the Beaune Clos des Ursules 1er Cru, Monopole 2008, it was just heaven on the palate.
Brunch with a View
Day two brought us to Alon Garden for brunch by the sea; the weather was unforgiving with the temperature soaring to 33 degrees Celsius. But armed with an abaniko (native fan) and a big hat, I explored the eight stations and lingered at the Filipino breakfast for a taste of the longganisa, a local version of sweet or spicy sausage and dried dangit, salty fish dipped in vinegar and eaten with rice.
Throughout brunch, we were cooled down with freeflow champagnes and wines from Billecart-Salmon and La Manufacture.
Explore the Beach
In between meals, we were free to explore the 13-hectare resort (by foot or buggy), get a tan on their private beach or join activities such as paddleboard or snorkeling. I opted for the latter to make the most out of my trip, and also work up a bigger appetite at the same time.
Dinner by the Beach
Chef Omar Ugoletti of Rima, the resort’s treetop Mediterranean restaurant, treated us to both his signatures and new dishes on our last night. It was held on Banyungan Beach where we enjoyed the cool breeze and sand on our toes.
There was excitement in the air as we watched the 30-strong kitchen team perfect our dishes down to the last embellishment. Our starter of thinly-sliced amberjack was a surprise. Imagine savouring an ice cream with just the slightest hint of sea urchin, with the seaweed tapioca adding colour and taste, or the duck consomme served with foie gras ravioli that pops in the mouth.
An ode to Filipino’s love for pork is the 16-hour slow-roasted suckling pig, where the meat is shredded and wrapped in a crisp skin. It’s typically eaten with beer but on that night, we enjoyed it with full-bodied Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2003.
In a short span of time, I had gained as much weight as I had new friends. As I waited for the shuttle to take us to the airport, I only had one thought in mind: I can’t wait for the next Reservations in Paradise.