MANILA, Philippines - Expatriates and foreign travelers seem to be drawn to a secluded resort in Puerto Galera, the northernmost municipality in Oriental Mindoro province.
Australian-owned Out of the Blue is tucked away from the pack on White Beach, known as the go-to place for local tourists. Its cluster of Mediterranean-style luxury villas sits on a small lot overlooking Small La Laguna.
"Our resort became popular mainly through word of mouth. We had mostly foreigners, expats, those who work in embassies and Asian banks," said John Booth, one of the resort's owners. The other is his good friend and former colleague, Chris Shannon.
"We never expected it to be as successful as we've actually become."
Booth called his 3-year-old resort "a home away from home." True enough, it seemed more like a haven for foreigners than locals – most of the time, the only Filipinos there are the staff led by the sister of Babylyn, Booth's wife.
It may already be experiencing some success, but word about Out of the Blue has yet to spread among Manila-based workers who are looking for a quiet getaway.
Out of the Blue is attracting expats and foreigners not only because of its luxurious villas but also for its fine food and extensive wine list.
Verandah, the resort's in-house restaurant, offers "casual fine dining with a view." The idea is to provide food akin to what is served in Makati, home to some of the country's classiest restaurants, in a laid back setting.
Its ambiance is that of a spacious veranda from a more leisurely age, said Booth, as he gave a tour of the 40-seat restaurant.
"We want them to enjoy good food while wearing shorts and slippers. We want them to come out relaxed," he said.
"At the same time, we want it to be a high-class restaurant."
Heading Verandah’s kitchen staff is chef Harold Barrios, a Puerto Galera local who was trained by Copenhagen-based chef Hendrik.
His menu, which changes every 2 to 5 months, has over 20 dishes and daily specials to suit different tastes.
Just as well-stocked is Verandah’s wine list which offers 30 different wines, from a Mount Mary Pinot Noir to a Tatachilla Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.
“Chris and I pick the wines. We have the best wine selection in the area,” Booth said.
Simple yet elegant, dishes served at the Verandah give a sense of comfort, of family and home.
Each item on the menu is well thought out and beautifully plated, showing Barrios’ passion and skill.
Verandah’s smoked salmon on toast is a delightful way to start the meal for its great flavor sans the fishy taste, while the nice and crispy prawn cannelloni creates good contrast with the cumin-seasoned pumpkin soup.
Fulfilling any meat lover’s dream is the melt-in-your-mouth Australian Wagyu, cooked to the desired doneness and accompanied by pickled shallots and potato croquettes.
As a restaurant owned by Australians, Verandah also has the quintessential meat pie, generously filled with delicious ground beef and served with fries.
“It’s one of our bestsellers,” Barrios said.
For those who have a sweet tooth, a warm carrot muffin served alongside a scoop of sweet and sinful Baileys ice cream does the trick.
Indeed, it is no surprise that foreigners come to Out of the Blue for a taste of something fine and familiar.
With the resort constantly making improvements, it’s only a matter of time before Filipinos discover Puerto Galera’s well kept culinary secret.
Photos by Anton delos Reyes
Verandah is located at Out of the Blue Private Villas and Resort at Small La Laguna Beach, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. For more information, visit www.outoftheblue.com.ph.
E-mail the author at [email protected] Visit her food blog at http://asliceofkeix.blogspot.com.