MANILA, Philippines – After flood waters caused by typhoon “Pedring” inundated the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, the luxury resort hotel spared no expense in renovating its popular buffet restaurant.
Exactly a year after the floods, Sofitel introduced its newly redesigned Spiral to members of the media and to VIPs ahead of the restaurant’s official opening on November 8.
Goran Aleks, Sofitel's general manager, said the hotel spent over P700 million for the project. More than P500 million was used for Spiral’s interiors, food and staff, while P210 million was allotted to ensure that the restaurant stands strong against the elements – a 0.9-meter long retaining wall, a new drainage piping layout, and a 100-meter long trench canal to make sure that the water entering the hotel will be diverted back to the Manila Bay.
“We doubled the investment for the first Spiral,” said Aleks of the restaurant, which was introduced as the largest buffet concept in the Asia Pacific region in 2006. "P500 million was really just for the redesign [of the new Spiral]."
“We wanted to create something not only for Manila but for the world,” he added. “This is something which was never done before.”
The new Spiral revolves around the concept of the “atelier,” a French word which means “an artist’s special workshop.” Instead of counters with chafing dishes seen in most buffet restaurants, real kitchens have been set up here so customers can see the food prepared in front of them.
“Every single thing is prepared in front of your eyes instead of cooking in the back kitchen, opening the chafing dish and serve,” Aleks told ABS-CBNnews.com. “And that’s the difference, because the food quality is the best in the first three minutes of preparation. Everything afterwards becomes, you know, preheated food.”
“So this is what we’re trying to do. We call it a la minute food. So it’s really prepared a la minute for the guests.”
The new Spiral has a total area of 2,921 square meters, and is divided into 21 dining ateliers: Salad and Appetizer, L’Ecailler (seafood served with a variety of sauces), Sushi and Sashimi, L’Epicerie (meat and cheese), Hot Japanese, French stove (foie gras and other French dishes), Rotisserie (slow-cooked meats), Wood-fired Oven (pizzas), Churrasco (Brazilian-style skewered steaks and seafood), North Indian, Asian Noodles, Peking Duck Oven, Chinese Wok, Steam Baskets, Filipino, Thai, Korean, La Boulangerie (freshly baked breads), La Patisserie (French pastries), Chocolaterie (artisanal chocolates, truffles and pralines), and Creamery (different types of ice cream).
These stations are manned by chefs from around the world led by executive chef Eric Costille, who has worked for three-star Michelin restaurants in France and the Ritz Carlton at Osaka, Jakarta and Seoul. Costille was also the executive chef at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, and opened 12 restaurants at the Marina Bay Sands.
According to Aleks, their team traveled around Asia and Europe to search for the best dining concepts and ended up with the 21 ateliers.
“We wanted to find inspiration outside of Manila,” he shared. “We visited different countries to see what the rest of the world is doing.”
The buffet restaurant’s new design, a mix of Filipino and French, is just as impressive. Aleks said they tapped Japan’s Spin Design Studio, the same team responsible for the original Spiral and the new restaurants of Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong.
The new Spiral also has a new area called La Veranda, a glass-encased Parisian-style lounge where guests can literally see the sky while enjoying their meal. Servers at the restaurant also underwent training and a wardrobe makeover, with their new uniforms designed by popular Filipino fashion designer Rajo Laurel.
“It’s an artisan place. These guys who did the job here, the design studio, they are artisans. This amount of planning for one restaurant is something new for me, too,” Aleks said.
Asked if Spiral’s buffet will come at a steeper price, the general manager said, “There is not a huge increase, to be honest to you, because we’re a large restaurant with 450 seats. Maybe an increase of P200 or something for lunch and P300 to P400 for dinner.”
“The idea was to create something where people will always come back and experience it. If we make it too expensive, it won’t be too accessible,” he added.
View the slideshow to get a glimpse of the newly renovated Spiral buffet restaurant.