“1988 was my luckiest year because I had twins: my restaurant, and my daughter.”
My father, the restaurateur Ricky Gutierrez, likely only said this once, but his words left a lasting impression on me. From then on, I began to think of Chateau 1771 as a kind of twin sister.
Given we were “born” the same year, I can barely remember the first Chateau 1771. It started out as a quaint French bistro on 1771 Adriatico Street, Malate, on the first floor of my grandmother’s guest house Malate Pensionne. I have vague impressions of cozy, dimly lit interiors with lots of dark wood—from the tables, chairs, and bar, to the railing (which my sister says came from Malate church) that separated the front of the room from a more intimate dining area one step up. Big windows overlooked the lush garden my grandfather kept, and I would often play by its pond as soon as lunch was done. A beautiful wall of bougainvillea shielded the garden from the hustle and bustle of the street. Couples enjoying a romantic dinner at Chateau often spotted my grandmother taking her evening stroll on the grass.
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When my father opened Chateau 1771, Malate was in its heyday—a bohemian playground teeming with bars and restaurants, frequented by artists, couples, and partygoers. Guests loved the bistro’s old world charm and French food, which Chef Vicky Pacheco adapted for the Filipino palate. One such visitor was the late artist Onib Olmedo. While I can’t recall meeting the man, I grew up surrounded by his paintings: expressionist portraits of Chateau guests and servers in dark, brooding colors. Every morning at 10:00 a.m. Olmedo would sit at the veranda facing the garden, sipping his coffee while sketching portraits of the backpackers and students who stayed in the guest house.
In exchange for free meals, he would pay my father back in paintings. When Chateau 1771 opened, he designed the restaurant logo and the cover of the menu. Over the years, his paintings have lent character to every incarnation of Chateau, and he liked to call the restaurant his “permanent exhibit.”
While Chateau 1771’s menu started out as purely French, Chef Vicky eventually began to take inspiration from Asian, Swiss, and Italian cuisine as well. These experiments resulted in Chateau 1771’s No Borders Cuisine. Her first signature dish was the well-loved Lemon Chicken: a twist on a Chinese dish with white wine and honey added to the sauce, cooked and plated the French way. In her Inquirer column, Doreen Fernandez described Chateau as “a Frenchy, cost-friendly place for food on the continental side. Since it was not strictly traditionally French, it could innovate, fuse.”
As the times changed, so did Chateau. Many of its loyal patrons worked in Asian Development Bank, and when the company relocated from Roxas Boulevard to Ortigas, my father saw potential in the budding business district. And so he moved Chateau 1771 to El Pueblo Real de Manila.
This was the incarnation of Chateau that I grew up with, and that is dearest to my heart. It truly resembled a house with its tiled roof and tomato-red walls, and the homey accents like cloth window blinds, wall lamps, and flowers. Wrought-iron gates from my father’s old house served as a divider between the reception area and the bar.
For businessmen from neighboring office buildings, Chateau 1771 Ortigas became their “lucky” place for closing deals and contract signings. Just as in its previous location, it was also a popular date place, and saw its fair share of wedding proposals.
But I remember it best as the place where my family always had Sunday breakfast with my maternal grandparents. After 7:30 a.m. mass, we would sit at a booth next to a large window with a view of ADB Avenue. When I picture Chateau 1771’s foyer, I recall the warm smile and crushing hugs my lolo gave me there. As my sisters chattered away, I would savor my favorite Vigan longganisa while reveling in the restaurant’s quiet, refined yet homey atmosphere, with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons playing in the background. To this day, if I recognize a piece of classical music, it’s probably because I heard it at Chateau.
Chateau 1771 has changed locations several times over the years, with its ambience changing to match its surroundings and its patrons’ changing tastes. But I like to think that it is always a home—a place where the servers remember you and your preferences, where you can make new memories and enjoy the same dishes you’ve loved over the years with family and friends.