CLARK -- Swissotel Clark’s Ristorante di Verona continues to serve the most sumptuous Sunday Brunch in Pampanga.
While the Verona Brunch Club has all the elements of what one looks for in a brunch — bread options aplenty, brunch fare, a free-flowing selection of drinks -- it goes a bit further by offering a full Italian menu with dishes cooked to order, a DJ playing music, and even an oyster bar.
Launched in the last quarter of 2022, this Sunday brunch experience is like no other in the Philippines and a terrific gustatory ending to any week in one of the country’s culinary capitals, Pampanga.
It's always good to start with the classics. A brunch selection of 9 dishes that feature the usual suspects -- there are eggs, waffles, pancakes and the ever-popular eggs benedict (that can be ordered two ways with salmon or prosciutto).
Eggs are cooked in any way you want them — poached with vegetable frittata, in an omelet or scrambled with cheese and vegetable fillings.
The pancakes are a fluffy treat with a hazelnut cream playfully squirted on from a tube. Waffles can be sweet with mixed berry and chocolate or sweet-savory with double dipped chicken and chili honey sauce.
If you want to start with something fresh, the freshest La Boudeusse oysters are available and served three ways— fresh with some mignonette, ala Rockefeller with spinach and cheese, or baked simply with cheese.
Fresh oysters are especially refreshing during a hot Pampanga day, and best enjoyed with a bellini, which is also part of the menu.
If you’re looking to leisurely graze for brunch, we recommend ordering a charcuterie board with a glass of wine (if you opt for the alcoholic drink add-on). Options include Grana Padano, Pecorino Sardo, sweet Gorgonzola, Taleggio for cheeses, and Prosciutto Cotto, Caccioterino, Nduja and Spicy Salami.
Want your vittles with bread? Bread comes to you in an overflowing cart of options like focaccia rounds with tomato or olives, grissini, Danish, and other pastries.
Now we come to the unique part of this brunch — a customizable 8-course Italian meal. The Verona Brunch Club gives diners the power to customize their menu from appetizer to dessert, with alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, and as it’s a buffet, diners can order their favorites again and again.
While you can start your meal with a straightforward order of bruscetta with bottarga, it was a surprise and a delight to find and eat the luxurious option of beef carpaccio in the menu with fresh and thin raw pieces of beef, topped with pine nuts, crispy parmesan, arugula and drizzled with cocktail sauce and a balsamic lemon reduction. It’s a smooth, decadent, and umami rich starter.
Care for some soup? The two options are mushroom or seafood green pea soup. This author prefers the mushroom soup with that delightful drizzle of delicious olive oil on top. Green pea soup though is not a common soup option any of the restaurants in the Philippines, so if you haven’t tried it, do try it.
Salad options are Caesar and seafood salad. The former is, of course, a classic, but the latter is an Italian favorite with seafood like mussels, squid, shrimp, served cold with a dressing of olive oil and lemon, with a sprinkling of Szechuan peppercorns and a splash of balsamic.
There’s nothing more Italian than pasta, and the choices include spaghetti carbonara, gnocchi tartufo, beef lasagna, and tortellini al brodo. The carbonara and the beef lasagna are kid-friendly and sure crowd-pleasers.
If you want your truffle and cream fix, the gnocchi tartufo are pillows of truffle delight. If you’ve never had tortellini, this is your chance! Tortellini are stuffed Italian dumplings inspired by Venus’ navel filled with meat and cheese, and in Ristorante di Verona, are served classically with a clear broth.
Risotto in a buffet! Choose between a risotto ai funghi (mushroom) or a risotto ai frutti di mare (seafood). Personally, both plates were great renditions of this iconic rice dish, so I suggest eating in a partner or a group and sharing portions.
The carb fest continues with mini pizza options of 4-Formaggi, Mare e Monti (Shrimp and Mushrooms), and Spicy Salame (Salami, Olives). The 4-cheese doesn’t scrimp on the gorgonzola, and the spicy salame was especially pleasing with whole olives on top.
The mains section of the menu has the most depth with five options for your entrée. Porchetta is an option, a thick slice roasted pork belly with crispy skin, served with potatoes and peas and pork gravy.
For beef, there are two options -- burger or steak. While tenderloin with truffled potatoes and veggies with a red wine reduction sauce seem like a no brainer to order, the Wagyu burger isn’t anything to scoff at either with its juicy double patty with beautifully charred edges (which added texture and flavor) with the usual hamburger accruements in a sesame seed bun, with a side of truffle fries.
Pesto chicken is the lone poultry option, grilled with pesto and served with a vegetable ratatouille.
There are two fish options: the pan-seared salmon served alongside marble potatoes, spinach and carrots and beurre blanc sauce; and the cod fish, pan-seared and crusted with pistachio, on a bed of spicy lemony chickpeas.
When you finally get to dessert, diners can choose between Swissotel’s signature cake – their Swiss chocolate cake that uses an heirloom recipe and Swiss chocolate, fruit tarts, a light and creamy mascarpone cheesecake, or the candied banana mille feuille –a multi-textured delight featuring caramelized bananas, flaky mille-feuille pastry, and luscious pastry cream.
The buffet starts at P3,888++ for the buffet with free-flowing non-alcoholic drinks. For options with free-flowing alcoholic drinks, it’s P4,888++ with wine, cocktails (including a gin cart), and beer, and P8,888++ with the former plus free-flowing Moet et Chandon Imperial Brut.