When I think of business hotels or business districts, I imagine cold, gray areas with no personality. Yes, I appreciate the minimalist feel and the technological advances, but there’s something to be said for warm, inviting spaces with character. Mercure Manila Ortigas is one of those.
Mercure Manila Ortigas is the latest property of AccorHotels, the French hotel chain that operates Sofitel, Raffles Hotel, Fairmont Hotel, and Novotel. And when you’re part of a family that manages these world-class properties, it’s a fact that this is going to be good, too.
Mercure is located in the heart of Ortigas, along San Miguel Avenue. Its location is an advantage for those who have business in the area, like the San Miguel Corporation, whose headquarters is just across the road. Make no mistake, though. The hotel is not just for businessmen – it is also perfect for those who want a staycation or who want to enjoy Metro Manila. SM Megamall and Shangri-La Plaza are within walking distance, and EDSA is a stone’s throw away for those who want to explore the rest of the city.
I was invited to stay at the hotel, and decided to spend my two nights inside. From the minute I got out of the car, I felt the hospitality that I would learn about later on. A hotel porter ushered me into the second floor lobby, where I was warmly greeted in the reception. After a quick and hassle-free check-in, I was escorted to the 20th floor, where my room was. The porter cheerfully recommended that I try Kalesa, Mercure’s restaurant, while we were on our way up.
The Room Part 1
I was billeted at one of the 38 sq. m. Deluxe Rooms, a large space in a time when condo spaces are shrinking inch by inch. After the porter explained how the different machineries in the room worked, I was able to take in the beauty of the room. The room was dominated by an inviting king-sized bed, with a beautiful Ifugao-inspired headboard. There was also a lovely orange chair I spent hours on just watching the view outside (the San Miguel Corporation headquarters and the Ortigas CBD), a functional desk where I worked, and the standard mini-bar with drinks, coffee, and tea. The Deluxe Room also had an espresso machine where I enjoyed morning coffee from Illy.
The bathroom was spacious, and had a rainfall showerhead, which I really liked. I indulged myself with countless piping-hot showers using the Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries (only available in Deluxe Rooms).
I worked for a bit then headed down to the third floor to have dinner at Kalesa. I was to try Chef Patricia Mesina’s inventive take on Filipino food. The flavors were familiar yet had a unique twist, which I liked.
Dinner started with the unusual Seafood Salad Roll (P320), a shrimp and kani salad rolled in nori and panko breadcrumbs, deep fried and topped with ebiko, drizzled with wasabi vinaigrette, soy-balsamic reduction, and mango coulis. It’s exactly like a California maki, except they removed the rice and added more seafood. It’s light and refreshing, and I admit finishing the entire dish.
This was followed be a second appetizer, the Sesame-Crusted Seared Tuna Tataki (P400), which has wasabi vinaigrette, citrus soy reduction, crispy wonton, garlic bokchoy, ebiko, and nori strips. This is one of Chef Pat’s most skillfully-made dishes, which combines seemingly unrelated flavor profiles into a meaningful and tasty whole.
To wash down the appetizers, I had a bowl of Trio of Fresh Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil (P300), a warming dish perfect for the holiday season. The flavor is rich, and you can really taste the play between different kinds of mushrooms.
For my main course, I tried the Char-Grilled Spatchcock Chicken with Lemongrass Cajun Spice Rub (P940), an interactive dish that will encourage you to eat with your hands. The chicken is tender and bursting with juices on the inside, while the skin is crunchy and flavorful. You can use the salsa verde or the sriracha garlic yogurt dip to enhance your meal, but I chose to enjoy the chicken’s own flavor. The chicken is paired with wholewheat flour tortilla, which you can use to wrap around the cucumber ensalada, sauteed vegetables, and the caramelized onion. It’s a bit messy to eat, but totally worth it.
I also got to try the Beef Ribeye Salpicao (P890), a Filipino classic elevated through the use of beef ribeye. The beef was as soft as a pillow, and the sauce was so tasty that I instantly craved for a heaping of steaming rice.
Alas, I couldn’t get my wish because I was also served two kinds of paella: the paella risotto and the paella negra. I especially loved the paella risotto, which had generous servings of chorizo, eggs, vegetables, and tomato paste. It actually tasted as if Chef Pat crushed a dozen tomatoes to make this dish even more decadent. I usually avoid the paella negra because it stains teeth, but it looked so appetizing that I had to have a bite. I almost finished it.
To cap off dinner, I had the Suman Latik and Mango Flambe with Cheese Ice Cream (P310), a sculptural treat that looked too good to slice. It’s usually served with vanilla ice cream but Chef Pat decided to try cheese. Good choice. The combination of textures and flavors proves just how talented the chef is. As a desserts guy, I devoured the whole thing.
The Room Part 2
I headed back to the room with a heavy stomach. After a long hot shower, I sank into the majestic bed and wrapped myself with the thick pillows and blanket. It was like being surrounded by clouds. To maximize my staycation, I decided to watch the last few episodes of the third season of House of Cards on the 43 inch TV and fell asleep.
The following day, I was able to explore the hotel and tour the other rooms. Mercure Manila Ortigas has a total of 150 rooms. There are 50 24 sq. m. Standard Rooms with queen beds, 60 26 s. m. Superior Rooms with king, queen, or twin beds, and 40 Deluxe Rooms with king or twin beds. There is not much difference between the Deluxe Rooms with the Standard and Superior Rooms except the size, an additional chair, the espresso machine, and the toiletries, so booking a room will assure that you’ll get the same experience AccorHotels is known to give.
The night before, the Salmon Eggs Benedict was recommended to me for breakfast so I decided to try it my first morning. The restaurant is also at Kalesa, and they served a wide array of breakfast favorites. But I was scheduled to try the business lunch, so I only had a glass of soy milk and the Salmon Eggs Benedict. Generosity seems to be the keyword for Kalesa as the dish was overflowing with hollandaise sauce, which I loved.
I had a heavier breakfast the following morning, where I had another Salmon Eggs Benedict, and a few servings of salmon sashimi. As you can tell, I like my salmon.
The Business Lunch is a four-course meal offered by Mercure for businessmen who want to mix business with pleasure. As a diner, the Business Lunch is a way to enjoy Chef Pat’s kitchen innovations without having to figure out what to order. The Business Lunch is P675 nett.
The first course is soup, and can either be the soup of the day or the Tomato Bisque. The soup of the day was the Trio of Fresh Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil, which tasted just as good. The Tomato Bisque is a rich and creamy soup that will open up your tastebuds for the following courses. The soup was joined by the Kalesa Salad, which has grapes, apples, mango, olives, capers, mixed lettuce and fresh herbs, Laguna white cheese, roasted local nuts, and drizzled with balsamic glaze and Italian vinaigrette.
For the entree, guests can choose between the Twice-Cooked Lemongrass Cajun Chicken with Corn on the Cob, the US Angus Roast Beef Kare-Kare, or the Grilled Rosemary and Sage Porkchop with Cerveza Gravy. I was a lucky guest and I got to try all three! The Twice-Cooked Lemongrass Cajun Chicken with Corn on the Cob had the same juiciness and crunch to the Char-Grilled Spatchcock Chicken with Lemongrass Cajun Spice Rub from dinner. The Grilled Rosemary and Sage Porkchop with Cerveza Gravy was a curious dish with a unique sauce. My favorite is the US Angus Roast Beef Kare-Kare. I already love kare-kare, but the incredibly soft US Angus roast beef just took this local dish up a notch. It was so good!
I capped off the meal with the Buko Pandan Panna Cotta, a decadent version of a dessert we all grew up with. Another lucky stroke: they allowed me to try the famed Tablea Chocolate Cake, a sinful dessert made in-house. The taste is rich, and needless to say, I finished it.
So what kind of experience does Mercure Manila Ortigas give? There are more than 700 Mercure properties in 56 countries, and each hotel gives a different experience. They take inspiration from the country they’re in, so the property in Ortigas features local touches like the Ifugao print on the headboard, the Filipino art in Kalesa, the metalwork in the lobby designed by a local artist, and the sweeping 10 foot painting featuring a tableau in the Spanish era. The only thing that unites all Mercure properties is the world-class service.
The young and upbeat nature of the hotel applies to its staff. Like the porter who cheerfully escorted me to my room, the other employees were just as attentive. On my first night, I was having trouble operating the USB port to watch my series. I called room service (at around 11pm) and a representative gamely helped me with my issue.
The attendants at Kalesa anticipated my every need during breakfast. Mercure Manila Ortigas seems to be firm believers in the concept of omotenashi, the Japanese spirit of hospitality that anticipates a guest’s needs before it arises.
After I checked out, I was standing in the downstairs lobby waiting for my car to arrive. The traffic at San Miguel Avenue was bad (as usual), so I ended up waiting. The hotel porter asked for my car’s plate number and stood outside waiting for it.
He knew I was already checked out (I had my bags with me already) so technically, he didn’t need to do anything for me. This is a thing I noticed in other establishments: once you’ve settled your bill, they don’t care about what you do. But this hotel porter offered to wait in the heat outside for around 10 minutes, and when he saw my car, he flagged it down, entered the hotel and told me with a smile that it was there.
Now that’s an experience.
Mercure Manila Ortigas is located in 45 San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. For inquiries and reservations, you may call 23174000 or visit their website at www.mercure.com/Manila.