I walked down the slate gray steps holding baby towards the glass doors of the lobby. Dutch, the lobby attendant ran to the door to open it for me. Without missing a beat he brought out the stroller and unfolded it.
Hotel Durban’s service punches above its weight, and is on par, if not better than most Manila hotels, which often have a “overstaff yet underserve” attitude. Not so at Durban. It is an oasis of calm in the moil of metro Manila traffic. And it is a great place to stay with baby.
A mix of modern art and antique pieces grace the hallways of Durban, Manila’s best boutique hotel. The rooms feature crisp white linens, wood-paneled floors and fluffy towels. The wifi is powerful and the air conditioning is strong yet quiet.
And then there’s breakfast. Manila is best in the morning and the weather can be downright pleasant, even a little cool, in the early hours. You can sit outside on the patio and sip your latte as the city gears up for another day. The roaring sounds of jeepneys on Makati Avenue are far enough away to seem charming.
For the morning meal I alternated between the tapa, a local specialty, and the crepes stuffed with homemade ricotta and hollandaise sauce, a unique twist of classic breakfast staples.
The in-house restaurant Farfalla has earned rave reviews as the best Italian restaurant in Manila for its traditional and authentic fare. I ate all of my dinners here and most of my lunches. When I realized how good the food was I decided to work through the menu. Then I tried the truffle cream pasta and my tastebuds chose to be stuck on repeat. I crave it right now as I write this post. The chef sources the truffles for the pappardelle from the island of Elba.
The orange salad has the ability to transport one from the tropics to the Mediterranean. It is the only place in town that can get right a semifreddo, and in the interesting flavors of nougat and black olive, with more flavors on the way. The menu changes seasonally.
And the best part, especially for Manila residents: when you request the check, your server will-this is crazy-immediately bring it to you. No need to remind him during the main course. Like the hotel, Farfalla’s staff provide excellent service.
Wait, did I walk into a Dwell spread?
The decor is contemporary Dutch with French elements: high-end, artistic furnishings that play on classical themes and act as a fun and thoughtful counterpoint to the strict and traditional approach of the food.
Baby is not yet on solids so did not take to the food like her mom. But the bright teal, cream and pine green of the wall art caught her eye. The piece, “Clouds” is a felt installation from Ligne Roset that also handily happens to serve as a sound dampener. So did the near life-size fiberglass horse and pig designed by Marcel Wanders, a lead designer from Mooi, a Dutch design studio.
Proprietor Antonio Jocson, whose family has owned the property for generations, states, “I wanted to take people as far away as possible from the Philippines and a traditional restaurant. I wanted people to feel like they were eating in an interesting art gallery, even though it’s just furniture.”
A trifecta of food, service and ambience. What more could you ask for? Oh yes, I forgot, the food and drinks are very reasonably priced: most of the mains are less than US$10.