Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Lorenza (Tacloban City, Leyte)

Date of Stay: December 23-24, 2015
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ********
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: *******
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: ******
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: ******

Hotel Lorenza

Hotel lobby
Stairway
On November 22, 2013, just 14 days after Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) devastated Tacloban City and the rest of the Eastern Visayas Region, Hotel Lorenza opened its doors to the 30 relief workers from Samaritan's Purse, an internationally known evangelical Christian, non-profit organization.  
Only 31 rooms were then ready for occupancy and only 12 of these were fully furnished.
Front Desk

This 4-storey boutique hotel now has 50 tastefully appointed airconditioned rooms (some non smoking) with private ensuite bathroom (with hot and cold shower), flat screen cable TV, seating area, hair dryer, coffee and tea making facility, blackout curtains and wireless internet access.  
Rates are a bit pricey - Standard Single (PhP1,700), Standard Double (PhP2,400), Superior De Luxe (PhP2,650), Premium De Luxe (PhP2,800), Superior Double De Luxe (PhP3,000), Junior Suite (PhP3,500), Executive Suite  (PhP4,000). Extra bed: PhP450. They serve breakfast but it is not free.  The hotel staff was very friendly.
Executive Suite

The hotel also has a coffee shop (Lilybelle’s Café, named after Chairman of the Board and matriarch - Lily A. Montejo) and a conference room (Anastacio’s Hall).  

The Montejo family also owns and operates Hotel Alejandro. Hotel Lorenza is very conveniently located in front of Divine Word Hospital and just near the downtown district.  Al fresco barbecue and "kakanins" are sold in a small hut outside. It is also very near major establishments such as malls, spa, restaurants, drugstores, coffee shops, internet cafe and banks. Jeepneys and tricycles are just around the corner. 
Lilybelle's Cafe

Hotel Lorenza: 160 Avenida Veteranos, 6500 Tacloban, Leyte. Tel: (053) 321-5056 and (053) 321-5057.  Mobile numbers (0927) 864-5775 (Globe) and (0949) 470-5615 (Smart).  E-mail: hotellorenza.tacloban@yahoo.com. Website: www.hotellorenza.com.ph.  Gen. Manager: Ms. Jennifer Montejo.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Hotel and Inn Review: Ovolo Southside (Hong Kong)

Date of Stay: December 11-14, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ******
Rooms: *********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: *******
Room Comfort: ********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: ********

Ovolo Southside

Main entrance along Yip Fat St.
Ovolo Southside, designed by visionary award-winning Hong Kong-based British architect Paul Kember (director and founding partner of K Plus K Associates), is Hong Kong’s first warehouse-turned-hotel.  

The very nice and trendy hotel maintained the formerly unused factory warehouse’s (acquired in 2008) original structure and exposed concrete and brick façade, a design that references the area’s industrial past. 

The decor of the hotel’s public spaces is deliberately industrial, with plain grey concrete walls and exposed pipes that are decorated with a burst of vibrant colors from modern graffiti, cutting edge graphic motifs and art installations, all specially commissioned works from a striking anthology of both local and international artists.
Reception Desk with machinery parts

Reception Area
This 23-storey, smoke-free (violators are fined HK$1,500 per occurrence) hotel has 162 modern-style, tastefully decorated and clean, open-plan airconditioned rooms (Mini Queen/Twin, Queen De Luxe, Corner De Luxe Queen, Corner Queen and Long Loft Queen), all of different sizes and shapes and thoughtfully spaced to maximize comfort and functionality.  
The Long Loft Queen room (Room 1504) that we stayed in, with its own living area with woven jute carpet, had a Minimalist feel, with a complex but disciplined maze of steel water pipes and foil-wrapped air-conditioning pipes overhead, all balanced, well ordered, clean and aligned at the exposed, high slab ceiling (with paint of pale grey and dark earth tones), plus 1950s-inspired steel furniture, vinyl timber flooring and heavy-duty fixtures.
Long Loft Room

However, the facilities are anything but industrial as they cater to modern tech demands, with two wall-mounted flat-screen LG 3D Smart TVs (Blu-ray DVD players available upon request), magnetic key card door locks, track lighting, a safety deposit box, a minibar and mechanically-operated retractable blinds. 
The private bathrooms, accessed by a sliding door, have rainfall shower and also comes with a hairdryer and free toiletries (soap, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.). City or mountain views can be enjoyed in rooms. The corner rooms have great views towards Repulse Bay. 
The flat-screen 3D Smart TV

Laundromat
View from room
Entrance to the hotel is along Yip Fat St..  Room rates include a handy, stylish utility bag; free super-speed Wi-Fi access (including Apple Air, with  access to over 11,000 WiFi hot spots across Hong Kong); free self-laundry (including washing powder, iron and ironing board available upon request) at its lovely laundromat; complimentary minibar (restocked every day, there are some items that are marked as "take with you”); direct telephone lines; power adapters; slippers; coffee/tea making facility; a loot bag full of special treats (offered once per stay), and flexible checkout (subject to availability), all nice unexpected additions.  Some rooms are smaller than others, so it would depend on what you need it for and how much time you will spend in your room. The rooms are not big but they are very clean.
Cirqle

The 4th floor Cirqle, Ovolo’s most sought after restaurant/coffee shop with a buzzing open-view kitchen (you can watch the chef work at full speed) and an expansive outdoor terrace, serves Western-style grill, tapas-style lunch, delectable full-course dinners and a sublime selection of sharing desserts and wines.  Their selection of East Asian-inspired Mediterranean cuisine was very simple but really good and done with style. 


Spatchcocked Spring Chicken

Orecchiette Pasta
Pellegrino Sparkling Mineral Water
Breakfast, 6:30- 10 AM on weekdays (10:30 AM on weekends), was principally Continental fare of a good quality - sliced bread, croissants, muffins, jam, ham, cheese, fresh fruit, muesli, corn flakes, fresh fruit, orange juice, apple juice, coffee, tea, milk, etc..  This "modern alternative bistro" is open daily, 12 PM – 3 PM and 6 PM – 11 PM.
The hip and chic Above roof deck bar

The hip, chic and edgy Above, the hotel’s iconoclastic roof deck bar at the 23rd  floor, is great and very relaxed, with a wide range of exquisite drinks and wild and modern specialty cocktails, a stunning street art mural behind the bar as well as other edgy street artwork; specially curated funky DJ sets to dance with; intimate spaces; and beautiful and stunning views of Wong Chuk Hang and the cable cars of Ocean Park from its expansive terrace. Open daily, 5 PM – 1 AM (Mondays-Fridays) and 2 PM - 1 AM (Saturdays-Sundays).
The sleek and versatile Lo Lounge

Alternatively, at the 4th floor, the sleek and versatile Lo Lounge, a multipurpose social area with sleek industrial and utilitarian design, guests can grab coffee in the morning, work, network, relax, savor all-day nibbles and sodas, enjoy a game of pool and indulge in free happy hour (6 to 8 PM) of free-flowing wine, beers, spirits, coffee (brewed, expresso, cappuccino, etc.) and tea plus finger foods  such as tortilla chips, Nachos, baguettes and vegetable spring rolls with tomato salsa or mayo dip).  
The incredible and dynamic G.I.G. events place

G.I.G., the incredible and dynamic events place and multipurpose space with a tall ceiling, within a cool converted car park at the ground floor, features full audio-visual and staging technology including a centerpiece revolving stage (originally a truck turntable), state-of-the-art sound system and an exquisite 18 m. long video projection wall ideal for concerts, fashion shows, private parties, art exhibitions, corporate functions, cocktails and product launches and presentations.  
The Mao-style B.i.G. conference room

Instead of boardroom style seating, the Mao-style but modern, animated and eclectically-designed B.i.G conference room offers plush, reclining leather armchairs against an exotic Chinese fabric wall (no stodgy center table), white boards, projectors, surround sound, and PlayStation 4, making it a perfect spot for meetings, brainstorming, creative exchanges and entertaining. 
The hotel's onsite fitness center

Punching bag and
boxing gloves
Ovolo Southside has a 24-hour front desk and 24-hour onsite fitness center (fully equipped with cardio, weights, TRX Suspension Training, yoga mats, punching bag, boxing gloves, etc.). The hotel offers free luggage storage service; room service; airport transfers; dry cleaning and laundry (if you fancy someone else doing your dirty laundry) service; and concierge service.  

They also have some iPad tablets, packed with movies and apps, available for free hire. Video game consoles (Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii), along with games and controllers, are available from the Reception.  
Corner Room with a great view towards Repulse Bay

Mini Twin Room
Location-wise, the hotel is near Ocean Park (a 5-min. drive) but not close to the city center. However, there's a bus station nearby so it is very easy to travel to Causeway Bay (a 10-min. drive) or other central areas on Hong Kong Island.  

A trip to anywhere would require a trip on a bus first but the transportation systems are excellent and shouldn't deter you from staying at this hotel. Get an Octopus travel card and that’s sorted out. Moreover, in 2016, once the Wong Chuk Hang MTR Station opens direct to Ocean Park, this hotel will be incredible.
De Luxe Queen Room

Wong Chuk Hang Road
The Southern District, formerly a rundown industrial zone but now a "gentrified village" with an artsy vibe, has undergone urban revitalization, with art galleries; shops; hip furnishing stores, reclaimed heritage buildings, boutiques; fancy restaurants, cafes and swanky cocktail places and bars; and surrounded by the sports facilities (Aberdeen Athletic Field and Wong Chuk Hang Recreation Ground), is a great choice for travelers interested in sightseeing, shopping for clothes and Hong Kong Disneyland as well as a springboard for exploring one of the last bastions of authentic Hong Kong.
This unique gem, hidden in an industrial area close to Aberdeen, is somewhere between an art gallery, a private club and a friend's house.  The great concierge staff was also very professional, very helpful and friendly. Definitely a great hotel where one can get some peace and quiet away from the hectic city life. I would definitely recommend staying in this hotel to others if they don't mind that the location is far from the city. 
The author at  nearby Ocean Park




















Ovolo Southside: 64 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, Southern District, Hong Kong. Tel:+852 3460 8100 and +852 5808 2759. Email: info@ovologroup.com.  Website: www.ovolohotels.com. Gen. Manager: Mr. Tim Alpe, Front Desk Manager: Mr. Stefan Borm.

How To Get There: The hotel is located 42.6 kms. (about a 1 hour and 20 min. drive) from the airport.  From the Airport Station, take the 32-min. subway (3 stops, HK$80/pax) towards Hong Kong Station.  From there, walk to the Exchange Square Bus Terminus and take the No. 70. 590, 75 or 90 Bus (Hk$4.70/pax) towards Aberdeen (15 mins., 5 stops).  Upon reaching the Aberdeen Athletic Field, walk towards the hotel. You can also take the Red taxi from the airport (HK$300-400, depending on traffic)

Friday, 30 October 2015

Restaurant Review: Surf Shack (San Juan, La Union)

Surf Shack

Surf Shack, located behind Moonleaf Tea Shop and directly across the National Highway from San Juan Surf Resort, is a low-key yet awesome bar and restaurant with a very laid-back setup. 

It’s a perfect open-air hangout spot for sun, sea and surf worshipers as well as casual diners, with a cool setting of outdoor tables with candles; hip and colorful seats; trees; good acoustic music for relaxation; photos of surfers and surf boards on display along walls lined with horizontal wood planks.  

The diners are protected from the elements by a clear plastic roof above their heads. The band area is located on the far side of the room.

Surf Shack is known in the surf community for its sumptuous but very affordable (most of their meals are priced below PhP300) comfort food served in generous portions. 

Their quite varied, extensive, tasty and thoughtful, day-to-day menu includes different kinds of pasta; pizza; rice meals; sandwiches; quesadillas; salads (PHp188-268); burgers (PhP218) and Mexican burritos (with their own side servings of potato chips and nachos); Indian chapatti (PhP108), chicken curry (PhP128) and papadum (PhP98); soup (clam chowder, PhP208, and pumpkin soup, PhP168); chicken wings and more plus, occasionally, fresh-off-the-boat seafood such as freshly shucked oysters (PhP168), mussels (PhP188) and clams (PhP198).
Golden Tinapa Pesto Pasta

Buffalo Wings Bucket of 8
During our visit, we tried out some of their bestsellers.  The Buffalo Wings Bucket (PhP258), consisting of 8 pieces of New York-style, deep-fried chicken wings dunked in their original and very tasty BBQ sauce, was super. 

Then there’s the local chef’s rendition of Italian brick oven pizza and pasta dishes, putting a unique twist by using local ingredients such as bagnet, tuyo, longanisa and the like.  

The Golden Tinapa Pesto Pasta (PhP278), with fresh basil pesto, olives and capers had, as its piece de resistance, golden tinapa flakes trickled with Parmesan cheese and chopped cashew nuts. The Vongole Blanco Pasta (PhP298), a favorite of mine, had spaghettini swimming in locally sourced Pacific clams sautéed in white wine and cilantro.  
Vongole Blanco Pasta

Baclus (Half Bacnotan and Half Mommy  Lu's Pizza)
The Bacnotan Longanisa Pizza (PhP258), with tomato concasse, a small slice of very savory Bacnotan longanisa and a fresh egg in the center balanced on a thin and crispy crust “board," was surprisingly cheesy and good. 

The highly recommended Mommy Lu’s Gourmet Tuyo Pizza (PhP298) was also something else as salty meets sweet with fresh tomato concasse, mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, black olives, chopped long pepper and slivers of tuyo flakes. We also tried out the Baclus - half Bacnotan and half Mommy  Lu's Pizza (PhP298).
Mommy Lu's Gourmet Tuyo Pizza

Blonde and Amber Wheat Beer
Surf Shack also had e a great cocktail and drinks list, with original cocktails and even imported beers such as Blue Moon (with a slice of orange) on hand. 

The Bang Da Base (PhP158) we drank, a Surf Shack specialty served in mason jars, is a cocktail drink made with basi (sugar cane wine).  

Their signature beers (Amber wheat and Blonde) were smooth and great.  Water was served, with a slice of lime, on cute recycled mayonnaise jars.

Bang Da Bass

Surf Shack: 293 National Highway, Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union. Tel: (072) 607 4914. Open daily, 10 AM to 10 PM.