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The chef’s all-day al fresco dining restaurant will serve Italian and Spanish cuisine within the Palacio de Memoria in Parañaque.

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A year into the onslaught that is the COVID-19 pandemic, people are now slowly going out to dine as more establishments reopen. But the looming fear of the virus still reverberates in the minds of many. Opening a new restaurant is certainly a gutsy move in this uncertain time. But our host, Margarita Forés, is doing just that, with her new al fresco dining concept The Loggia.

Celebrating Heritage

The Loggia, which opened on March 9, is situated
inside the three-hectare grounds of Palacio de Memoria in Parañaque, near the
edge of Roxas Boulevard. The expansive, open air grounds enveloping the
seven-storey mansion seems like a fitting backdrop for Forés’ new dining
concept. With the pre-war mansion, guests feel like they have been transported
back into the glory days of Old Manila.

More importantly, the fresh air afforded by the
al fresco space will give guests a certain peace of mind with regards to their
health and safety. “We love this place,” says Forés, when welcoming us, wine in
hand. “I think this big open-air space is attuned to what the market is looking
for, precisely because the situation has not yet normalized.”

The Loggia is inside the three-hectare grounds of Palacio de Memoria in Parañaque

Forés, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef in
2016, describes her newest creation. “The Loggia is going to be an all-day
dining restaurant,” she says. “It’s meant to celebrate the heritage of the
space, and at the same time to allow the people to enjoy the outdoors.” She
says al fresco dining is the way to move forward in the new normal restaurant

“My relationship with Camille Lhuillier (General Manager of Palacio de Memoria) and their family, is a very close one,” continues Forés, now explaining the origins of The Loggia. “And as we all know, their father is the ambassador to Spain, and at the same time he was the ambassador to Italy. And, of course they know that I’ve always worked with Italian food.”

Outdoor Eats

Chef Margarita then describes the menu. “So
we’re doing an Italian menu, just very simple, light, tailored for outdoor
dining,” she says, adding that they will also incorporate Spanish cuisine as a
reference to Lhuillier’s father. “Maybe some paela or tapas. So
people can enjoy a little bit of Italy and of Spain.”

For the tasting event, Chef Margarita presented
an exhaustive menu consisting of antipasti, dips, salads, soups, pastas and

For the antipasti, we had Pate de Fegato,
served in crostini rounds and Fried Squash Flowers with Mascarpone Foam. There
was also an Artichoke and Parmigiano-Reggiano dip and an Asparagus and
Gruyere dip. For salads, there was an excellent selection of Negros Burrata,
served in sourdough squares. There were three variants: Prosciutto &
Truffle Paste; Cherry Tomatoes, Basil; and Lumpfish Caviar Duet.

“It’s meant to celebrate the heritage of the space, and at the same time to allow the people to enjoy the outdoors,” Forés sats of The Loggia.

The soups were served in small demitasse
cups. There were two: Classic Pappa al Pomodoro and Yellow Capsicum.

There were three pastas served. The Penne
Primavera in Cream was our favorite—made with yellow capsicums, corn, cherry
tomatoes, asparagus, and carrots. There was also a Spaghettini dish served with
prawns, scallops, and tomatoes, swimming in ginger butter. Another variant of
the spaghettini was served as well, which used anchovy butter.

For the mains, there was Cotoletta of Chicken
Breasts, served with rucola leaves and cherry tomatoes. There was Lamb Shoulder
Brasato, with mint butter. And finally, we were served a scrumptious portion of
Grilled Australian Beef Tenderloin, stuffed with the smoky flavors of scamorza

For dessert, we had Mango-Prosecco Tiramisu, and
Lemon-Olive Oil Cake.

Dining Adaptation

Apart from dinner, we also asked Forés on how
the business climate changed during the pandemic. How they adapted to the
current situation, and how she planned to move forward.

“Definitely, the health protocols had to be
adjusted. Most especially for catering events, because we’re not just running
The Loggia here, we do catering events as well. The protocols have to be
totally different,” she says. They veer away from buffets, and are now mostly
doing plated formats. Their wait staff are not just wearing masks and face
shields but also gloves. They also use food cloches, or food covers, when they
serve the dish.

“It’s been a challenge. In the past, we would do
events for 300 to 400 people. But now it’s down to the minimum that’s allowed
by the government. The maximum diners allowed now are down to 20 to 25 pax,”
she says. “Or, depending on the size of the area, the number of people allowed
to dine are ¼ of the people that are normally allowed in that space.”

From left: Lemon-Olive Oil Cake; Grilled Australian Beef Tenderloin with Scamorza Cheese

Despite the restrictions set by the government, Forés
is excited to work with the space afforded by Palacio de Memoria. Apart from
The Loggia, the chef is able to do different catering configurations in the
three-hectare property.

“We’re available to do a variety of catering
setups in the whole space, we can even do events in Elvis’ airplane,” shares
Forés, pointing at the vintage airplane parked in the grounds of the property.
“We can also do setups on the garden floor, where guests can sit on banig
or throw pillows.”

Heritage Tourism

“We’re just very happy to partner with the
Lhuilliers. They’re very supportive, and we feel strongly about our partnership,”
Forés says. “They really want to celebrate this place. We see the potential
here. Especially since people nowadays are looking for nice heritage spaces
that also allow them to get some fresh air.”

Forés notes how Department of Tourism Secretary
Berna Puyat recently visited and had lunch at The Loggia in Palacio de Memoria.
Chef Margarita explained how Secretary Puyat understands the importance of
establishments like Palacio de Memoria in supporting heritage tours around
historic Old Manila.

From left: Cotoletta of Chicken Breasts; Lamb Shoulder Brasato with Mint Butter

“If people do tours in Intramuros or in the Bay Area, people can have lunch here after or have dinner. They can have cocktails at the bar,” Forés says. “In the future, they’re going to do cigar events here as well, and wine tastings and whiskey classes. Eventually I’ll be doing cooking classes here at the venue as well so it’s all very exciting.”

The Loggia is located at Palacio de Memoria, 95 Roxas Boulevard, Barangay Tambo, Parañaque. For more information, visit them on Facebook.

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