Saturday, April 5, 2014

Olives Restaurant at Thunderbird Resort Rizal

With Semana Santa just a few more days away, it seems as if everyone's been busy planning a trip either out of the country, out of the city, or into a hotel suite - anywhere to get away from the doggone heat! For the people down south, this usually means Tagaytay or Batangas, while for people up north it's Antipolo or Baguio thereabouts. Hehe... I'm obviously not a Northman.

I had never been to Binangonan before (gasp!), so when Olives opened in Thunderbird Resort Rizal, a quick trip up there was in order. We were supposed to take Jericho's car, but the trip up was way too far for us, coming from Las Piñas, and Jericho wasn't in the mood for the long drive, so we took one of the free shuttle service that regularly picks up and drops off people there.

The honest truth was, I wasn't expecting much. I mean, what else is there to see in Binangonon anyway? But it seems I had underestimated the city up on a mountain, as what I saw turned out to be one of the best excuses to head up there whenever an occasion or the heat warrants it.

The trip from Makati to Binangonon Rizal was about an hour and we passed through the new (at least to me) C6 route, before snaking up the winding Antipolo mountain into the vast property of Thunderbird Resort. I was asleep for most of the trip up and didn't really know what to expect when we got there.

What greeted me were the red tiled roofs of the resort's Tuscany-inspired property as well as the very warm management team of Thunderbird Resort. I got a glass of wine seconds after stepping out of the car - now that's hospitality! I was liking the place already!

The first thing that caught my eye while walking up to the property was the pool. It took up most of the space between the restaurant and the hotel, surrounded by lounge chairs just aching for someone to lay out on them, with a bottle of sun tan lotion. Even the view from the pool was spectacular, looking out over Rizal and the faraway mountains on what seems to be the other side of the world.

Tearing my eyes away from the spectacular view, I walked over to Olives, the newest restaurant at Thunderbird Rizal, which was right across from the pool area. How convenient. This is a sister branch of the Olives at Thunderbird Poro Point, the Santorini-inspired property in La Union.

The guys who run the resort say this area used to be a simple grill spot before they turned it into an actual restaurant. Olives is quite fitting, as the Italian fare that it offers is perfect with the Tuscan-themed family resort.

The restaurant's interiors are simple and rustic with the furniture giving the place a modern twist. There are big glass windows facing the 18-hole golf course outside. I love the Philippe Starck-ish ghost chairs that looked amazing drenched in all that sunlight. Although I wish they'd swap out the tacky looking red cloth napkins and swap it out for something a bit simpler - it looks so out of place (and old) in the casual restaurant setting.

On the other side of the big glass window, there's a brick oven with a small area for the chefs to roll out Italian dough and put together fresh pizzas with every order. They import the Italian flour that they use for the pizza dough, making each bite firm yet chewy - just the way pizza is supposed to be.

There was a small lunch buffet with samplings from the menu, as well as lots of fresh pizzas going around the room. In lieu of rice, there was risotto that went well with all of the dishes, but I especially liked the salmon, which was tender and flaky and still pretty moist, even though it had been sitting out at the buffet station for a while.

The wine selection is pretty good, too, which is a heaven send as being stuck up on a mountain with a view this wonderful and a pool this inviting with no vino can be such a buzzkill. I had a very nice glass of fruity white wine upon coming in and a sweeter dessert wine to end the night.

It was dusk by the time Jericho and I left to head back to the city, so we savored the view for one last time, staring out at the clouds in its varying shades of pink and purple, before heading back down. Who would have ever thought that a resort up in Antipolo could be so romantic?

When mucking around Antipolo this upcoming Holy Week, book a suite at the gorgeous Thunderbird Resort Rizal and get away from the noise of the city. Get back to nature, play an 18-hole golf game, or lounge by the pool and work on that tan - you don't need to take a plane ride to enjoy this, just a free shuttle service if you're too lazy to drive! What's more, Thunderbird Resort Rizal is working on adding a zipline and archery range to the vast property. How exciting! I can't wait to go back to check it out once it opens! This is definitely going to be one of my not-so-secret sanctuaries.

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+63 2 651 6888
+63 908 815 9038
Eastridge Avenue,
Binangonan, Rizal