Makati’s Poblacion has been touted as a buzzing and must-visit portion of Metro Manila for a couple of years now, with international magazines even hailing the nightlife scene there as one of the most quirky in the country. It’s perhaps of no surprise then that when I checked in at City Garden Grand Hotel, the bulk of hotel guests were foreign travelers spending a couple of days in Manila prior to flying off to the islands.
It is this contrast from my usual hotel experiences that marked the start of a series of pleasant surprises all throughout my stay. Whenever I find myself in a hotel in Manila over the weekend, I find most guests to be locals on staycations. But City Garden Grand Hotel seems to buck that trend by having a great overseas following. Even travel guidebooks such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guides cite this property as one of the more compelling places to stay in Makati, and rightly so.
City Garden Grand Hotel is located at the corner of Makati and Kalayaan and close to some of the hip cafes, bars and restaurants that Makati’s Poblacion is known for. For upscale shopping, there’s Powerplant Mall in Rockwell Center (5 to 10 minutes drive) and Ayala Center (10 to 15 minutes drive).
My stay coincided with New Year’s Eve and since the hotel has a nice rooftop bar, occupancy was high and it was pretty busy all throughout. One thing to note is that the building housing the hotel sits on a relatively small piece of land but the property is built high with 33 floors. I stayed in one of the higher floors which allowed for commanding views of Makati’s CBD.
City Garden Grand Hotel has 5 rooms types and for this particular stay, I was billeted at a Deluxe Twin Room. The room measures 36 square meters but as mine happened to be situated at the corner of the building, I would not be surprised if it is slightly bigger.
I love natural light and the best thing about my room was the windows spanning two corners. It’s just two bad that a big chunk of the curtains is concentrated by the exact corner – otherwise the window would have been great.
While City Garden Grand Hotel is more or less a full-service hotel, there are certain elements of it that remind me of a boutique hotel. For instance, air conditioning here is localized. Each room gets its own cooling system with remote – similar to the ones you may find in your own home – while the hardwood floor is a godsend for people like myself who easily get allergic with thick carpets. That said, there are fluffy area rugs here as well but I didn’t experience any problems with them.
The twin bed setup is more of a two double bed setup as each bed could comfortably fit two. The decor is dominated with a dark brown hue. Bottled water, tea and coffee are provided on complimentary basis. I like how responsive the housekeeping is. Any request I had was promptly attended to, including requests for additional bottled water and other amenities.
The bathroom came with a “shub” – or a shower and tub in one but my understanding is that it differs based on the room configuration. There are some rooms that come with its own shower area as well. Toiletries are from an inhouse brand.
As a full service property, City Garden Grand Hotel comes with plenty of wellness facilities. This includes a spa, gym and rooftop swimming pool. I was able to check out the gym for a short workout during my stay. It’s of modest size with enough equipment to cater to a short stay.
The swimming pool is located at the rooftop where one can also glimpse some nice views of Makati. Of all the times I’ve been in Manila, this was probably the first time I really felt like a tourist seeing the CBD skyline from so high up. For those looking to live it up, there’s also a small jacuzzi area just beside the swimming pool. I spotted quite a few families bonding there during my time at the rooftop.
Just beside the swimming pool and also located at the same level is Firefly, the rooftop bar and grill of the hotel. The cuisine here is a mix of local and Western with the likes of Crispy Pata and Kare Kare sharing the same space as sandwiches, pizza and pasta. At the time of my visit, I tried the Kare Kare – the delicious peanut stew with beef. While here, also make sure to try the grills. I tried the lamb rack which came well-flavored with less of the game-y scent typically associated with the meat.
Of course, the best thing about dining at Firefly is the view and what a majestic view it is! Even without considering the food, the view alone is enough reason to visit.
Breakfast on the other hand is served at Spice Cafe. I was fortunate to have stayed in the hotel during New Year’s when the property had put out a special Filipino-themed breakfast. Highlights then included the Cochinillo (Stuffed Suckling Pig), local rice cakes (kakanin) to supplement what is already quite a large buffet.
As with most upmarket hotels, the cuisine for breakfast at Spice Cafe is varied. On one hand, there are Chinese dishes and on the other, one finds staples such as bacon, ham and sausages. Fresh juices are also available at the bar.
After staying at City Garden Grand Hotel, it is easy to see why the property appeals so much to foreign travelers. I am quite amazed to find a locally branded property with such good service. Every request is attended to with a smile and more importantly, anything asked for is provided in a prompt manner. Add to this the value-for-money proposition. Spacious rooms, sublime views and an enhanced breakfast buffet spread are the key selling points of the City Garden Grand Hotel despite being priced markedly below the international chains. Personally, I also loved the hip Poblacion location that the hotel is situated in. I did not get to explore much of the neighborhood as most establishments were closed over the New Year’s. I will have to return some day.