Even if Tagaytay is going the way of overdevelopment like Manila is, the neighboring town of Alfonso keeps the bucolic depiction of Cavite. In this environment, rolling fields and lush vegetation, coupled with good food, become the attractions of Marcia Adams restaurant.
From the street, you make a steep descent of stony pathways lined with bright ornamentals and bamboo and a moss-covered statue of a woman carrying an urn, emerging from the foliage.
The Marcia Adams restaurant is a cluster of vine-covered adobe bungalows that overlook the idyllic countryside.
Its main dining hall has a rustic Tuscan look, with earthen flooring bordered with Machuca tiles. It has a textured stone wall finish and exposed trusses. The bamboo beams give it a local touch.
The color palette is Italian countryside— earth tones suggestive of the hillside.
Mismatched antique wooden chairs, upholstered with patchwork quilt, lend that shabby chic charm. The wrought-iron chandelier emphasizes the rustic décor.
The transition space is laden with old bricks, made in Britain, that came from a refractory in Bacolod.
For al fresco dining, trellises, heavily veiled with creepers, serve as a roof for the wrought-iron chairs.
Like a Greek tavern
The sunset viewing area is like a Greek tavern, with rough cement floors with terracotta tiles and white plastered walls that shoot up to a beamed ceiling of old wood.
Shelves are filled with animal sculptures and pots of African violets, begonias, shells and crabs that add color and life to the place.
At daytime, the deck overlooks rows of trees and soft clouds.
The tables are set with floral-trimmed plates, colored glasses and embroidered napkins on crocheted placemats and patchwork purses that hold the bill and receipt.
In the inner sanctum, a bungalow is painted saffron, as if to stimulate one’s appetite.
The main décor is the huge, unadorned windows that open to the outdoors. Survey the virgin landscape from the window, and you’ll see patches of vegetation and evergreen trees, conjoined by hills against the midday sun.
A three-course meal is a must for a minimum cover charge of P700.
It starts with the bread, sweet and pillowy with a crispy crust. It is made from Canadian half-wheat which makes the dough elastic, and coconut oil instead of lard.
The bread is a foil to the Spanish beans with cabbage, kidney beans and potatoes, made substantial with slabs of bacon and chorizo.
The Aegean salad is a mix of cool greens with warm grilled pear and sweet cheeses, with pistachios for crunch.
The grilled aromatic pork and the Italian pork chops are famous for their melting texture, appetizing aroma and sensual layers of fat.
Spaghetti is generously mixed with fresh mushrooms so that even carnivores will not miss the meat taste. The palates are cleansed with a contrast of vanilla ice cream and grilled orange and sweet panna cotta with tarty lemon sauce.
Weary of city life
Marcia Adams is the owner and culinary artist Marcia Ciupan from Antique, who married retired British engineer Neil Adams. They met at McDonald’s while Neil was at work on a project on waste conversion energy in Manila.
Living in Manila, Marcia would commute to Tagaytay to tend to her garden of rare anthuriums. Weary of city life, the Adamses, with their four children, decided to move to Cavite.
The couple bought a two-hectare derelict farm, littered with garbage and shattered concrete. They even put up a small farm for herbs, tubers and poultry.
With the huge property, putting up a restaurant seemed logical. The couple traveled to the Mediterranean and chose the best elements of architecture and cuisine.
“This is Marcia’s project. She put her mind to it. She designed the garden, the buildings and the menu,” says Neil.
The couple used a lot of recycled wood and bought their furniture from the thrift shops along Bangkal, Makati.
Since Marcia was involved in the plant business, it was easy for her to design the terraced landscape.
The recipes were hers, culled from years of culinary experience. “Her culinary skills are extraordinary. She could tell how the food is made and appreciate their original intention,” says Neil.
The menu’s bestseller is the grilled tanguinge with extra-virgin olive oil and capers and the beef kebabs, inspired by the Greek souvlaki.
When available, the baby octopus soup is also in high demand. The freshly caught octopus meat is simmered in wine until it is tender.
The shishkebab follows a classic recipe that uses Australian lamb.
For something more delicate, the Amalfi prawns, a breaded seafood dish with olive oil and parsley, is arranged on fragile crackers.
The desserts are satisfying enough to end the meal. The lavender crème brûlée is made with duck eggs to make it more yellow. (Likewise, the carbonara is also made with duck eggs.)
The ducks are snail-fed, adds Neil. The lavender essence makes it tangy and heady.
The Pavlova is a fluffy homemade meringue with a taffy-like center, paired with green and yellow kiwi for freshness.
During birthdays, celebrators ask for lemon sponge pudding with a lemon curd filling, topped with a cloud of whipped cream.
In the end, the place is a hit as it provides the escapist feel of a Mediterranean tavern.
Marcia Adams is on JP Rizal St., Barangay Sikat, Alfonso, Cavite; tel. 0917-8011456.
PHOTOS BY PJ ENRIQUEZ