Dining on an Antipolo Hillside (lunch at Laya)

Nicely perched on the slopes of the hills of Antipolo is another hidden (though by now probably more popular) dining destination. Located deep inside the Grand Heights Village and at the very end of one of its downward sloping roads, is a place called Laya.

It was father’s day, and being the restless traveller that I am, we just had to go somewhere to celebrate the day…even if it’s just right next to the city, and even if we just passed by the place a week ago.

The road leading to Laya though (after veering off from the main road immediately past the Ynares stadium), is far from being “just another road”. We initially had to climb what looked like a narrow “barangay” road, yet as we got into the top, it immediately sloped downward, following the contour of the hillside. Heading further downhill, the trees by the roadside became larger and denser, until we were eventually enveloped by their canopy. It was a good image of a “provincial road”…clean, tree lined, and paved to still be friendly to cars, yet rough enough to make it look like it’s quite some distance away from civilization. However, I failed to realize that it’s perfectly okay to stop and take a photo of the place, so I’m just reduced to describing the place in words, which doesn’t do it justice.

Eventually the road opens up into a grassland, with a view of the city below, up ahead. Just at the point where the road ends, there is a solitary house to left, with only a single wooden sign to tell you that you have arrived at the destination. The place’s isolation gives it an “off the beaten path” feel akin to what Sonia’s Secret Garden had in Tagaytay, close to a decade ago, before everybody got word of the “secret”.

Laya, as seen from its front gate.
Pathway, leading up to the restaurant

Parking is just by the roadside, which would be empty anyway since there are no other houses nearby. After stepping out of the car and going through the entrance, one climbs up a pathway made of slabs of rock, through the garden, to the house at the top. The first thing that caught my attention here was how nicely landscaped and well manicured the garden is.

Upon getting to the top, there is an L-shaped swimming pool and more of the garden, including a small man-made waterfall, some sculptures, more plants, and an open-air poolside hut, similar to what one would see in the ads of expensive resorts. And then of course there is the house. The open-air dining area is on the covered terrace of the house’s second level. The dining area gives an even better view of the city and one can make out the outlines of the buildings as far away was Fort Bonifacio in Taguig. We came in during lunch, but it must have been much lovelier during the evening, with all the city lights.

The pool, and the entrance to the house.
The poolside hut
South-east Asian inspired sculpture, by the garden
The house, from another angle
The poolside

Laya serves full course meals, and on any given weekend, diners have a choice of up to two sets (I think). That day all of us on the table had the Laya Signature set. The other set available that day was the Daddies’ Weekend Grill. Both are full courses, from appetizer to dessert.

Laya served unlimited Pandan Iced Tea the moment we arrived. The sweet, icy refreshment was a very welcome relief from the hot midday temperature.
The waiter then introduced us to this little flavorful piece...I forgot the name, unfortunately. It tasted like fish with a blend of herbs, and served to prepare the palate for the meal.
First to be served was the Trio of Appetizers - Crabstick and Cream Cheese Dumpling, Shrimp & Chicken Wanton Bag and Stir Fried Kaffir Lime Pork in Lettuce Wrap
Next came the Thai-spiced Pumpkin and Cashew Nut Soup
Next came my favorite of the meal, Grilled Chicken with Mixed Greens in Oriental Soy Dressing. The dressing was what did it for me.
After the salad came a rather interesting piece, the Calamansi and Orange Blossom Honey Granita. It was practically an iced, sweetened calamansi juice, and was refreshing to the taste buds.
For the main course, some of us (me included) had the US Hanging Tender Steak, which came with a very generous portion of spiced mashed potato. It wasn't the most tender piece of beef I've tried, but still, it tasted good.
The Trio of Sauces that came with the steak
The rest of us had the Pork Ribs with Vietnamese Honey Sauce.
Since it was father's day, they offered complimentary red or white wine, or ice cold beer, for all dads. I opted for red wine to go with the steak.


For dessert was the Cashew Mango Kesong Puti and Chocnut Banana Spring Rolls, with Chocnut Dip. It was basically their variation of the "turon", with the uniqueness highlighted by the Chocnut flavor.
Milk and "muscovado" sugar for the complimentary barako coffee which was a perfect partner to the sweet banana spring rolls. They also have complimentary tea.

Each dish came at a significant interval, so there’s ample time to relax and let your stomach arrange the food to make space for the next dish. In fact, it took us two hours, from the first bite of the appetizer, to the last mouthful of the dessert. The meal is an experience meant to be enjoyed, and it’s definitely not for one who is in a hurry. Careful not to get overfilled with the iced tea though, if you want to have enough space inside to enjoy everything.

We counted only seven tables (or so) on the restaurant, and on that day all seats were filled. The limited number of guests makes dining an intimate experience, but it does make reservations necessary.

In comparison to other such places – it’s more intimate than Sonia’s Garden in Tagaytay which has grown big lately. I can’t compare them in terms of food though, since both serve entirely different cuisines, and both are really good at what they offer. The other place with some similarity, also in Tagaytay, is Antonio’s, which definitely has a “classier”, more upscale feel and a wider variety of food, though with a definitely much less reachable price too.

The bill for 4 people? 3 Thousand Pesos. I would say it’s money well spent for such an intimate dining experience, and the food was worth it too. We will definitely be back, some time in the future for some other occasion, and when we do, we’ll try being there for dinner.

A wooden swing by the garden. It was able to carry my weight, meaning it's a real, functional swing.
Table napkin, prepared in a fanciful way
The centerpiece
The place has some small items that some may appreciate, while others may not notice, such as this wooden xylophone.

A view of the city at a distance, from the dining area

* We had this Lunch on June 2010. All photos taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 50mm f2 or Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6


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