Novotel Araneta: Food Exchange Manila

A true-blue South girl, it never crossed my mind to consider the busy Cubao area as a destination for gastronomic adventurers like myself. Looks like things are changing, however, with the arrival of the global hotel brand Novotel in Araneta Center.

Synonymous to basketball games and major concerts, Araneta is getting a welcome revamp with Novotel promising to deliver modern comfort with its 400+ contemporary rooms and suites, and sumptuous spread of international cuisines available at their restaurants.

It's all about minimalism in the lobby.
It’s all about minimalism in the lobby.

Walking into the hotel, guests will be immediately welcomed by their warm staff and modern yet family-friendly amenities. The lobby was sleek and chic–favoring stark white tiles and grey walls set against bright adornments, edgy seating. modern chandeliers and tons of space. It had a business hotel feel to it, with a sprinkling of FIlipino charm.

While I don’t consider myself a buffet person, my boyfriend and I did not pass up the opportunity to experience contemporary casual dining at Food Exchange Manila when we received an invite. Located right beside the uber-modern bar (this one you have to see, ’cause it looks like a giant space pod), Food Exchange Manila captured understated elegance so well. I like the muted grays and its streamlined design.

This is one end of the buffet
This is one end of the buffet

One of the first things I noticed is the fact that the buffet area and dining tables are two separate spaces. I never liked being surrounded by a sea of people who a) gawk at me and my plate and b) walk nonstop around me as they navigate the buffet. WIth that, Food Exchange Manila gets a thumbs up from me for creating a buffet experience that’s unobtrusive, allowing each diner to enjoy their food away from the busy buffet area. 🙂

One of the dining areas surrounding the buffet.
One of the dining areas surrounding the buffet–and where we chose to enjoy our buffet experience.

Food Exchange Manila also offers numerous dining areas each with a unique ambiance to boot. There’s a space for everyone–smokers, couples, families, etc. We settled in the dining area pictured above.

Fancy a different vibe?
Fancy a different vibe?
Outdoor seating for the smokers. 😀

All stations are lined up on one side, parading a bevvy of international cuisines. Each station also had a chef preparing the food, adding a touch of culinary theatricality to the whole experience. Besides the chefs, I also noticed how each station was decked out in something from that specific country such as Japanese dolls at the sushi station and ornate plates over at the Indian station. I liked this minute yet thoughtful detail. 🙂

Hmm what do I get first?
Hmm what do I get first?

We attacked the buffet with a purpose, beginning with the farthest from where we were seated–the sushi station. From makis to tamagos to sashimis, you’ll love the carefully edited selection of sushis. Even more enjoyable is if you catch the chefs preparing sushis at the station.

Fresh tuna and salmon sashimi are the bomb.
Fresh tuna and salmon sashimi are the bomb.
Round 1
Round 1

Beside the sushi station is the drinks area where they have an array of iced teas and dig this… infused water. I first had the apple iced tea but received a recommendation to try the house iced tea, which I absolutely loved because it tasted like gulaman! 😀

Let's carbo-load and bread it on. :D
Let’s carbo-load and bread it on. 😀

A buffet is never a buffet if there’s no pizza or pasta. Like most buffets, you can customize your pasta and have them served on your table. The highlight for me, however, are the thin-crust pizzas. The two pizzas available that Sunday were yummy. 🙂

Yay for pizza!
Thoroughly enjoyed their thin-crust brick oven pizzas
Of course, you can also have the pasta of the day.

I never even realized pineapple ketchup, beetroot ketchup and curry ketchup exists!

Brick oven + ketchup bar
Brick oven + the infamous “ketchup bar”

Meanwhile, situated in the middle of the buffet is the salad station. You can choose to create your own salad or enjoy the pre-made salads already available at the station. I couldn’t decide between the Waldorf Salad Mediterranean Salad and Thai Salad so I loaded my plate with a small portion of all three. 🙂

A visual delight. Here are some of the salads you can enjoy or you can choose to create your own.
A visual delight. Here are some of the salads you can enjoy or you can choose to create your own.

Seafood enthusiasts will also enjoy the freshest catch with their wide selection of seafood and shellfish. Shrimp, mussels, oysters and more are yours for the taking! I would have devoured every variety but I was already feeling full after our “second round” 🙁

So tempting!
Hmmm so tempting!
More seafood to choose from
More seafood to choose from.

Have a flair for creating charcuterie and cheese boards? Well, you’re going to love the fancy little charcuterie station with an imposing fridge and intimidating (only for those who don’t know how to operate it… like me) meat slicer.

Cheese, cold cuts and more!
Cheese, cold cuts, dips, and more! Oh there’s a meat cutter on hand too for all your fancy meats. 🙂

One of the highlights of the buffet are the interactive stations, definitely. The Chinese station had a lot to offer. From noodles to dumplings to laksa, you’ll need more than one plate to enjoy everything. As for me, I settled with a favorite of mine–hakkaw! It wasn’t on display when I walked up to the station, but I just asked for hakkaw from the chef. I was told he doesn’t speak English much but he’s very nice. Besides, good food is a universal language. That’s more than enough communication. 😀

Dim sum, noodles, laksa and more!
Dim sum, noodles, laksa and more!

Another buffet highlight is the Indian station, where I noticed many of the diners where having their photos taken with the Indian chef. If you’re a fan of tandoori, make sure you get to watch the Indian chef prepare and cook tandoori on the spot. There’s a lot to enjoy from their Indian spread–chipati, chicken biryani, papadums and lots more I’m not familiar with. The chef is also quite popular, as I spotted a handful of diners asking to have their photos taken with him. 😀

indian food
See the ornate dishes? Well, more importantly, see the tempting spread of authentic Indian food? 🙂

The dessert station at Food Exchange Manila has a lot of variety. Cakes, pastries, halo-halo, churros and candies were available to cap off a filling lunch.

What's for dessert?
What’s for dessert?

If I were you, I’d hoard all the lava cake and churros available at the buffet. I was lucky enough to get first dibs on a fresh batch of lava cake and it tasted like heaven on earth. Ahhh that warm gooey chocolate center is still giving me the shivers. Not to be outdone are the churros, which is best paired (for me, that is) with caramel sauce.

Lava cake + churros with caramel sauce + anonymous cake
Lava cake + churros with caramel sauce + anonymous cake

Of course, one of the biggest draws for me is the free flowing cocktails! I just had to enjoy at least one drink to cap off my Food Exchange Manila experience. I had a kiwi mojito. It was a bit tame for my liking, but it was refreshing nonetheless. 🙂

How can you resist this???
How can you resist this???

Besides all these I’ve mentioned, they also have lechon, roast beef, a killer mashed potato, which all deserve a spot on your plate should you visit Food Exchange Manila. While I would have loved to photograph every dish they have at the buffet, some things are better left to be experienced by yourself. Right? 🙂

The boyfriend busy with his phone, while I smile and pretend my jeans are not about to burst open
The boyfriend busy with his phone, while I smile and pretend my jeans are not about to burst open

At only Php1588 nett with free flowing cocktails, the Sunday Brunch Buffet is probably one of the best-priced buffet experiences in the metro. Do know that Food Exchange Manila also offers an a la carte menu, so if you’re not ready to take on all the food you can eat, you can still enjoy great meals at Food Exchange Manila.:)

Food Exchange Manila
G/F, Novotel Manila Araneta Center, General Aguinaldo Avenue, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City

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