Breakfast at Jens

Smoked bangus for breakfast, anyone?

Breakfast is what my photographer husband Raff looks forward to whenever we check in a hotel for a staycation. He likes the diversity and flexibility that a hotel breakfast buffet offers—you can have a bite of everything that tickles your fancy in the morning following your overnight stay. He enjoys combining pancakes and freshly baked bread with scrambled egg or an omelet, a little garlic rice with daing na bangus, some salad greens, fresh pineapple juice or brewed coffee.

Unfortunately, the two of us have been confined mostly to the house since he suffered a stroke in 2016. He has improved a lot since then, though, and now that he has been recovering nicely by the grace of God, our lives are slowly but surely getting back to normal again. There’s still a long way to go from here, I know, but we’ve got each other and we’ve got God, and, after hitting rock bottom during Raffs confinement in the hospital two years ago, there really is no way to go but up.

In April this year, Raff had his first hotel staycation in two years. When we covered the Aliwan Fiesta 2018 grand parade at Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park, Manila, we checked in at Hotel Jen Manila for the night. After traveling a long way from our place in Cainta, Rizal, to the venue of the festival, I did not want to make him go through another punishingly long trip back home to our place on the same day. The distance wasn’t so bad, but the constant traffic in the metro made the trip arduously long. So we decided to squeeze in the staycation at the same time.

True enough, in the area alone, traffic was so bad it took us hours to get back to the hotel from the Quirino Grandstand when it would normally take just a few minutes considering the short distance. The South-bound lane of Roxas Blvd. was closed from morning to 10 p.m. on that fateful April 28 that traffic on the other side of the boulevard and its outskirts in the Manila area went haywire. But once we got back to the hotel, it was peaceful, and Raff had a good sleep.

The next morning, Raff and I went down to Latitude for breakfast. It was the highlight of Raff’s staycation, and Hotel Jen’s all-day dining restaurant did not disappoint. Compared to the coffee shops of five-star hotels, Latitude offered a more intimate breakfast dining option and the food stations and food choices were not as wide as theirs. But it did not really matter because everything that diners would look for in a breakfast buffet was properly represented.

When it comes to bread, Latitude has an entire station for its wide variety of breads, including freshly baked loaves that can be sliced and toasted, donuts hanging on wooden racks, rolls filling wooden trays, Danish pastry, loaf bread slices, ensaymadas, braid breads, muffins and super flaky croissants.

Man, however, cannot live by bread alone, and so there are a whole lot of other breakfast selections. For appetizers, there’s a salad bar for guests who want to have a healthy start.

Greens and other vegetables in individual bowls share space with bottles of salad dressings on a bed of ice. There’s a separate ice bar for fresh fruits, such as watermelon, pineapple, mango and cantaloupe.

Standing beside it is a cereal bar for those who like to take them with fresh milk in a bowl.
Highlights of the breakfast buffet spread are the hot dishes in chafing dishes that go perfectly with egg and freshly steamed rice or garlic fried rice. On any given day, there will be at least one vegetable dish, one pork or beef, one chicken, one fish or seafood, prepared fresh every day. As for the egg, there is a live cooking station, where the cook prepares eggs any way you prefer—sunny side up, scrambled, or omelet.

For guests who like to have a light breakfast, though, there are pancakes and assemble-your-own congee or noodle soup. There’s also a corner for light eaters who like to indulge in simply boiled or vegetables, such as sitaw (stringbeans), ampalaya (bittergourd), okra, tomatoes with dilis (fried anchovies) or tinapa (smoked fish), and vinegar or bagoong (shrimp paste), maybe with a piece or two of picked santol.

The surprise of that particular breakfast that my husband Raff and I had at Hotel Jen Manila’s Latitude was a small Indian corner, which had pita bread and two hot dishes. I can imagine munching on roti or chapati on another day.

Latitude may be more intimate than most hotels’ main dining outlet, and its breakfast buffet spread may be a little more limited, but it does not really matter. What matters is that everything that guests will look for in a breakfast buffet spread is properly represented. All the essentials are there.