The journey to find the Chateau Hestia Garden Restaurant seemed straight out of the movies, specifically a minor version of The Lord of the Rings. It took our crew of city folk about an hour to find this rustic restaurant and deli shop with a bed-and-breakfast tucked inside a charmingly intimate compound that was at the end of a long and winding trail. From the familiar bustling tourist sights of Tagaytay, we rode down narrow paths surrounded by tall bushes and vines that crept along forgotten arches. There were times it felt like a journey to nowhere, as we had to retrace our steps and try to decipher washed-out signs and rethink our choice of crossroads.

The resulting confusion might have been unintentional, but it certainly emphasized the point that the owners and creators of Chateau Hestia wanted to make. “It’s all part of the adventure,” laughs Maria Flora Falcon, the other half of the husband-and-wife team who envisioned the Chateau as a haven for weary urban warriors who want a break from the pressures of the big city. A lawyer by day, this Filipina who is married to Austrian businessman Johannes Zehethofer is certainly no stranger to city challenges – which is probably the reason why during the weekends she plays the lovely hostess to the Pinoys and expatriates who descend on the Chateau, mostly brought in by the buzz and positive word of mouth.

“We had wanted to build a place somewhere in the off the beaten path where families can relax and their kids can run into Mother Nature,” says Falcon of their own quest which inevitably brought them in 2004 into contact with a farmer who wanted to first rent his uncultivated land in Bukal, Silang, Cavite. One look at the raw, rugged terrain with its hard rocks and sweeping flora and the Zehethofers knew they had the right spot.

One thing was also very clear to them: they had to capture that untamed vitality while building a place that would usher in the Old World sensibilities that Falcon had come to admire in her husband’s native Austria. “While we were sorting it out, we made sure that we preserved the being of the place,” continues Falcon. “The grounds still had to look like a jungle. The sense of constant freedom had to be there.”

The traditional landscaping expected of the greenery in any resort did not happen. The lawns to date are pretty much left untouched by the gardener’s shears. To complement this conformity with nature, Falcon and her husband made sure that the same spirit of authenticity governed the construction of the building, which started as a one-story restaurant They personally selected the kinds of wood that created the Chateau’s structure, making sure it was pure, rough, and hewn. The furniture was mostly composed of antiques or heirlooms that had been carefully restored.

Chateau Hestia had to look and feel “natural” to the guests, complementing the seamless way it blended with the natural environment. The construction on the cottages of the Chateau followed the same pattern. Each one is designed to take advantage of the serenity, calm, and yet excitement that weary guests looking to recharge can enjoy with Mother Nature. The wood material again reinforces that homegrown rustic feel while emphasizing the privacy of the cottage and its grounds. Windows open straight into sights of tall trees and billowing leaves, while allowing the fresh air to come in, dispensing the need for airconditioning. Evenings can bring in a host of fireflies.

Aside from its cottages, Chateau Hestia’s crown jewel is its enormous wooden mansion that mixes the grand design of the stone houses of our Hispanic forefathers with the simple elegance of unadorned cabins. These are places which invite you to let your hair down, bond with your friends, socialize with your neighbors, run on the grounds and the garden – while at the same time maintaining your appreciation for the finer things in life.

It’s an art that Johannes and Maria have taught their kids Juliana, 11, and Rohan, 4. As Falcon puts it, “My children are comfortable in a fine dining restaurant. They know table etiquette and which spoon to put in which dish. But they can also be as equally comfortable eating in a carinderia.”

The ground-floor Chateau has since expanded to two storeys that start with a European-style restaurant that can seat 60 diners and then ascends to a second storey of guestrooms accommmodating 120 people. If its architectural design pays respect to Filipino heritage and the area’s natural wonders, in the kitchen, it is the European influence that holds sway.

Some of the choice meals that have become favorites are the Sausage Platter, which consists of Austrian and German icons such as the Austrian Buren and Bockwurst with cheese served with roasted potatoes and sauerkraut; the Salad Nicoise, which combines farm fresh greens topped with tuna, green and black olives and anchovies, and the Osso Bucco Millanese, or Italian beef shank slowly simmered in rich tomato sauce served with mashed potato and mixed buttered vegetables.

From Mr. Zehethofer’s own Austria comes the famous Wiener Schnitzel or thinly-sliced breaded pork cutlet served with parsley potatoes and green salad. Capping this cuisine is the Fiaker Beef Goulash or rich beef stew flavored with paprika, fennel and caraway and served with servietten knodel, cornichons and Vienna sausage topped with fried egg.

In a corner of the restaurant is the wine and deli shop, which sells food products that one is hard-pressed to find in the finest department stores of Metro Manila. Wine such as the Beronia Cranza and Mysa Cava are lined up along hard-tofind items such as fig jams, Austrian coffee and German olives. The deli was a response to diners who enjoyed the unique cuisine and were keen to bring home some of the ingredients for their personal use.

Browse some more, and you will find indigenous products such as organic soap made from Tagaytay’s homegrown banana and roses.

In the same way that the Zehethofers have mixed ruggedness and elegance, they have created a symmetry with Old World sensibilities and Filipino organic wonders. “Some of the hand sanitizers we sell are made by a friend who lives in Tagaytay,” Falcon enthuses. “If someone has an original Filipino product, we do consider selling it.”

Filipino bayanihan helped build this chateau in the middle of a wilderness. Many residents, encouraged by their local government, have lent a hand to act as ushers and groundkeepers during the Chateau’s many events. They volunteered to clear the grass and grounds during the construction. According to Falcon, many of them did it out of gratitude to the Chateau for putting the neighborhood on the Philippine tourism map.

The buzz continues to increase, bringing more guests to the Chateau. The peak seasons are Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and the New Year. Falcon says, “Here they can go around the grounds, or lie down on our chaise lounges, and sit and chat with their friends for hours. That’s part of the experience we offer – to be away from the traffic and the maddening crowd.”

Address: Purok 5, Brgy. Bukal, Silang, Cavite. Landline: (+632) 994-8360
Cell no.: (+63929) 711-3289 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

on the menu

Salad Nicoise

The famous salad of Cote d’ Azur is a combination of farm fresh greens tossed with tuna, green and black olives, anchovies, capers topped with hard-boiled eggs drizzled with vinaigrette

Sausage Platter

A platter of Austrian and German sausages – Debriziner, Austrian Buren and Bockwurst with cheese served with roasted potatoes and sauerkraut

Osso Bucco Milanese

Our recipe of this traditional dish from Italy of beef shank is slowly simmered in rich tomato sauce served with mashed potato and mixed buttered vegetables

Wiener Schnitzel

The famous Viennese dish of thinly-sliced breaded pork cutlet is served with parsley potatoes and Chateau Hestia’s green salad

Reale Pizza

Pizza topped with assorted cold cuts – prosciutto, pancetta, salame, bresaola, pepperoni, speck trancio and ground sirloin

Fiaker Beef Goulash

Rich beef stew flavored with paprika, fennel and caraway is slowly cooked until tender and served with servietten knodel, cornichons and Vienna sausage topped with fried egg