Did I tell you about the time Jericho and I decided to ditch the city and just unwind at Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay for three days? Well, we did. And we had the most relaxing week ever! Between learning about the benefits of juicing, exploring their organic farm, and melting on the massage table from a two-hour traditional Filipino massage, Jericho and I spent our days in different corners of the big property, either exploring the place by ourselves, catching up on sleep, taking a dip in the pool, or finding a quiet spot to curl up with a book and read ’til we dozed off. The only time we’d actually see each other was during meal times, where we’d meet at the restaurant, Gabriela, to enjoy the healthy cuisine choices they had on offer.
The al fresco restaurant is situated right after the registration desk, before leading out into the garden and pool areas. A popular place for messing receptions and team building activities, the space can probably fit up to 100-150 guests, and the attentive staff are always so quick to step in to refill a glass of water or take away empty dishes – I felt quite pampered my entire time there.
Lunch and dinner always starts with soup of the day for Jericho and I. We practically tried everything on the menu, and my favorite was the tummy-warming Roasted Pumpkin Soup (Php 120) that uses locally harvested pumpkin (from their garden!) roasted with a pinch of nutmeg before being blitzed into a thick soup. Another filling option is the Potato Leek Soup (Php 120), on old British favorite which I’ve grown up loving (Jericho found this pretty bland, btw). Jericho enjoyed the Tomato and Basil (Php 120) when it was available – Nurture Wellness’ take on famous italian soup with tomato and basil picked from the garden. No, really, there’s an herb garden in a corner of the village and the chef and kitchen help just go and pluck what they need. I wish it were that easy to keep an herb garden alive in Metro Manila!
After soup, we’d tuck into a Farmacy Nurture Salad (Php 170) made with garden greens picked fresh from the organic farm, white onions, sliced cucumbers, and tomatoes, served with our signature oriental dressing. The salad itself is pretty simple, but the signature dressing makes everything come alive! In fact it was so good, Jericho and I bought a bottle each to take home for when we make our own salads, which we eat by the bucketload at home.
Now, Jericho and I quite enjoyed our meals the entire time we were there. You have to keep in mind that Gabriela’s menu revolves around healthier alternatives to otherwise oily all-time favorites, so you will be missing out on all the flavor-giving lard, butter, and salt.
With that being said, I was a bit disappointed with their Bengal Curried Chicken (Php 330). Made with the healthier chicken breast option, which was completely fine, I found the Bengal masala it was sautéed in lacked that oomph and spice, and it tasted more of coconut milk than curry.
The Chicken Kare Kare Roulade (Php 250) on the other hand, was quite enjoyable! I have never had chicken as the protein in my kare-kare, and usually opt for the vegetarian version most times, but this satisfied me all the same. The chicken breast is stuffed with julienne kare-kare vegetables, smothered with peanut sauce. I’m usually left in a stupor after a heavy meal like this, but Gabriela’s version just left me happy and satiated.
Can I talk about the drinks for a sec? I looooved everything they had to offer! I drink like a camel and can go through a gallon of water in a day, so seeing so much variety in their refreshments kept me coming back to try more every time I passed by the restaurant!
When at Gabriela, you must try their Signature Kale Drinks (Php 150)! My go-to kale smoothie is the quartet of kale, blitzed with sweet mango, pineapple, and melon. The naturally sweetened drink is just the thing one needs after lounging by the pool all afternoon.
Another fantastic option to try is their Cold Herbs Tea (Php 110) in Basil Ginger. This concoction is similar to our local salabat, but less spicy and more sweet, with the earthy aftertaste of basil.
The English Fish & Chips (Php 270) is probably the greasiest thing they have on the menu, but I just couldn’t resist the golden-fried beer-battered dory with hand cut chips on the side served with tartar sauce. All this was missing was a proper malt vinegar, but other than that I finished what was on my plate quite quickly, enjoying the crunch of the batter against the flaky fish along with my guilty pleasure. #friesbeforeguys
Jericho made the most of the beef dishes and loved the Caldereta Osso Bucco (Php 330), made Batangas-style, instead of traditional Milanese, into caldera of beef shank in a mildly spicy tomato sauce with carrots, potatoes, and sweet bell pepper on the side. I tried it, and it did taste a lot like Osso Bucco, but because the title did say caldereta, it left me hanging in terms of flavour because I was looking for the cheese that typically smothers the Filipino dish.
Jericho indulged in a lot of his old favorites – since like me, he typically tries to eat healthy at home – and Gabriela’s Pork Binagoongan (Php 270) was on his list of must tries during our stay. I was expecting the sauce to be really oily with all that slowly simmered pork in shrimp paste, but it looks like they skimmed most of the excess fat off before serving and added a few cloves of garlic for flavour and added health benefits.
After our amazing massage that evening, we were more sleepy than hungry and opted to just share a main course, and settled on Pocherong Batangas (Php 390), the region’s version of Spanish beef stew that comes with saba, tomatoes, and vegetables. This was hot and comforting, but looked more like steak in puchero sauce than actual pochero, but I did like that it came with a lot of vegetables and again, wasn’t as oily as what your mom would make at home.
The desserts at Gabriela are all IG worthy as they all look bright and colourful and taste delicious. The Squash Leche Flan (Php 90) has bits of boiled squash in the dessert, which is a great way to sneak in vegetables if you have picky children – you can’t taste it underneath the custard and sweet mango. Another dessert that will definitely go well with the little ones and their minders is the restaurant’s Suman at Mangga (Php 150) sweetened sticky rice (not too sweet) with a thick mango center, served with a small cup of thick, hot Batangas tsokolate that you can either take little sips of between bites or just dip your human into and enjoy the sticky mess ’til you wipe out everything on your plate.
Overall, I can appreciate the healthier version of the heritage cuisine they serve at Gabriela. I can also understand how this may not be for everybody, but the presentation and tweaks to familiar favorites has got me thinking about how I can make small changes to what I cook in my own kitchen as well. You don’t have to totally cut out heavier meats like pork ad beef if you really don’t want to, but you can lessen the oil and salt and still enjoy the familiar flavors without having the detrimental effects on your health. I will definitely be back to try more of the desserts and drinks the next time I pop by for a day trip though!
Nurture Wellness Village is located at Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West Cavite, Tagaytay. For inquiries or to book your stay, please call +63 918 888 8772 or +63 2 710 9786. For packages, rates, and other promos, please check their official website.
Nurture Wellness Village is owned jointly by Dr. Mike Turvill, a British national and his Fllipina wife Cathy Brilliantes-Turvill. Mike is a Doctor in Organic Chemistry from the University of Nottingham, UK while Cathy is an internationally licensed therapist (CIBTAC, UK) and Certified Wellness Specialist from the USA. They own two spa-related companies: Hotel and Spa Essentials, a supplier of spa and hotel products to five star spas and resorts and Spa and Wellness Professionals which offers spa training and consultancy services. Cathy was the Founding President of the Spa Association of the Philippines and is a Board member of the Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Coalition and TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority). Mike is the immediate Past President of the Cosmetics Chamber of the Philippines.