We got married this year. Pro-tip, speaking strictly about planning your wedding, it will be so much more easier to pick a venue you really like and taking a package from said venue. You’ll pay more, probably, but you also have fewer suppliers you have to coordinate with on your own. Also, it may be expensive, but I would suggest you have a hotel wedding package as one of your final options. We eventually chose The Manila Hotel for our wedding reception and it was worth it. Part of why is the reason for this post: a free dinner at Café Ilang-Ilang.

There is a Lobster Thermidor lover in all of us - FoodMetroManila 2019
Might we interest you with a Lobster Thermidor?

We had the wedding during the busiest weekend of February 2019, so we wanted to have the hotel and reception area near our Church, The Manila Cathedral. BTW, before I go on, this is not a post to brag about our wedding. It was long planned, especially monetary. The Manila Hotel was always an option for where to stay and all, but the reception was a toss-up. We eventually landed on The Manila Hotel itself because, well it’s beautiful. Actually, if you’re still reading this, the package is actually more affordable compared to other hotels. Nearby Sofitel Plaza Manila, for instance, has a lot more freebies in the package but you get less food at near the same cost of what we had with the Grand Dame. Some of our guests still tell us, to this, day that we had a lot of food for them during the wedding!

Speaking of freebies, part of what were given to us were two gift certificates for our choice of either a lunch or dinner buffet in the famed Café Ilang-Ilang. Now I have no idea how much the buffet actually costs, maybe someday in the future I will, but judging from the choices it shouldn’t cost near as much as The Spiral Buffet at Sofitel. I have not tried that as well, BTW, but I’ve watched Strictly Dumpling’s video about it and it looked amazing!

foodmetromanila is notatravelperson and he loves the manila hotel
It’s an old hotel, and some rooms show it. Still stunning though.

Cafe Ilang-Ilang Manila Hotel delicious buffet

So Haziel and I planned to have a short staycation back at The Manila Hotel and have dinner at the Café Ilang-Ilang. The other certificate we gifted to our Wedding Coordinator, Francess Wishes Events Management, for all the stress we put her through on the lead up to the day itself.

Cafe Ilang-Ilang at The Manila Hotel brings the cheese
Hindi naman gusto ng mga tao yung Gorgonzola, noh?

Even if you have a GC, it’s still a good idea to reserve a table. The buffet starts at 6:30 pm for dinner service and runs all the way up to 10:30pm. Of course, I’ve tried Manila Hotel’s food already (food tasting and wedding buffet, duh) and I’ve tried dining in the Café Ilang-Ilang itself thrice (food tasting and two breakfasts), but all of that was nothing compared to what the dinner service was – there was a lot of people!

There were a lot of families and celebrations (we heard about two boisterous birthday songs somewhere in the other parts of the vast restaurant), some people just relaxing after a long week (we dined Friday night, on the start of a long weekend), and some like us on a date. Anyway, that incosequentual – the food was amazing!

Cafe Ilang-Ilang in The Manila Hotel appetizers
Notice how full the Macaroni Salad plate is compared to the Shrimp Cocktail?
Cafe Ilang-Ilang at The Manila Hotel has mussels on ice
Sorry, I am not a fan of this display
FoodMetroManila Cafe Ilang-Ilang The Metro Manila
Seriously people, put the tongs/serving spoon back in the plate put there where it should be

They have an area dedicated for starters, and it’s right there near the entrance. I’ve heard that buffets do this so that people can fill up with carb heavy items that cost less to make, so that they won’t have much appetite to gorge on the more expensive mains. And if by less expensive you mean Macaroni Salad and Coleslaw, I guess that theory holds water (pun intended).

There were three terrines, one of which was a mushroom one made from what seemed like canned mushrooms, and a delicious salmon one. There were a bunch of salads, including the refreshing shrimp cocktail that was included in our wedding buffet. If you’re looking for sushi, if you’re used to commercial buffets like me, the Japanese section is hidden in a corner in the back of the restaurant. There’s bread and cheese, but not a cheese room like in Sofitel, here it’s more two cheese boards with six types of cheese.

foodmetromanila cafe ilang-ilang starter plate
Plate 1 does not have much color
foodmetromanila at the Cafe Ilang-Ilang in The Manila Hotel
Plate 2 has more color, but has veggie pizza on top of seafood

There is plenty of interesting food items. I saw different takes on scallops and shrimp. There’s this big plate of Baked Mussels (Baked Tahong y’all), the Tinapang Bangus was surpirisingly good (coming from a guy who doesn’t like fish), and the Nilasing na Tahong that were kind of rubbery TBH. There’s this, I guess Western Section (?) where I got Lobsters Thermidor (small Lobsters, but I’ll take it) and you can ask them to cook up a slice of Prime Rib any way you want it. Now, it looked pink and juicy for me already, so I just asked the chef to sear it up for me to get that carmelization and finished it off with their gravy on the side. It was amazing!

Cafe Ilang-Ilang Lobster Thermidor, Mutton Curry, and Swordfish with Mango Chutney
Already a solid plate, right? There’s still space there for…
Cafe Ilang-Ilang can bring the meat
… a perfectly seared piece of prime rib!


There’s this small Thai station, all I got there was Tom Yum rice, I do not remember what that tastes like. Right next to that is an Indian station where I got delicious Mutton Curry and then salty Shrimp Masala. The Japanese Station, it had the usual Sushi and Tempura, but the Ebi Tempura was small. It was fresh shrimp cooked with good batter, but they were small.

Cafe Ilang-Ilang Swordfish with Mango Salsa FoodMetroManila
I don’t like fish but I loved this swordfish with mango salsa

My beautiful wife also had a great time where she got oysters, lobsters as well, two slices of roast beef (one of which she swapped with me for some of my prime rib), the mutton curry, to name a few. We had a lovely dinner, we also got two glasses of wine (had to pay for those but it was worth it).

The choices are not as wide as Spiral’s 21 (how many are there?) ateliers but the offerings here were, for the most part, delicious. There’s this Italian station near where we were seated and all I had was a slice of veggie pizza, and that thing was amazing! There were some misses, like the Shrimp Masala I said earlier, but almost all of the items I got tasted really good. They were also cooked well. The Prime Rib I said earlier was juicy, soft, and complemented well by their gravy. The mutton curry was not burn-your-tongue spicy, it had spices that allowed for a complex flavor, and it was soft meat as well. The lobsters tasted fresh. I had two types of dumplings from the Chinese station, they were both top level tasty.

foodmetromanila the most random plate in cafe ilang-ilang
Admit it, most of your buffet plates look like this

foodmetromanila The Manila Hotel buffet experience

You may be wondering why I didn’t describe any Filipino dishes (if you’ve reached this far in this post) – it’s because I didn’t find any. I don’t know if I just whizzed by them and they didn’t interest me, or there’s a big ass station just for Filipino food that I hadn’t discover yet, but I didn’t have any aside from the appetizers.

foodmetromanila cafe ilang-ilang meringue for days

foodmetromanila got married in the Manila Hotel

But I can’t talk about this buffet without talking about the dessert. Often, when I eat at buffets, I’m not satisfied with whatever dessert they have to offer. I’ll get some fruit and a cake slice (or two) and call it a day. Here, I came back for seconds! I was already full, mind you, but I still wanted extra dessert. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the Pistachio Mousse that everyone in our wedding raved about. They did have the mango cheesecake, and it was just as delicious. I had a blast with this Ice Cream I chose, Biscottini, but they had a lot of interesting flavors you have to try. They have selections of pralines displayed very playfully, and their other cakes were just equally amazing. They have a couple of ube offerings, and I loved both of them!

foodmetromanila cafe ilang-ilang the manila hotel has pralines for dayz
Look at how delicate these pralines look


I can’t really tell you if the dinner buffet Manila Hotel’s Café Ilang-Ilang is worth it, I’m not from Buzzfeed. Kidding aside, I can only tell you at this point that getting the Manila Hotel’s wedding package is worth it, if you’re having your wedding in Manila.

foodmetromanila is notatravelperson and he loves the manila hotel
For me, the best hotel lobby in the Philippines.

The buffet on itself, I guess you have to set your expectations. Expect that you’re going to get a delicious dinner (if you’re staying at the hotel, you get a discount for either the lunch or dinner), just don’t expect that you’ll get a lot of choices.

But as far as hotel buffets go, the Café Ilang-Ilang is a good one to spend your date night on. The breakfast buffet is especially a great experience. I say that having tried breakfast buffets at the Manila Marriott, Novotel Manila, and Discovery (Ortigas and Makati). Remember, this is not a post to brag, this is to describe a hotel buffet experience.

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