Take the twisty road up to Alive! at the ‘The Farm at San Benito’ and step into vegan paradise (you might be surprised to find you’re only 90 minutes from Manila).
Set in a vast coconut plantation, Alive! is the restaurant at this beautiful health spa and retreat. The location of this amazing restaurant is impossible to ignore, but it’s the food that will truly drive you crazy with love.
Hands down some of the best vegan food we’ve ever eaten (and it’s in the Philippines which has the unfortunate reputation of being particularly unfriendly to vegans).
Perhaps the fact that there is a noticeable lack of fruit and vegetables in the local Philippine cuisine makes the abundance of fresh, organic living food at Alive! even more impressive.
They do of course have the good fortune to be surrounded by vegetable plots, coconut palms and fruit trees, all offering a steady stream of organic, seasonal produce to use in the restaurant. A true plantation-to-table philosophy exists here. As you eat you can gaze out over the produce growing all around you, seeing gardeners harvest crops and tend to the plants.
It really is a peaceful, enriching setting.
Atmosphere and service.
The atmosphere is relaxed, after all this is a health spa where people come to detox, retreat and unwind. Service is friendly and accommodating, food tends to come out when it’s ready which might mean that dishes don’t always come together but a complementary offering of deydrated coconut crackers and nut cheese or a small platter of healthy nuts is enough to keep you occupied until your food arrives, which never really took that long in all honesty.
Alive! at The Farm at San Benito is one of those places where even if the service, atmosphere and location were terrible (which thankfully it isn’t), we’d still rave about it because of the food.
So much glorious, creative, healthy, natural, tasty vegan food.
The Vegan Food:
The menu at Alive! is huge and full of choices that range from light healthy raw salads, juices, cleansing teas and nutrition placed smoothies to healthy versions of ‘junk food’ like pizzas and burgers (there is positively no junk here though). Dishes cover a range of cuisines from local Filipino inspired dishes, to American, Indian, Italian and even a kind of steak, mash and gravy dish that wouldn’t look our of place in the UK.
Vegan comfort food.
They also do comfort food exceptionally well, just order the creamy Carbonara to see what we’re talking about. Penne pasta tossed in coconut and cashew cream sauce with coconut bacon, pili nuts, green peas and walnuts? Mmmm.
And whilst we’re talking about comfort food, we should mention the Alive! burger, which comes with marble potatoes but also goes well with their fries (which are really, really good and come with a serving of their coconut cashew mayonnaise as standard). The burger had some impressively perfect flavour and texture combinations going on, thanks to the firm, tasty burger patty slathered in a cheesy cashew sauce and tangy homemade ketchup.
But one of the things that all the food has in common is that it’s natural and healthy. Ok, that’s two things but you get our drift.
Expect to be surprised by creations like the ‘Smoked cashew tofu sandwich with almond crust, sweet chili sauce and green asparagus’ which we mistakenly thought was tofu and a few cashew nuts. That is until we tasted it and realised that it was actually a ‘tofu’ made from cashew nuts, something that had a texture half way in between a firm tofu and a soft creamy cashew cheese.
We’ve been obsessively thinking about Alive!’s cashew tofu ever since we discovered it and can only conclude that it’s complete genius.
There are twists and surprises like this throughout all the food we ate at Alive! but always dishes were rooted in the fresh organic produce, around 80% of which is plucked straight from the garden or taken from tree in the grounds.
Our favourite vegan dishes?
There were too many dishes we loved to pick a favourite. Perhaps the freshest of fresh spring rolls sat in a delectable puddle of almond butter sauce?
Or the totally raw Carrot Gnocchi. Oh my word this was good.
Maybe the risotto that had a pool of mushroom flavoured broth and a mouthwatering smoked tomato and mushroom croquette sat atop?
But we wouldn’t want to exclude the vegetable skewers; even a simple dish like this was stunning.
Desserts, desserts, desserts!
Of course you may have noticed by now that we haven’t spoken about dessert, which of course would be a crime on account of the fact that the desserts at the farm are off the scale amazing. There are raw cakes, so rich that they make up a meal in themselves, ice creams (especially the ice cream sandwich that used caramelised coconut crackers as the sandwich).
There are even super healthy options of a toffee apple covered in a plate-lickable coconut caramel sauce. This basically involved a fresh apple being coated in the most unbearably delicious sauce, served to you to eat whilst you wish that there was a way that you could have this sauce in your life forever.
The popular Chocolate Chili Marble Pie (‘Marble pie with spices and mix of nuts and vanilla extract’) was yet another dessert success. Deeply rich, chocolatey and with a significant chilli hit; we ate this slice of vegan heaven and slipped directly into happiness. We do love it when a place perfects vegan desserts.
Luckily The Farm have also published two cookbooks with recipes served at Alive! and they offer cooking classes so you can learn to recreate your favourites for times you can’t to the restaurant. Alternatively you can stay at in one of the beautiful villas at The Farm; we are seriously considering moving there and spending our days eating at Alive!
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict:
Make a reservation at Alive! at The Farm San Benito for some of the best vegan food around. Expect delicious, plant-based food that will also fill you with healthy goodness. Eat your way around the menu trying all their wonderful creations and don’t forget the try the desserts.
Even better why not book a longer stay at The Farm San Benito like we did? You can read about the truly memorable time we had here.
We were guests of Alive! but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
Alive! @ The Farm at San Benito
119 Barangay Tipakan
4217 Lipa City, Batangas
Telephone: +632 884 8074
Opening Hours: Daily for lunch (last orders 3pm) and dinner last orders 9pm).