El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino in Dagupan: Dining under the stars
Recently, I went to Dagupan City in Pangasinan with my travel buddies for an overnight trip. We arrived in Pangasinan just in time for lunch. We were already quite hungry from the trip so we decided to have a stopover in Urdaneta before we went to El Jardin. Our lunch place was called Cafe Dos by Ciudad Fernandino.
Ciudad Fernandino Hotel and Restaurant is one of the well-known establishments in Urdaneta. But behind the fancy alfresco restaurant, is a story worth sharing over a feast of delicious food.
For lunch, we were also served roasted ribs, chicken, burger, salad, and different sides. The meats were smoked for 16 hours using ipil-ipil, santol, and mango wood which made them more flavorful.
Owned by entrepreneurial couples Cynthia and Fernando Esguerra, the hotel and restaurant did not escape the wrath of the pandemic that upended so many businesses for the past two years. “We were caught unprepared! All of our catering jobs were canceled, no one was dining out and no one was traveling,” exclaimed Cynthia, as she rued their situation at the onset of the lockdowns and community quarantine.
The husband and wife tandem recounted that they were isolated for months in their ancestral home in Brgy. Tambac in Dagupan, which then led to the idea of a golden opportunity that was in front of them all along. Fast forward to June 2021, El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino, an alfresco events venue, café, and bed and breakfast, exuding rustic charm, opened its doors to the public.
A place called Tambac
The history behind Ciudad Fernandino traces back to the Esguerra’s family patriarch Sotero Esguerra from Brgy. Mangin, Dagupan City. Sotero was quite the unassuming businessman– he was not glib nor the easy-going wheeler-dealer type you’d imagine a trader would be. He was composed but with a striking semblance of confidence, that was rather intimidating. The tall, serious-looking gentleman was found endearing by his clients and trade partners. He eventually found his way to acquire the fruit of his labor in 1926, a 7,500 square meter property in Brgy. Tambac in Dagupan City. Fortunately enough, the location was great for business, as the property sits between Brgy. Tebeng and Tambac– where many traders exchange goods along the river. He and his wife Rufina and three sons lived comfortably well because of this.
The property was entrusted to Nicolas, one of their three sons. But since he moved to Manila after World War II, the property was left unattended. Thankfully, one of his sons, Fernando, decided to move to Dagupan in 1986.
Secret garden no more
Cynthia and Fernando then found a way to transform this Tambac property from one business to another. From poultry to construction, automotive services, and warehousing, name it, they might have done it. While jumping from one business venture to another, they made sure to make the property alive through planting–whether trees, ornamental plants, and even vegetables.
But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, the couple was forced to take stock of what they had built for the past 34 years. What they saw was a garden with lush greeneries that had to be shared with everyone. With their towering trees, exotic plants, succulents, and the antique pieces of furniture collected over the years – the time for El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino has finally come.
As remnants of their business ventures are strewn all over the place, the Tambac property slowly evolved into El Jardin. Back with years of experience in the hospitality industry in Urdaneta, Fernando and Cynthia slowly built El Jardin into what it is now. Each day of the quarantine was an opportunity for them to slowly build the rooms, patios, and courtyard.
A feast of flavors
Our dinner was made more special by chefs Carmina and Mon Camacho who prepared a Spanish-inspired Filipino fusion culinary feast that satisfied my hankering for Spanish food. They served us Sopa de Mariscos, Gambas, Paella Laing Con Bagnet, Paella Negra, slow-roasted beef belly, Bangus al Jorno, El Jardin Salad, Apple Crumble Cheesecake, Panna Cotta, and chocolate mousse.
The menu was designed to excite with the bold flavors of Spanish- inspired cuisine. El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino offers delectable fusion creations such as the Laing Paella con Bagnet and Bihon la Tinta (Pancit Bihon in Squid Ink) to house specialties like the Casa BBQ and the 8- hour US Roast Beef Belly. Save room for decadent pastries and desserts like their signature Apple Crumble Cheesecake and Red Velvet Cake to complete the gastronomic experience. Curated set menus for large groups are also available.
Refreshed mornings by the river
You can also spend the night in their riverside rooms if you are looking for a place to stay in Dagupan City. El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino offers accommodations where you can wake up to nature, fresh air, and serenading birds.
Celebrate under the stars
El Jardin’s al fresco venue is perfect for dining under the stars. Whether it’s for a romantic tryst or a milestone celebration, there’s always a perfect spot in their sprawling property to celebrate intimately, even with other guests around.
Lush, spacious, and charming, the newest landmark in Dagupan is perfect for intimate gatherings to the grandest of celebrations. With food exquisitely prepared the way only Ciudad Fernandino can, and a garden setting lovingly nurtured for the past four decades, El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino is an amazing experience almost a century in the making.
El Jardn by Ciudad Fernandino is located at 185 Tebeng-Tambac Road, Brgy. Tambac, Dagupan City and can be reached via mobile at 0917 135 7275. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @eljardin.by.ciudadfernandino.
Upon arrival at El Jardin, we got our room keys and freshened up for our afternoon river cruise along Dagupan City’s rivers, including the mangrove-dense Tambac River; the fish-pen-lined river of Calmay River, up to its mouth where the river meets the Lingayen Gulf.
After that relaxing river cruise, we did an afternoon sunset walk at Tondaligan Beach and explored the newly-established food park.
After breakfast the following day, we visited the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church in Calasiao, which is regarded as a National Cultural Treasure. Of course, your visit to Calasiao will not be complete without buying Puto Calasiao, a bite-sized sticky rice cake, as pasalubong.
One spot that piqued our curiosity during our short Dagupan tour was the Dagupan Train Station. It was opened in 1892 during the Spanish colonization, as the terminus of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan line. Unfortunately, the Manila-Dagupan line when the Philippine National Railways ceased its operations in 1988. After that, it was left deserted–roofless and unmaintained. Currently, its rubble stone station still stands. Hopefully, it’ll be transformed into a park or a tourist spot to preserve its historical significance in the city.
Before returning to Manila, we had our last lunch in Pangasinan at Cafe Dos by Ciudad Fernandino. The beautifully-designed al fresco restaurant made our last food stop more memorable as they served us hearty meals. This time, we had Filipino dishes such as roasted chicken, Sinigang na Hipon and pancit generously topped with meat and veggies. To end, we ordered fruit shakes perfect for a very satisfying lunch.
CAFE DOS by Ciudad Fernandino
Address: Mc Arthur Hi-way, Nancayasan, Urdaneta, Philippines
Telephone: (075) 568 2416
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/dosplatoscfhr
El Jardin by Ciudad Fernandino
Address: 185 Tambac-Tebeng Road, Brgy. Tambac, Dagupan City, Philippines
Telephone: 0956 364 7524
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/eljardin.by.ciudadfernandino