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Where to eat in Bohol

Sat in the Philippine archipelago, Bohol is an island known for its coral reefs and its Chocolate Hills. But where should you eat while exploring? We share our tips for four restaurants across the island

Published 19 Aug 2019, 10:54 BST
Saffron restaurant, Amorita resort, Bohol
Saffron restaurant, Amorita resort, Bohol
Photograph by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Reading through the menu at Saffron is an emotional journey. At first, it's disappointment at the preponderance of salads, sandwiches and the other kinds of unexciting dishes you might enjoy after a swim. Then it's excitement at the sight of the 'Purely Amorita' section, which turns out to comprise an array of Filipino classics. And, finally, it's intrigue at the sight of sisig, euphemistically described as a dish of 'pork mascara'.

To see Saffron as merely a pool bar is to do it a huge disservice. Sure, it's part of Amorita, a luxury resort in Bohol, Philippines. And yes, it does overlook an infinity pool and out towards the shimmering sea, but this is a restaurant that's so much better than it needs to be.

The sinigang arrives in a teapot, from which the steaming, sour soup is poured over a medley of veg and two hearty hunks of deep-fried pork belly that are soft inside and topped with the crispest of crackling. The soup itself is tomatoey and slightly reminiscent of a Thai tom yum, but with less chilli heat. It's sour with tamarind, which can be mellowed with a splash of the almost sweet fish sauce served alongside.

As for that pork mascara dish, it turns out to be a sizzling bowl of pork 'face' pieces (as I'm told, less euphemistically, by the waiter) enriched by the addition of chicken livers. It proves a little too iron-rich for my blood, but the crispy banana and jackfruit turon (a sweet take on spring rolls) that follow rounds off the meal nicely. They're not overly sweet, while the blowtorched sugar on top provides a slightly burnt, creme caramel flavour.

Good as dessert is, though, the dish that stays with me weeks after the meal is the tuna kilawin I somehow managed to squeeze in between courses. The Philippines' answer to ceviche, it's only available as an occasional special, but the chef may well make it for you if you ask nicely. The sun-soaked combination of bite-size pieces of tuna, mango, red onion and tomato, 'cooked' in the juice of a local citrus, calamansi, is fresh, tangy and addictive. Now, that's the kind of food I want poolside.

Most diners here will be staying the night too, and Amorita is the kind of place that does the laid-back luxury thing very well. The rooms, spread across a few buildings interspersed with tropical gardens and sweeping lawns, are pared back (expect a lot of wood, rattan and cream) and very spacious. There are two pools, and the one not overlooked by Saffron in turn has a view of the sandy, just-bustling-enough Alona Beach. There are free kayaks and paddleboards to borrow, perhaps to work off last night's dinner.

Audley Travel offers tailor-made trips to the Philippines. A 16-night trip costs from £2,995 per person with flights, transfers, some excursions and B&B accommodation, including four nights at Amorita Resort.

Best of the rest: where else to eat in Bohol

The Buzzz Cafe
Right on Alona Beach, this outpost of the nearby Bohol Bee Farm is a two-storey operation: on the ground floor is a shop selling honey- and bee-related products, as well as ice cream (the avocado flavour is dreamy), while upstairs is the dining room. Sit on the open terrace for views out to sea, and order a cassava taco with fish, washed down with lemongrass juice.

Food & Fables
The menu here is fresh and hearty, with a large range of veggie options (try the green papaya salad), alongside meaty dishes including Bicol express - a local speciality of pork in spicy coconut cream. The setting is pretty special too - Food & Fables is part of a cluster of holiday cottages by the Loboc River, offering everything from SUP tours and yoga classes to a swing from which you can jump into the water.

Dalareich Chocolate House
Bohol’s first chocolate factory is a family-run business, with a Belgian-trained chocolatier — the eponymous Dalareich — at the helm. Book a tour to get to grips with the whole process, or stop by the ‘chocolate house’ (shop) to pick up bean-to-bar creations such as boxes of pralines and dark chocolate-coated dried mango. It’s located in the town of Tagbilaran.

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