Manila eats: Grace Park at One Rockwell

You don’t think I could have just five memorable meals during a three-week vacation in Manila, now could you? I saved my favorite for a separate post: Grace Park, Gaita Fores’ newest restaurant at One Rockwell in Makati.

Grace Park gets a post of its own because, well, it’s just so darn photogenic. Embracing bare concrete, beat-up wood and rusted iron seems a bit of a risk for an upscale establishment. But rustic industrial is the new shabby chic, and it’s all about the mix. Grace Park pulls it off with class and flair in its loft-like interior.

Grace Park restaurant Rockwell industrial stairs

Grace Park restaurant Rockwell chandelier

Grace Park restaurant Rockwell decor

I love old Filipino houses, so it warmed my heart to see details like vintage iron grillwork and bricks brought into the mix. Grace Park was named for the residence of Gaita Fores’ paternal grandmother, and seeing these fixtures immediately makes me picture old, stately family homes like those in old and New Manila.

Grace Park restaurant Rockwell vintage iron grille

Grace Park restaurant Rockwell bricks

Mismatched cutlery and chairs, vintage brown and green glass tumblers, even repurposed kitchen items create an eclectic and homey feel. I’m totally going to steal this idea of using  humble llaneras (cheap aluminum tins with a pretty specific purpose: for making leche flan) as a tabletop container for napkins.

Grace Park restaurant Rockwell repurposed lanera

Then there’s the food.

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Quiet time in the city

Too many years of pre-Christmas chaos led me to expect that Manila would be crazy, jam-packed and debilitated by traffic. But I was pleasantly surprised. It seems we arrived home at just the right time, or maybe everyone did their shopping early this year. Maybe it was because Christmas was on a Tuesday, giving everyone a much-needed weekend to get things done.

Whatever the reason, I found the Makati commercial/business district surprisingly quiet on the Sunday before Christmas. And that was actually nice.

After living in a city where very few buildings are over 4 stories, Makati’s towering, densely packed skyscrapers are almost a strange sight. I’m not used to them anymore.

Neither am I used to such insistent brightness, or spending so much time in malls…

… or being confronted with such urban density. For example, Makati’s population of approximately 530,000 (about 2/3 of Amsterdam’s population) is squeezed into a city roughly 10% the size of Amsterdam. This is why people who whine about how crowded Amsterdam is always get a blank look from me.

But hey, I’m not complaining. I’m not used to swimming outdoors at 6pm on a December evening, either. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t relish it.

And when the city rolled out its one of its famous sunsets, this slice of quiet time became even more precious. This, I miss.

Did you manage to find a pocket of quiet time this holiday season? It feels wonderful, doesn’t it?

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