Margarita Forés has a new baby—and it’s a not a new sibling for Amado.
A couple of years ago, when I heard Margarita was planning a new restaurant called Grace Park, my first thought was, I’m in.
Grace Park reminds me of something kitschy like Caloocan or a Korean student in Harvard Law School.
It turns out Grace Park refers to her paternal grandmother’s place in the former Elpo compound.
Work in progress: Grace Park at One Rockwell
Trivia: Elpo is a defunct brand of rubber shoes which belonged to Margarita’s family.
Short for El Porvenir, which means “the future,” it opened for business in 1933 and was popular for decades.
Back in the day, the impressive Elpo Compound covered two blocks on the 2nd and 3rd Avenues of Grace Park, Caloocan City.
In 2010, when Margarita brought her son Amado to study in the U.S. they took time out to dine in farm-to-table restaurants such as ABC Kitchen, Vinegar Hill House, and Joseph Leonard, where they came to know healthy, rustic food without much styling.
Her interest in organic and healing foods began when she battled and beat thyroid cancer in 2006.
Today she takes a glass of green juice every morning and looked ten years younger when I interviewed her last Friday.
This sensibility is reflected in Grace Park’s menu, offering organic juices, salads, and vegetables produced by local farmers.
The computer-printed menu, mounted on recycled corrugated board, was designed to change every two weeks—it all depends on what suppliers are offering.
We talked over a huge Grace Park OMG Burger, which I ate in layers.
I started with the top bun of delicious tiger bread. Underneath, bits of organic bacon over cheese and two beef patties, plus a side of salad, and chunky home fries.
On Sunday night I was back again with my family. I had the bone-in tenderloin with garlic buttered rice.
I don’t know what it is with Margarita’s steak and rice—I feel like Homer Simpson (bottomless pit).
This food makes me happy.
My sister had the River Prawns in Anchovy Butter. It’s my first time to see prawns with massive heads, which should be great if you love prawn heads (read: bitin!).
Leave room for desserts developed by Margarita’s partner, Alvin Lim, such as the Key Lime pie and his famous cassava.
For starters, try Panzerotti, Mozzarella, Mortadella
The two-level loft was designed by Margarita with her cousin Jorge Yulo, who does her restaurants.
They made use of unfinished ceilings, unpainted walls, distressed floor planks, iron barricades, and gold-leafed bricks salvaged from old houses.
She keeps it sustainable by recycling old tables and chairs and bringing out the mismatched utensils, plates, and glasses from segunda mano sources.
Don’t be surprised if they serve the fish straight on the frying pan.
Even the toilet is a surprise. (It also smells good.)
Soft-opened last March 21, 2013, Grace Park is still a work in progress.
The menu and interiors are still changing. Credit card payments are being fixed—so please bring cash.
The most expensive thing was probably the bone-in tenderloin I ordered. But everything else looks reasonable.
Grace Park is at One Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center Makati
Open 11 AM to 3 PM and 6 PM to 10 PM
Best to reserve. Pending PLDT and SMART connections*, guests can reserve via (0917) 513-8945.
To know more, go to Grace Park on Facebook.
*SMART: (0939)-93-GRACE • PLDT: 843-PARK (7275)