Say Grace

With a deliciously seasonal farm-to-table menu that salutes the Filipino farmer, Margarita Forés’s highly anticipated new restaurant, Grace Park, proves that it—like any great food or good idea—is worth the wait



Her face always seems to betray all her light bulb moments—and like flashes of the paparazzi snapping away at the red carpet, it has lit up a lot.

But such is the intense and kinetic mind of Margarita A. Forés.

Margarita Fores

Watching her in action is like watching a whirling dervish. Clad in a simple but immaculate white t-shirt, jeans, and loafers, she coolly and patiently oversees the construction of her much-awaited new farm-to-table restaurant, Grace Park, but you just know that there are still sparks of ideas being processed as she flits from area to area, giving comments on the food, the plates, the ceiling, the stairs. She doesn’t seem to break a sweat, either.

If you follow the local food scene very closely, there are always certain names that pop up— prolific restaurateurs who’ve left such an imprint on the way we eat out.

Names like Daza, Escudero, Calalang, Villavicencio, Cruz, Reyes, Magdaluyo—from past to present, in good times and bad, chances are someone in your family has walked into
an establishment owned by them in the past few decades or so. There is no doubt that Fores deserves a spot on this list.

With her large armada of eateries—Lusso, Bola, and the Godzilla that is Cibo, plus her catering arm Cibo di M—it’s not entirely difficult to think that she may have single- handedly brought an awareness for Italian food to a much wider audience than any other Italian restaurant has ever done before her.

After success like this, which direction is there still to go?

Grace Park is her answer to that question. Taking a few steps back from her signature Italian-inspired cuisine, she turns towards the things she holds dear. It is inspired by her travels, by her time spent with her partner Alvin and only son Amado, and by the meals they share together in restaurants close to their hearts: New York City icons like The Spotted Pig and Blue Hill . . . hotspots like Joseph Leonard . . . trattorias in Italia where she studied their cuisine. And that’s just the food! Nothing complicated—just lusty, hearty dishes made with care and using the finest ingredients they can find, all straight from the source. Think two-inch thick pork chops, juicy from brining, grilled and seasoned perfectly, served alongside a sweet potato puree. or pork and beef meatballs, slowly simmered in rich tomato sauce, with grilled, freshly baked bread to soak up the leftover juices and debris. or fresh pasta—literally handmade without the help of a pasta roller (“Can you taste the difference? It’s alive!” she quips)—tossed in lemon, whipped goat cheese, and pistachio. Yes, you will want to eat here.

Spicy Tinapa Mousse


The space is not as avant garde as, say, Pepato, but with her cousin Jorge Yulo at the helm of the design team, you can bet it’s still going to be quirky: old grills from Dapitan; farmer’s instruments sourced from secondhand stores; chairs from the early days of the family-owned Pizza Hut, refinished and gold leafed; and a private space that looks like a fall-out shelter, something you’ll have to see for yourself to understand. It looks comfortably aged, something quite difficult to achieve in this day and age when restaurants mostly look decked out and fancy (It actually was difficult, decorating the place with only vintage or found furniture, admits Fores). Yes, you will want to eat here.

It is, however, the philosophy behind it that will propel this restaurant to greater heights.
The name itself salutes the place where her lola grew up: a gentle locale in Caloocan, during a bygone era. But the real “Grace” is literally that: the grace of the ingredients—the gifts from Filipino farmers who give their all to provide amazing vegetables and livestock: organic beets, swiss chard, tomatoes like you’ve never seen in any market, ducks and chickens raised eating malunggay leaves and oatmeal. With a menu that depends on the seasonal produce, Forés never really knows what’s going to pop up at her doorstep—and for that kinetic mind of hers, that works out just fine.

“If I don’t buy this produce from the farmers I work with, they won’t be able to do business,” she says, giving a glimpse not just into the way she thinks but her generous attitude to the food scene in general.

Here is a woman hitting her ultimate groove, using all the lessons she’s picked up in all the years of being in the food business. She knows that there is a lot at stake here—and that a lot of people are going to buy into her vision and want to work with her if she succeeds in being their front liner and their voice.

Grace Park is a funky, tale-filled love letter to the land, the people who toil in it for a living, to family, and to glorious food.

And yes, you will want to eat here.

Grace Park is located at One Rockwell, Rockwell, Makati. Call 0917 513 8945.

Grace Park is located at One Rockwell, Rockwell, Makati. Call 0917 513 8945.