One does not simply go all the way to Baguio City without picking strawberries or eating strawberry sweets. Have you tried Strawberry ala Heston? This incredible, sweet temptation is a staple of Forest House, a charming, cozy boutique hotel (reminiscent of a European countryside home) and bistro recognized by the prestigious Philippine Tatler.
It’s hard to miss Forest House when going to Camp John Hay. As far as I can remember it has been there standing since forever (or 2001 to be exact) at the pine-forested Loakan Road. Funny thing is, it was only lately that I found out that the hotel is owned by the family of 2016 Miss International Kylie Verzosa. In fact, a banner is prominently displayed on the hotel’s façade congratulating the beauty queen. Both her parents – Ari and Raquel – previously worked as flight attendants of Philippine Airlines. Their exposure to tourism and hospitality service industry, as well as their growing family (they find it hard to be often away from their children because of their job), prompted them to leave the airline and eventually open a family business back home in Baguio. It was Ari’s Initiative along with his cousin Arvin to open a casual but upscale restaurant that will later on evolve into a hotel. Their grandparents owned the old Plaza Hotel on Session Road so they know too well the ins and outs of the business.
The restaurant actually welcomes the visitor upon entering Forest House. It has warm and intimate interiors with fireplace, wooden ensembles, artworks, comfy couches and artificial but lovely sunflowers.
Almost in every corner are inspirational quotes on wooden board. There’s this one that reads – “Home is where the story begins.”
Below the restaurant and occupying two floors is the hotel, which actually looks and feels more like home. I love the smell of the old pine wood and potpourri, the warmth and country-home atmosphere of this place.
The hotel has only five rooms (named after Ari’s children and dad) to ensure privacy of guests. I stayed in Kahlil’s Room. It is very spacious, homey and quaint with so many decorative items, trinkets and abubots hanging on the wall. I wish I had this log-cabin type of room.
Aside from the main restaurant, there’s an exclusive dining area (with a nice view of a garden and Mt. Sto. Tomas) for stay-in guests. Many patrons actually rave about their dining experience at the Forest House. And truthfully, I could attest that they are in the same league with Café by the Ruins. Their signature dishes taste absolutely fantastic especially the bagnet, kebab, bagnet, cheese omelette, Vigan longganisa and their mouth-watering Strawberry ala Heston (Baguio strawberries in cream with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon), which I think deserves an honourable mention in Tatler.
After settling in and having a satisfying meal, what’s the next best thing to do aside from sleeping (given the nice, bed weather of Baguio)? Syempre explore the natural wonders of the summer capital. I revisited the Strawberry Farm, laughed with the flowers at Bahong Flower Farm, and enjoyed the crisp, bracing air and spectacular mountain-view during the golden hour on the summit of Yangbew.
Sobrang ganda talaga when you are far, far away from the busy Session Road. I put on my earphones and this beautiful song started to play “I don't need more reminders of all that's been broken. I don't need you to fix what I'd rather forget…”
But strawberries can fix just anything. But maybe not a car.
From Manila, take Baguio-bound bus (Victory Liner bus station in Cubao). From Victory Liner Baguio, take a taxi going to Forest House (more or less 10 minutes). To visit other spots, better rent a taxi.
Forest House Bistro and Café and Boutique Hotel
#16 Loakan Rd, Camp John Hay
Tel. No.: 0917-8887960, (074) 447- 0459