Ever wondered why such a classy boutique hotel was named The Bayleaf? Food enthusiasts know that the bay leaf is widely used in cooking certain dishes (such as our very own adobo) for its distinctive flavor and aroma. In the Philippines, bay leaf is more popularly known as laurel, and that’s how it came to be the name of this small but elegant hotel in Intramuros — it is run by the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), which is owned by the illustrious Laurel family. Get the connection?
From a safe distance, the boutique hotel doesn’t look impressive enough but I’d have to admit the edifice seems to blend well with its environment. The Bayleaf has been on my wish list of hotels that I’d like to try, but I knew that it was a long shot since my husband Caloy only likes to stay in hotels within several meters from major malls. As it happened, the bar examinations were held last month and, because Caloy is a professor in the LPU-College of Law, he was given a complimentary accommodation at The Bayleaf on the eve of the first Sunday of the bar exams. Instant wish gratification!
The room assigned to my husband was one of the three Premier rooms — the orange one. Each floor of the hotel has a color motif such as lime green, aubergine and orange. The Bayleaf has a total of 57 guest rooms: 40 superior rooms, 10 deluxe rooms, 3 premier rooms, 3 executive suites and 1 Bayleaf suite. Our room was just the right size at roughly 30 square meters, but it’s very clean and comfortable.
We had dinner at the main dining outlet, 9 Spoons, which is also where breakfast is served daily for hotel guests. I wanted to order something simple like a salad or pizza, but my daughter Bea had her heart (and tastebuds) set on the Bayleaf Bagnet classic on a bed of pinakbet (stewed native vegetables in shrimp paste). I’m so glad I heeded her request because the bagnet proved to be the highlight of our whole hotel experience. Bagnet is a regional specialty dish of deep-fried pork belly, which Bea learned to eat during our trip to the province of Ilocos earlier this year. The Bayleaf Bagnet (P400 – good for sharing) has the qualities of really good, authentic bagnet: very tender, fatty and tasty pork meat plus perfectly crisp pork rind. If this photo doesn’t make you drool, I don’t know what will —
The next day, we had buffet breakfast at 9 Spoons. The selection wasn’t anything to write home about, but the restaurant offers a spectacular panoramic view of Manila and that made up for the lackluster breakfast fare.
The Bayleaf is indeed a charming addition to the historic walled city of Intramuros. I certainly would love to go back and stay another day so I could try the churros at its specialty cafe called Cioccolata. If only the hotel had a swimming pool, albeit a small one, it would be even better.