Monday, July 15, 2013

REVIEW | The Henry: Not your usual hotel

I recently posted about this unique hotel in Cebu that we called home for three nights last month. Definitely an unconventional concept for a hotel, The Henry (formerly The House of Cebu), is already a destination all unto itself. But all this design statement aside, just how good (or bad) is a stay at The Henry? At the end of the day, it is a hotel after all. Allow me break it all down for you.

Architecture and ambiance
As I've mentioned in an earlier post, The Henry sports an industrial, post-modern design aesthetic, sort of like a polished, unpolished look. I say that because even when the beams, lighting fixtures and all are exposed, and the walls and floors are nothing but plain concrete, they all have a glossy sheen to them. Even the accent wall of scrap iron at the lobby was perfectly varnished.

The hotel lobby. See what I mean by polished, unpolished?

The Henry avoids the stiffness normally associated with hotel interiors and furniture. Here you see pop art paintings, street style graffiti, vintage luggage, mannequins and whatnot, all thrown in a mishmash that's undeniably hip, fresh and laid-back.

Outside, there's not much going on really in terms of architecture, as they haven't had a hand at how the building--which they're only leasing--was designed and built. Still, the new management, who took over the hotel in 2012, was able to cleverly work with what they have. And I must say that painting the entire building black was a good move.

A section of the lobby, which leads to a clothing and accessories boutique called The Virus.

The hotel employs lots of indirect lighting, like these spotlights here.

Graffiti along the stairwell.

I must admit that the hotel's location is not the most ideal, being quite far from the downtown area and basically the rest of Cebu City. It is, however, near the Gaisano Country Mall and about 10-20 minutes by taxi from the Ayala Center. Also, the hotel sits on a strip of interesting shops and restaurants, including a spa and a dermatology clinic. There's also a nearby 7-Eleven for your late-night cravings.

Reservation and check-in
The hotel has an efficient and hassle-free online booking system on its website. Our booking went without a hitch. I don't know about hotel transfers since we just took a cab from the airport. At any rate, they can always help you with getting a cab.

Checking in was likewise fast and efficient. The front desk staff, all clad in their cool uniforms of long-sleeved striped shirts and trousers, replete with bow ties and black-rimmed eyeglasses, were all very nice and helpful.

Our room
All rooms at The Henry are big and spacious, and I was told no two rooms are designed the same. I also find it cute how they've ditched the usual standard, superior, deluxe, and suite in favor of Big, Large, X-Large, and XX-Large. So I guess that's descriptive enough of the rooms.

We stayed in a "Big" room, which was the "smallest" of their accommodation options at 36sqm. The floor and ceiling follow the same industrial vibe as the hotel lobby, but the walls here are mostly painted. We were on the 5th floor, by the way.

Already with a generous surplus of space, the room was fitted with a king-size bed, a chair and coffee table by the window, a flat screen TV, a personal fridge, and an electronic safe. There's no closet here although there's a spot by the door where you can hang your clothes. The air conditioning was functioning perfectly but the WiFi saw some hiccups on our last night. While there's a minibar (in the fridge actually), I'd love to have a tea and coffee-making facility.

Our huge bed.

To break the industrial feel of the bare ceiling, this overhead curtain provides a pleasant relief.

Another view of our room. That beige and orange door opens up to the bathroom, and on the far end on the right is where the clothes hangers and safe are.

Almost perfect; if only there was  a coffee-making facility. But I appreciate the trash bin, which was fashioned out of handwoven recycled paper.

Mood lighting: our room at night.

Our bathroom was just as spacious and was covered in black and white tiles. The shower area is partially separated by a glass partition and there's a handheld alternative to the rain shower head. The toiletries, at least the shampoo, body wash and lotion, are from Leyende, a Filipino brand of handmade and organic bath and body products. There's also a hairdryer under the sink.

Love the mod vibe of our bathroom.

Toiletry kit in a native banig tray.

You might have a bit of a noise problem, though, if your room is on the third floor because there's a bar just one floor below. It would be best if you can get a room on the upper floors.

Facilities and services
Lest we forget, The Henry is a boutique hotel, so one cannot expect it to have all the amenities of bigger hotels. There's no gym but there's a restaurant called Rica's at the ground floor, a small pool, a ballroom for parties and functions, an art gallery and a bar called Scrapyard on the second floor, a fashion boutique called The Virus near the lobby, and a Korean salon just outside the main entrance. They also don't have their own spa but there's one (The Spa at Cebu) right beside the hotel.

The pool at night. The shallowest part is at 3ft while the deepest is at 5 or 6ft.

There's a lounging/reading area on the third floor.

A view of the ballroom.

The art gallery. To the right is the Scrapyard Bar, which opens at 6pm. Don't you think the Beetle installation at the center is cool or what? 

All the paintings here, by a French artist who fell in love with Cebu named Delphin Delorme, are for sale.

Although I don't expect The Henry to offer everything, I seriously believe they should have a proper laundry and pressing service. The housekeeping staff were just so hesitant to accept pressing jobs for fear of damaging fabrics, but I really had to have my clothes pressed. To be fair, though, the front desk staff were very accommodating and found a way around when I returned the pants I was going to wear to my sister's wedding. They sent it, along with a new shirt I bought, to a laundromat, I think.

I just hope that the management can address this dearth, especially since according to their sales manager, Ara Sucaldito, they're working on getting corporate clients. These people will be in Cebu for business and they will need to have clothes washed or pressed, and the hotel must be ready for them.

Rica's, located adjacent to the lobby, is a nice restaurant. The food, though not always great, is not bad either. Moreover, the friendly and efficient service, coupled with the restaurant's unique and quirky interiors, easily make up for whatever shortcoming in the taste department.

Consistent with The Henry's design aesthetic, Rica's employs a variety of lighting fixtures, murals, and an uncoordinated but refreshing array of different dining setups. There's a diner-style setup here, a long, wooden table over there, a couch tucked in a corner, and its centerpiece long table with humungous and really high chairs.

These chairs are really high, My Bibe had a hard time getting off of one. Compare them to that toddler's chair on the right (partly hidden).

See how every table is different from each other?

A mishmash of different styles, this restaurant is never a visual bore.

Rica's also has a small bar setup on one corner.

As it is, the food here is good but not great. It's good in the sense that we didn't mind eating a couple of meals here in addition to our daily complimentary breakfast. Besides, the plating is good. I especially love those soup bowls that they use; quite whimsical in a way.

Their soups were good, as was the caesar salad, but it was that Spam Burger that I loved the most. I also tried their Gambaretti pasta, which, though tasty, was a tad too oily. We've also tried at least three different desserts throughout our stay, and all three were just way too sweet. They were good but just too sweet that I needed help with my plate.

Callos (Php 300): Not bad but nothing fantastic about it either.

21a 20130628_131820
Don't you just love this soup bowl set? I want one at home.

Gambaretti (Php 320): Flavorful but a tad too oily.

22a 20130628_131759
Spam Burger (Php 300): Sometimes it's the simplest of dishes that turn out to be the most satisfying.

Apple Cream Pie (Php 150): This was really good but I couldn't go beyond a few tablespoons because it was just way too sweet for me.

Mango Supreme Crepe (Php 165): A bit underwhelming, especially since the mangoes used were quite sour. The crepe itself was quite bland.

As for their breakfast, they offer four different options: American, European, Filipino, and... (tada!) Fitness, with the American and Filipino options having further sub-choices for some components. Together, My Bibe and I have tried all four options, and I must say that breakfast was pretty good.

On our succeeding stays at this hotel, the four breakfast options (including Fitness!) were now replaced with a mini-buffet that's made up mostly of Filipino staples including danggit. It's not much but still fairly okay.

You can check out more of Rica's menu here.

And oh, I haven't checked out the Scrapyard Bar, but I was told there's a band playing on certain nights. I only had a peek while it was still closed. I'm probably too old.

In hindsight
In summary, The Henry offers a fresh and unconventional alternative to the many hotels in Cebu--unless you can't bear to stay a bit farther from the heart of the city. All the offbeat design and pop art are easy to like, more so the generous space of its rooms. Though with limited amenities, at least they've covered the basics of food and some recreation. Its proximity to other establishments, a spa and a salon included, are a plus. However, they really need a proper laundry and pressing service. Nonetheless, the staff provide great yet unobtrusive service.

The Henry is a must-try hotel and I'm definitely staying here again. Soon, hopefully.

The all-black exterior of The Henry.

The Henry is located at 1 Paseo Saturnino (now Paseo Uno), Maria Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City.

Cab drivers are not quite familiar with the hotel, so you'll have to give them the street name. It might also help if you'll tell him its near the Gaisano Country Mall. On Google Maps, by the way, it's still tagged by its old name, The House of Cebu.

And alas, they've just opened a second hotel in Metro Manila last December 2014! Do check out my The Henry Hotel Manila review.


  1. Seems like a really interesting hotel

  2. I love how original the design is...and I must say the food looks delicious!

  3. Fantastic hotel design! Actually I love hotels, but I get even more excited about quirky and interesting accommodation which means I really love boutique hotels like Henry.
    Cox Bazar Hotels

  4. Resort in Bhimtal , Thanks to shared nice information with us, Its really useful stuff for us. keep sharing,

  5. this is surely one unique hotel. thanks much for this post ;-)

  6. Oh my! What a wonderful hotel indeed. Would definitely going to check it out. =)

  7. This is nice unsual hotel. We hope that this hotel offer also an affordable rates.

  8. When someone writes an article he/she maintains the plan of a user in his/her brain that how a user can be aware of 
    it. So that's why this piece of writing is perfect. Thanks!

  9. Thanks for this blog entry! :) Looking into staying here soon.


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