Culinary Excellence: 5-Star Dining in Cartagena

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Gastronomy in Cartagena is massive. Hidden amongst the cobbled streets of the walled city are some of the most talented chefs in Colombia. Wining and dining are their passion.  

Cartagena, being a major destination for tourists, is a gastronomical melting pot. You can find an abundance of traditional dishes from the Colombian coast such as coconut rice, fried fish, and patacones. However, you can also find a varying range of flavors like Asian, Italian, Lebanese, Spanish, and everything in between.

Thanks to its prime location on the Caribbean coast, you can also expect some of the best and freshest seafood of your life.

Along with the enormous variety of cuisines, Cartagena also has a huge variety of prices. From haute cuisine fine dining experiences at Alma or Carmen to casual courtyard dining at La Cevichería, to street pizza at Zazzy’s, there is something for everyone on the Cartagena restaurant scene.

Some finer restaurants do have a dress code, so keep this in mind and save your shorts for the pool. In Cartagena, high season is almost all year round, so make sure to make reservations in advance where possible.

Cartagena’s historic walled city is the focus for restaurants and bars and it is normally here where you can find some of the high-end establishments. Many of these restaurants can be found inside beautiful 17th-century colonial buildings. They are rustic and strikingly stunning, often with courtyards, archways, and lightly swaying palm trees.
Dining in a colonial villa adds to the irresistible charm of the Cartagena experience.

Here is a small selection of some of the best restaurants in Cartagena, from the classics to the newer ones. 


Carmen

Calle 38 # 8-19
+57 310 394 9344

This classy restaurant promises and delivers a quality high-end dining experience with a tantalizing menu offering a modern take on superbly sourced local ingredients with well-integrated Asian touches.

The restaurant is situated in an intimate and elegant colonial house downtown. The chefs have studied at Le Cordon Bleu, the most prestigious culinary institution in the world.

The dining room is divided into three distinct areas with an internal parlor influenced by an exposed brick wall and delightful table lamps, a courtyard soothed by the gentle sound of lightly cascading water and a small rooftop terrace, perfect for embracing the Cartagena sunset and welcoming cool sea breeze.

Service is excellent without being overly formal while the drinks menu impresses with a suitably exotic list of cocktails.

At Carmen, every plate is a work of art. Their à la carte menu is a great option for an optimal dining experience. However, for a special treat, indulge in one of the five or seven-course tasting menus.

Their experience and passion for local, fresh ingredients make Carmen Cartagena stand out above the rest. The menu is a celebration of local flavors, many of which are unique to Colombia. Serving freshly caught lobster, octopus and crab, presented in unique and creative ways, with every tiny detail executed to perfection. There are also fantastic dishes created for those preferring something other than seafood. From the attentive service to the award-winning wine list and the innovative craft cocktails, this is a time to remember.

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Dress code: Smart and elegant. Long pants and closed shoes for men are a must.
Reservations needed: Yes. Reservations can be difficult, so book ahead of time so as not to be disappointed.

Carmen is the place to go for a truly memorable and special evening.


Alma

Calle de la Universidad, #36-44
+57 605 811 0050

Situated in the fabulously stylish boutique hotel Casa San Agustín, Alma is fast becoming known as one of the unmissable culinary experiences in Cartagena.

The magnificent interior was designed by the famous Interior Designers Kelly Mcrorie and Anna Gustafson, who have combined classic and modern furnishings to add to the stunning historic architecture, striking the perfect balance between traditional and modern.

Dark wood furniture with guilted edges, elegant arches and tropical greenery in an open-air courtyard that resonates with the gentle sound of water. This is the dining experience at Alma. Its gastronomic concept pays homage to the Colombian.

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Caribbean cuisine and its traditional flavors, with a high-class and contemporary twist. On weekends enjoy live Cuban music while the atmosphere is always warm and inviting. It is the perfect spot for a special romantic meal.

If this paints an enticing picture, wait until you see the menu. The dishes are heavily seafood-based (as you would expect from a vacation town in the Caribbean) with authentic Colombian ingredients that make them truly exceptional. Although fresh fish and seafood are the stars of the menu, Alma also offers vegan options and premium cuts of meat. Chef Heberto Eljach, known for his mastery of traditional cuisine, has turned Alma into a must-see destination for food lovers from around the world. From its exceptional menu, inspired by the Caribbean, to its impeccable service, this restaurant stands out as a true culinary treasure in the global panorama of haute cuisine.

If you would like to dine al fresco but do not relish the idea of sitting street side, Alma restaurant offers guests an astonishing enclosed courtyard in which to dine. It is comfortable, clean and extremely elegant. You will have all the benefits of Cartagena’s amazing climate, including the sensational night sky without the hustle and bustle of the street in the historic Old City.

Dress code: Smart to formal. No casual attire is recommended or permitted.
Reservations needed: Definitely. Reservations are at a premium, so book ahead.


Celele

Carrera 10c #29-200, Getsemaní
+57 301 742 0389

Cartagena is the perfect place setting for Celele by Proyecto Caribe Lab. The restaurant opened in 2018 and immediately started winning awards. Chefs Jamie Rodriguez and Sebastian Pinzon quickly carved out a unique niche for themselves in the already restaurant-heavy neighborhood of Getsemaní, where Cartagena’s most vibrant nightlife and cultural exhibitions are to be had. Celele brings cutting-edge fusion cuisine down to earth without lowering the quality or the expectations of world-class diners.

The menu at Celele is just incredible. It is filled with contemporary cuisine based on the gastronomic culture and biodiversity of the Colombian Caribbean. It offers exotic dishes with local ingredients such as supremely fresh seafood that has its roots in traditional meals that have been served around Cartagena and the surrounding islands for generations.

In addition to the five or ten-course tasting menu, the restaurant offers a menu that changes throughout the year depending on seasonal products. You will find super creative dishes like Cartagena-style braised beef that has been cooked for many, many hours, pork confit with banana purée, Mompox-style duck stew with fresh orange juice and coconut milk, and pan-roasted catch of the day fresh from the boats in the harbor.

Other selections offer the chance to really explore the exciting creations of those behind the menu, including beef tongue pastrami with roasted pineapple, a beautiful Caribbean flower salad topped with edible blossoms and handmade arepas baked in banana leaves with sugar cane syrup.
Unlike many restaurants in Cartagena, Celele has incredible dessert courses. Temptations like Celele style merengón (meringue) with a crispy vanilla bougainvillea wafer, rosewater ice cream, roasted bananas in rum sauce and tangy fresh fruit sorbets.

However, the food is only half the story, because dining at Celele is about the experience as much as it is gastronomy.

Found in a quaint little house in Getsemaní, Celele sets the scene from the moment you walk in the door. Once seated, you will be attended to by friendly and knowledgeable waiters who guide you on your journey through Caribbean fusion cuisine, offering suggestions to please your palette and explaining the thought process behind the creation of each of the dishes.

Dress code: Smart casual
Reservations needed: Imperative


Restaurante Candé

Carrera 10, #No 39-02
+57 605 668 5291

If Cartagena were a restaurant, she would be Candé. Much of the culture of a city may come from its gastronomy, but there are other qualities as well. Music, dance and traditional dress are all things that Candé incorporates into its dining experience to ensure that its diners are fully immersed in the Cartagenero experience.

Enjoy the fabulous live musical show at both lunchtime and dinner and watch performances of mapalé, cumbia, salsa, champeta and other Caribbean rhythms.

A night at Candé is to experience the romantic melody of the guitar that adorns the restaurant, meticulously decorated with antique and elegant ornaments.

The tables are impeccable, with glistening glasses ready for the finest of wines or champagne.
Rattan lamps, gorgeous porcelain plates, antique tiling, wicker chairs and a warm welcoming smile, give the glowing feeling of an old and romantic house from Cartagena or Mompox.

Innovative and creative chefs, passionate about showcasing the best produce and techniques of the Colombian Caribbean region delivering world-class cuisine where attention has been paid to absolutely every detail. There is no fusion here.

Stimulate your senses with some incredible food with a pairing of wines delicately selected for the occasion, so that the legendary Cartagena continues reaching the heart of Colombia and the world through the five senses. Each dish evokes the tradition of Cartagena gastronomy, aubergine gratin with crab meat, seafood stew, lobster bisque, ceviche
and of course, posta cartagenera, iconic to the city’s gastronomic history. All seem to be a notch above sublime. 

The selection of world wines at Candé, with more than one hundred varieties from countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Chile, Argentina, Australia and the United States. 
Choose wine styles such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, of which Don Melchor is one of the most prestigious and listed as one of the best wines in Latin America.

The wide selection also includes the latest global trends in organic wines.

Make sure you leave room for dessert, however, as their menu features local delicacies you will not find anywhere else in the world.

In short, Candé Restaurant is an essential place for those who want to taste the most authentic flavors of Caribbean and Creole cuisine in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. 

Culture, music and tradition all come together at Candé to provide an unforgettable experience.

Dress code: Smart and elegant.
Reservations needed: Highly recommended as reservations can be difficult, so book as far ahead of time as possible so as not to be disappointed.


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