The Esquire Review: Hotel Cartagena, Dubai
Hotel Cartagena will attract three types of people: faux botanists, tourists looking for a great view of the city, and diners who enjoy concept just as much as food.
This new Latin American eatery at the top of the JW Marriot Marquis is set above Weslodge Saloon – indeed, the same team who run the Esquire Top 50 Restaurant also look after Hotel Cartagena. It offers 360-degree views of the city via the floor-to-ceiling windows and serves a selection of South American favourites washed down with trendy-sounding cocktails.
Hotel Caragena promises that it’s an “invitation for your senses to run wild”. Let’s put that to the test.
Hotel Cartagena: What's the vibe?
Once you’ve taken the obligatory two lifts and ascend to JW Marriot Marquis’ northernmost tower, diners will be presented with a wide-open view of the entire two-story restaurant.
There’s a bar and dining area on both levels, with the former only opening up when it gets busy. Diners can sit along the tropical-themed bar, or in alcoves with said floor-to-ceiling windows. But the most instagrammed part of this restaurant won’t be the view.
A spiral staircase runs down the centre of the restaurant, with faux foliage and trendy tat (pictures and pineapples and whatnot) leading down to the level below. It’s “oh, so trendy” in a way that forces us to use quotation marks.
Hotel Cartagena: How about the food?
The whole restaurant is “run” (again, note the quotation marks) by Mrs Buendia, a fictional character that cooks food that is self-described as “Latin without borders”. You’ll need several funky cocktails to help choke down all the marketing, but once that’s out of your face, you’ll notice the food is very good.
Most people at Hotel Cartagena seemed just as happy taking pictures of the restaurant as eating the food, but for those who get off the ‘gram for two seconds will have the chance to sample the likes of crispy coconut calamari, Padron peppers and chilli prawn nachos. The empanadas (especially the mushroom and cheese variant) are standout, as were the tacos (served in a soft shell, as they should be).
Mains follow the typical ‘meat/fish and two veg’ formula, with a variety of Latin American sides – such as Yucca fries and sweetcorn asado.
Dessert was served in the form of a chocolate cigar that had ice cream inside it. It was a good example of why a restaurant concept should never overshadow the food.
Hotel Cartagena: Where's it at?
Hotel Cartagena is at the top of the JW Marriott Marquis, in Business Bay Dubai.