Place: JW Marriott Marquis
AED 295 (Soft beverages)
AED 395 (House beverages)
Timings: 1.30pm- 4.30pm
“To know how to eat well, one must first know how to wait.”
-Marco Pierre White
Hotel Cartagena’s motto is ‘Welcome to Latin America without borders’, indicating a theme based on Latino fusion. The interior appears to be heavily influenced by the beautiful walled city of Cartagena; the colorful seaside Caribbean city in Colombia. The venue is located on the 72nd and 73rd floor of the JW Marriott, and the second you enter one is greeted by an explosion of green and bright tropical colors. Management has clearly invested heavily into making the restaurant as ‘instagrammable’ as possible.
The food is served sharing style to the table as follows:
Cold Starters selection:
- Guacamole and root vegetable chips
- Ceviche of the day- we were served a salmon ceviche which was lacking a spicy punch
- Tuna Poke- our favorite of the cold starters, but I must highlight that poke is a Hawaiian dish
- Spicy Tuna Roll- nice flavours, but I wish restaurants in town would leave sushi making to the Japanese
- Avocado Salad- after already having guacamole, and avocado with the tuna poke this was an overdose of avocado.
Hot Starters selection:
- Empanadas beef- beef was dry and had an off-putting flavor
- Empanadas mushroom and cheese- this empanada version was actually good
- Corn chicharones- interesting version of grilled corn, but grilled corn has become a repetitive dish with all the Latin restaurants in town
The hot starters were definitely inferior to the cold options.
- Braised Short Rib with coconut polenta – tender beef and tasty polenta
- Grilled Lamb Chops – good flavors but cooked well done
- Guava Rum Chicken – my favorite dish of the day, tender chicken and the rum sauce was delicious. Served with fried plantains.
- Grilled tiger prawns- disappointingly over cooked
They offer additional mains of whole fish, lamb shoulder, and tomahawk steak at an additional cost. I have noticed this “additional menu” trend at a few restaurants; and I am not a fan. With guests are already paying big money, they should not be asked to pay more for the restaurant’s ‘signature dishes’. Perhaps the alternative should be to offer guests to pick 1 or 2 of these higher cost mains.
Overall most of the food options are interesting but the execution can definitely be improved.
The Beverage options are as follows:
- Beer: Estrella (bottled)
- Wines: White, Red, Rose, Sparkling (Chilean wines)
- Spirits: (Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whiskey, Saki).
- Cocktails: Selection of five cocktails: Pisco punch, Mojito, Rosabla’s Potion Rojo/Blanco, and Dark & Stormy.
I only tried the Dark & Stormy but really enjoyed it so stuck with it for the rest of the brunch.
The service is efficient and attentive throughout, except for one guest with food allergies. We had informed the restaurant in advance, and they confirmed that the kitchen would be able to accommodate. On the day however; the kitchen seem unprepared and she was served a very limited menu.
Popular Latin music plays throughout the brunch, and two carnival dancers go around encouraging guests to dance. For a proper ‘carnival’ vibe, I think a live ban is required. Another major drawback is the short three-hour time slot. A three-hour brunch always ends up feeling as a hasty experience. Four-five hours would be ideal.
I count less than 10 tables when we visit, and since the venue is only indoors, I believe they will struggle during the Dubai winter season. With the recent launch of an identical concept in Pier 7 (Mama Zonia) Hotel Cartagena should step up their brunch game a few notches.
Good Latin music and Carnival dancers encourages the guests to dance and have fun.
Good wines and cocktails served. Bar service is efficient.
Hot starter selection can be improved. Execution of mains can also be improved.
Friendly, efficient, and attentive service.
Value for Money: 10/20.
At AED 395 I would expect a four hour brunch plus the additional mains section.