Time Out Says
Set at the top of the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, the second-tallest hotel in the world, you’ll need a head for heights and an ear for loud and lively Latin music.
Filled with colourful foliage and eye-popping murals, with the occasional burst of live dance performances from women dressed in enormous plumage, Hotel Cartagena is no wallflower. And nor is its menu, packed with punchy flavours – from tangy ceviche to chargrilled meats.
Service, however, is less dynamic, so prepare to endure the ritual challenge of waving someone down to order. And then, perhaps, to later remind them of your order.
Seating arrangments are a touch odd, too. We’re a party of two, and seated at a table for at least six. Equally perplexing is the height of the table and chairs themselves. Each seat is so low-slung our knees are almost level with our chests when we sit down.
In fact, it’s almost impossible to get them under the table unless we stretch them straight out, as though we’ve all the joints of a Barbie doll.
Once we’ve waved our plastic arms around enough, food finally arrives. The octopus is an instant hit, with perfectly crisp, yet yielding, tentacles, delicately curled and generously salted.
Braised beef cheek empanadas are everything we’re hoping for from the age-old street food –golden, crunchy and packed with savoury shredded meat. Deeply satisfying without the threat of stodge.
A good thing too, because we’re beginning to wonder if we’ll ever be able to stand up.
When the enormous trio of ceviche maki arrives, our fears are confounded. But it’s quickly followed by grilled giant prawn – radiant in kaffir lime oil – and suddenly we’re quite happy to be trapped in our seats for the foreseeable future.
While mains are pricey (Dhs145 up to Dhs620), the tacos, maki, ceviche and other hot and cold appetisers (from Dhs42 to Dhs96) are ripe for a sharing-style soirée over a few of the bar’s signature mixed drinks.
Just make sure you stretch before taking a seat.
16 Oct 2018
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