South America Living

La Vitrola

A Bit Of Old Havana In Cartagena

Colombian food has been hiding,” says Felipe Arboleda, the boyish, perpetually smiling former chef at Palma, one of the city’s white-hot restaurants. “Colombians hide their identities when they travel because people think we’re all drug dealers. People ask if I have a cocaine plantation or if I am related to Pablo Escobar. So our cuisine hasn’t left the country.”

And if there is one standout restaurant — it’s La Vitrola. Considered the culinary kingpin of Cartagena. Part jazz club, part lounge, part highly touted restaurant, La Vitrola channels old Havana — whirring ceiling fans, swaying palm fronds, slatted window shutters that throw the light just so. Put another way, good luck getting a table for dinner.
I had heard nightmare scenarios about people being given reservations that weren’t honored at the door. “No hay mesas” they were told. I wasn’t taking any chances, so I went for lunch. I got all gussied up in a nice little sun dress — there’s a strict dress code: no shorts, no sandals, definitely no flip flops. I carried my high heels with me through the winding streets of the walled city and ducked into a doorway to slip them on just about a block away from the restaurant. It worked — I got in.

The menu is built around seafood. Normally, I’m suspicious of fish camouflaged in spices and sauces — but the red snapper a la diabla was so fresh and I could still taste the ocean. The sauce was definitely spicy — but it added to the flavor rather than masking it.


My starter was a delicious octopus carpacio. It was divine. Delicately seasoned but not so much as to take away from the flavor, rather it added to it.


The highlight of my meal, though, was the service. It was impeccable! My server, Javier, really took time to explain each dish — and also to personalize the experience. He told me all about the history of the joint — how Gabriel Garcia Marquez used to come by regularly…etc.
Here’s a shot of me, with Gabo looking over my shoulder!

Lunch came to about CP$30,000 pesos which is about $15. This included 2 glasses of wine.

La Vitrola also has a full service bar -if you’re in the mood, they make an excellent Mojito. You can while away more than a few hours here one way or another…

And as always….buen provecho!

La Vitrola
Calle de Baloco No. 2-01

[Andy Alexander 2015]

Logo Header Menu