Inside the stately Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, which is juxtaposed against the city’s famous wall built in the 1500s, sits a fantastic restaurant where local and international delights can be had from an innovative and delicious menu. Into the whitewashed room and next to the glistening blue pool, El Claustro, as it’s called, or “The Cloister” in English, offers both hotel guests and outside visitors the opportunity to revel in well-executed cuisine while maintaining a level of sexy casualness that Cartagena in known for.
Colombians, especially in Cartagena, are very hospitable, often going out of there way to please you if you are a guest to their country. This sentiment is echoed amongst the waitstaff at El Claustro and you notice it immediately. At the center of the room is a large, gaping hole bored into the ground which served as a water well in one of the hotel’s many incarnations prior, once a convent, once a hospital. The hostess explains in detail the significance of the well, offering a mini history lesson before delivering me to an elegantly set table.
Sitting at the well-dressed table is only further enhanced by soft, beautiful lighting. This is important as it adds atmosphere and an element of sophistication to the space. Menus are handed-out and suggestions are made by the cheerful waitress. El Claustro is known for their Peruvian ceviche, fresh fish catches, artisanal pizzas and wines from a global selection of vineyards. No detail has been overlooked in the curation of this epicurean event.
Throughout the meal, a-la-carte choices were boiled down to fettuccine with pancetta, a handmade pizza, fresh sea bas, ceviche with “el tigre” sauce, a mini beef fillet and a smattering of desserts that included the best crepes I’ve ever had. The service was personal, attentive and truly outstanding. The table was left to breathe and enjoy each other’s company but the staff was never more than a moment away, and always seemed to show-up at the right time to refill wine, clear plates and offer additional recommendations.
El Claustro is, simply put, fantastic. For its casual atmosphere, it certainly shows that food is taken very seriously. Whether or not your staying at the Sofitel Santa Clara or not, it’s worth the time. Your tastebuds will applaud you.