Hotel Cartagena Dubai isn’t actually a hotel, it’s a restaurant. Now that confusion is out of the way, let’s dive into this Latin American fairyland…
Restaurant, nightlife hotspot, Friday brunch gem, Hotel Cartagena has it all. Including some impressive interiors to boot. The journey starts before you even step foot inside this Business Bay destination – with a lift up to the 72nd floor at the JW Marriott Marquis, which is flanked by a very snappable neon sign and stacked suitcases, setting the scene for a trip to “Latin America without borders”. Brightly coloured, dripping in clashing prints, tropical green foliage and a gigantic central birdcage, the ambience is infectious. Yes, it’s gimmicky, but we’re buying it. Obrigado.
Spread over two expansive floors, Hotel Cartagena features a reasonably-sized bar area and smoking-friendly dining tables on the top floor, and a non-smoking dining area, with a smaller bar on the bottom floor. Open for dinner and Friday brunch, the fare on offer here is, of course, Latin American.
The Huntr has visited Hotel Cartagena twice over the past few months. Once to try its Friday brunch offering, which is easily now one of the best party brunches in the city and includes lively performances from dancers and musicians and big groups out to have some weekend fun, and once for a low-key Saturday night dinner.
The dishes we’ve tried and wholeheartedly recommend include the Classic Guac, Mushroom and Cheese Empanada (60AED), Picanteria Ceviche (96AED) (shrimp, sea bass, scallop, rocoto, tamarillo, hijiki, and Asian pear), Grilled Giant Prawn, and the Brazilian Picanha Steak (225AED) (served with chimichurri tostones and maduros black beans), desserts-wise the Coco Loco (52AED) (coconut chocolate husk, coconut snow, and tropical fruit salsa), and the Instagram-worthy Smoked Vanilla Cigar (which looks like a real cigar, comes served in an ashtray and is actually smoked vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, wrapped in Venezuelan chocolate, with black chocolate ash).
The food menu also features tacos, maki, chicharrones, poke, salads, seafood, and poultry and meat dishes. Meanwhile, the cocktails being whipped up at the (licensed) bar are next level good and served in all sorts of interesting vessels.
Friday brunch runs 1.30pm until 4.30pm and offers both a house beverage (395AED) and soft beverage (295AED) package. Hotel Cartagena’s doors open at 5.30pm daily and close at 2am.
Insider tip: Book to avoid disappointment. Dress to impress. Not really a kid-friendly place thanks to the smoke upstairs and party vibes. For a special occasion, reserve one of the window facing tables upstairs that look out across the Dubai skyline and sea.
– Photography by Augustine Paredes exclusively for The Huntr