Walking to restaurants over the years I’ve often appreciated the giddy feeling I get when I know I’m about to enjoy a great meal at a local hole-in-the-wall favourite, or a top-rated, hatted, or Michelin starred restaurant. That same great feeling came again when I visited Colombia’s number one restaurant, and as far as welcomes go, and new experiences, this one was unlike any other.
The journey started when I got into the wrong Uber and ended up being driven halfway to Medellin airport, after which point I soon realised that what was meant to be a 4 minute ride turned into a 40 minute journey. Anxious that I’d be denied entry by the Maitre D’ for arriving late to this restaurant, I promptly telling the driver to turn around, and head back to the correct location after pleading in broken Spanish to gun-it for fear of missing this meal, after suggesting I’d pay a small tip for prompt driving I was then heading in the right direction.
Take two – I arrive to the road leading to the restaurant and noted the street was blocked off by a police cordon – prompting me to wonder what sort of dining experience I’d be having. Not to deterred I then got out of the Uber and proceeded to walk to restaurant El Cielo (as nothing was going to come between me and this experience) I then quickly realised that the reason why the street was blocked off was because there were four Colombian policeman brandishing M-16’s patrolling outside the restaurant… So I decided to keep walking past them (noting what I said before), and after asking one of them where the restaurant was they calmly and politely pointed me in the right direction, albeit with the barrels of their guns!
With the Rambo-style checkpoint challenge complete I walked in to the restaurants front area, where I was greeted by the Maitre D’, and after exchanging some small (but nervous) talk on the heightened security for my arrival, and laughing it off in good humour and I was promptly taken inside of the restaurant, and to my table, joining my dining companions for a lunch I knew was going to be a real highlight as far as culinary experiences were concerned.
Any experience worth its salt will often present, or offer imaginative, and never-before-tried experiences that accompany the meal, and El Cielo definitely knew how to present stylish and sophisticated Colombian cuisine, and on a whole new level.
The first course wasn’t actually a course as far as food is concerned, but for the sake of telling the story I felt I couldn’t leave it out. We were all given a condensed napkin on a plate, and our waiter then proceeded to pour hot water over it, allowing for the napkin to absorb the water, and then expand into something resembling a hot towel. My dining companions had assured me that this item was not to be eaten, and had even joked about this very novel, yet clever way of encouraging hygiene had in fact been in a movie, and some had experienced it before at top restaurants in other parts of the world. I was impressed, and hoped that this would be the future of sanitation hygene.
Next up it was time to try chocolate poured over our hands, which seemed a little different as far as eating was concerned, I began to wonder whether this entire lunch was going to take place using nothing but our hands, but I was quickly reassured that our chocolate sticky fingers were actually a part of the experience, and that we were going to dine using a knife and fork throughout. Relieved, I could then move on to the next course.