After writing a post about Colombian food I felt like I should also write about what I actually eat out here. After overdosing on rice and beans in my first few months I’ve ended up spending a large chunk of my savings on what I call Gringo Street.
Gringo street is actually two streets that meet at the Parque de Los Novios, the centre of nightlife in Santa Marta. From Parque Simon Bolivar turn down Carrera 3, from calle 15-18, and go up calle 18 from carrera 3-5. This little section of the old town is the most polished part of Santa Marta, where most of the best restaurants and cafes are.
Lulo was my where I had my first ever meal in Santa Marta. Having been warned that Santa Marta was less developed than a lot of cities in Colombia, I expected this to mean that I would finally get to try some authentic Colombian food.
Instead, I followed the group into a little cafe that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Shoreditch. The vegan-friendly, avocado heavy menu was a millennial’s wet dream. Smoothies and cocktails served in jars. Hummus, feta and gourmet arepas…
Even though we’d just flown halfway across the country it was still morning, so I had to settle for a breakfast wrap with my mojito. The food was slow, which I put down to the size of the group, not yet realising that everything happens extra despacito over here. Despite my hanger my bacon and egg wrap with avocado, salsa and roast potatoes was well worth the wait.
Lulo became my regular haunt in the next few weeks as I made the most of the jugo del dia offer that comes with a free coffee and slowly worked my way through the breakfast menu. My favourite has been the Coralita which is an arepa with a mountain of steak,egg, avocado and salsa.
It’s so good that I keep forgetting how badly it gives me the shits. The first few times I put it down to general travellers tummy/my perpetual semi-hungover state. But as I settled in and stopped drinking as much I realised that these violent cases of the bubbleguts seemed to be steak related. It was a hard lesson to learn, and I’ve made a fair few blunders along the way. Mis-steaks if you will.
Each time I’m ill after eating here I swear never to come back, and then find myself wandering in on a Sunday when everywhere else is closed. So that’s my verdict on Lulo’s – So good it makes you forget about the food poisoning.
Carambolo is Lulo’s less popular sister restaurant. I’m not sure why it hasn’t taken off as much. The poached egg skillet with spinach and feta cheese is delicious (if a bit on the small side) and the homemade carrot cake is perfectly moist and not overly sickly, almost tricking you into thinking it’s healthy. The salads which are actually healthy are huge and filling, but for some reason, I rarely ever think of coming here. Although it is quiet, pleasantly cool and has tolerable service, apparently it takes a case of the gravy pants to cement somewhere in my mind.
My experience of the Bistro is definitely still seared into my mind, and probably still seared on the hotel toilet bowl.
Scouting out a restaurant for my birthday meal I had the first proper steak I’d had in Colombia. A succulent slab compared to the strands conceivably designed for an extra speedy exit at Lulo’s.
This was a massive win for me for two reasons. Firstly, rare steak with a balsamic reduction and hand cut chips. Need I say more? Secondly, I really needed a win. It had become a bit of a running joke amongst my friends that I was cursed when it came to ordering. I went through a really bad patch where everyone would be tucking into their meals, cooing with delight, while I pushed the food around on my plate silently fuming. I’m not even going to write about Soul Food because 9 months on I still haven’t got over the trauma. So when I saw my friend look up enviously from his fish and mashed potato I felt extra smug.
I felt less smug, however, when we returned the following week with the rest of the group to celebrate my birthday. I had decided to have a quiet meal the night before my birthday so that I wouldn’t wake up hungover on my first day as 26 year old. Although we were feeling merry we decided to call it a night after heading to the Creperie for dessert. As I tucked into the salted caramel and Nutella medley that I’d been fantasizing about all week, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen. I bagged it up and rushed back to my hotel, where I saw in my 26th birthday soberly cradling the toilet bowl. Fuck being a grown up.
A Deriva was one of my favourite restaurants that I’ve ever been to, even in the real world. It was the only place I had ever been in Colombia where the service was European standard. I know I sound like a dick but I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been for a meal elsewhere where everything we’ve ordered has turned up within the hour.
The chalkboard menu was varied and changed by the day. French classics given a Colombian twist, like baked Camembert with mango, or giant king prawns wrapped in bacon, and Asian options like Bo Bun and dumplings.The home baked baguettes were a real treat in a country where most bread is laced with sugar. As a Greek it is difficult for me to admit that the best octopus of my life so far was cooked by a French man in Colombia, but it’s true.
Seafood was A Deriva’s speciality, and I’m still kicking myself for straying from this beautiful path and braving the steak. Not to mention ordering it blue… I know what you’re thinking, is this girl a complete dickhead, or what? Well, yes. I can’t even argue with that. Because fool me once, or even twice, but by the third time, you could say that I deserved the parasite that put me out of action for the best part of a month… To this day my bowel still twitches at the thought of red meat.
I had been trying to pluck up the courage to go back there for a few months, as my life felt empty without the arbitrary excuses I had been making to have a celebratory meal there (sh, half birthdays are definitely a thing!) However I’ve since found out that the French couple who ran it have left, which explains it’s tragic decline.
Bonjour- La crêperie Française
If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a raging Francophile. The number of French people who have decided to open businesses over here has played a large part in my being able to stay here so long. Real French-made crepes are a treat that I can’t even consistently count on back home. Payday crepes became a monthly tradition after we discovered the marriage of salted caramel and Nutella (name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait) when the chef actually came out of the kitchen to congratulate us on our pairing and to ask us how we came up with it. We didn’t tell him the real reason but it rhymes with crunchies.
I’ve left the best until last because although Ouzo isn’t as Greek as the name would have you believe, the Mediterranean themed restaurant is easily the best in town. The restaurant is split in two, with the rooftop terrace specialising in sharing plates, which are oh, so difficult to share.
I never imagined that cauliflower could taste so good, or that lamb, feta and almonds on a pizza could work, but Ouzo has taken me on a journey. The calamari with mango and passionfruit and the grilled octopus deserve special mentions downstairs, and it’s telling that I’ve never had room for pudding. My only complaint is that the standard is inconsistent, but while my bowel movements remain consistent I can forgive them these lapses.
While it’s safe to say that I’ve had fifty shades of shits since I’ve been in Santa Marta, I’ve also eaten better than ever before in my life. With the relatively cheap and generally good standard of restaurants, I’ve consoled myself and comfort eaten to the extreme. I should probably be grateful to the parasite for allowing me to keep zipping up my jeans.