On the 30th December we made our first attempt to eat at Hartwood in Tulum,(more on that later). We were completely unsuccessful and so ended up scrambling around to think of somewhere else to eat. Right next to Hartwood was what looked like quite a cool restaurant – open air, a big wooden grill, good branding. We were told they were fully booked other than one table left at 6.30pm and we were pretty hungry so decided to go for it.
We found out that we had accidently stumbled upon a restaurant that not only was on its first proper night of opening, but also was having a special NYE tasting menu that night – six courses! The food was Mexican with a modern twist, all seasonal ingredients sourced from the Yucutan peninsula, using local providers and using the least amount of technology required for cooking. The chef is Diego Hernandez, whose restaurant, Corazon De Tierra, was listed as one of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America in both 2013 and 2014.
We sat down, the first people there, and a friendly waiter who spoke good English came over to tell us that the kitchen was just heating up but in the meantime we could order drinks. We asked what wine they had and were told they had different bottles, so we chose the malbec, without thinking to ask how much it was! We settled in for a good night.
The service was fantastic and hilarious all at the same time – they were obviously aiming for a properly posh dining experience, pouring the wine for you, explaining the dishes, setting the table properly. However, our waiter, a small, middle aged Mexican man with broken English and a huge smile seemed to just be learning how to do it properly. So, for example, he went to pour Charlotte’s wine from the wrong side, straightened himself up and said “no” to himself before moving around to the right side. Then when he came to clear our plates, he took one plate, went to walk away, then looked down at his empty hand as if to say “oh wait, I have two hands” before coming back for the second! All these little moments just completely added to our enjoyment of the meal.
Our first course was a mezcal cocktail, light, refreshing and with just the right amount of alcohol. The first food course was a salad with cheese, cucumber, rocket and walnuts. It was delicious and just the right amount of food for a tasting menu!
Next was a vegetarian dish of roast squash with a burnt aubergine sauce – I LOVE squash (and aubergines) and this was perfect, the smoky flavour of the sauce going really well with the sweetness of the squash.
Then came the fish course – a meaty white fish (I can’t remember the type!) served with chard and mole sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the combination of the tastes with the mole was brilliant.
The final savoury course was the meat – lamb shin – although the waiter first told us it was lamb chin which left us slightly confused!! Melt-in-the-mouth, falling apart deliciousness, this was the highlight of the meal. Really enjoying ourselves, it was at this point that we decided to order a second bottle of the delicious malbec we had been drinking.
Finally, pudding – barbecued banana served in its blackened skin with a creamy sauce and some kind of herb… It turned out to be one we hadn’t heard of, that grows locally, but it really reminded us of something and none of us could put our finger on it!
The waiter then cleared our plates, asked us if we wanted anything else and told us to take as long as we wanted to finish off our drinks and enjoy the atmosphere. So we did! And then asked for the bill. This was all a bit confused – we passed it back and forwards between us and quickly realised that they had charged us for 5 people rather than 4. We told them and very quickly they brought us back a new bill… At which we noticed that the wine had been 1,500 pesos (about £60) per bottle! Almost half the cost of our entire meal was the wine, and the wine alone was more expensive than any other meal we had had. We scrabbled together to find enough pesos, berating ourselves for just ordering wine without checking the price and then left.
With hindsight, and bearing in mind that the most expensive bottle of wine on any other menu we saw was 1000 pesos (and most were less than 500), I think we should have queried that on the bill. I can’t imagine it really was 1500 pesos per bottle!
But never mind, other than the bill, all the food was wonderful and we all had a really fun evening. It may have a few teething issues in its opening weeks but I would really, really recommend this restaurant!
Ps – sorry for the picture quality! It was very dark and we were enjoying the food so much we kept forgetting to take pictures…