Or, more accurately, where we ate in Tulum. Despite the fact that we all got sick, and that one of us wasn’t actually able to eat anything for half the holiday, you can probably tell that I, at least, ate some really good food by the fact that this is my third blog post about food in Tulum!
What to say about Hartwood… It’s seen as the number 1 restaurant in Tulum and is hugely hyped – apparently the fifth most tweeted about restaurant in New York City. It has a similar ethos to Kitchen Table (partly this is born out of necessity!), with all the cooking done on a wood-fired oven and grill, lights etc powered by solar panel, and an emphasis on sustainability. My quick verdict is that although the food was excellent, it wasn’t as good as it was made out to be and wasn’t worth all the effort.
Reservations can only be made for parties of 8 or more, to allow for walk-ins – although this tends to mean that the majority of tables for a night are gone already due to big parties booking in advance. For smaller groups (of which we were one), bookings are taken at the restaurant between 3pm and 6pm for tables later that night.
So on our first try, 30 December, we turned up at 2.30 only to discover that people had started queuing at 12 and as a result of the long queue, Hartwood had started taking names early and it was already fully booked. We resolved to come back the week after New Year, hoping they it would be slightly quieter.
So a few days later we tried again. James and Charlotte got to the restaurant before 12.30 to see there was already a queue, which they got into. The restaurant started taking reservations at half 1 due to the size of the queue, so they only had to wait an hour, and managed to get us a table!
So, when the restaurant tells you to arrive at 6 to put your name down for a table – get there earlier!
We arrived for our table a few minutes early and it wasn’t yet ready so we were shown to a small space at the front of the restaurant with some seats and given a drinks menu. Charlotte thought she was feeling better so decided to order a cocktail… This was to end up being quite a bad decision!
After waiting for over half an hour we were finally shown to our table and soon ordered some food and wine. The menu was written up on a few chalk boards that were moved around the restaurant depending on who was ordering. And I have to say that pretty much everything on the menu looked really tempting.
The starters arrived really quickly but by this point Charlotte had started to feel really ill again after her cocktail and so James and I shared her starter – and I’m quite pleased we did as it was a lobster salad and it was delicious! Albeit so spicy that it left my mouth on fire for the next course! We decided to try to cancel Charlotte’s main course, but they ended up serving the mains before we had even finished our starters! So now we had an extra dish to eat – and these were big plates of food – huge pork ribs (but they were so tender and juicy and delicious).
We finished the meal and decided against pudding in order to get Charlotte home. We paid the bill and then I popped to the loo – having to stand in a queue for ages as there was only one toilet for the whole restaurant (men and women)! While I was in the bathroom, a waiter came over and told my friends that we had to leave the table as the next people were waiting, despite the fact we had to wait over half an hour for our table AND that I was in the bathroom.
So all in all, the food was wonderful, there’s no denying that, but it was just not that much better than anywhere else in Tulum to justify the hassle in getting a table, especially with how rushed we were during the meal.
My advice? If you go to Tulum out of peak season, definately go to Hartwood. If you don’t get there because of the queuing system, don’t feel you’ve missed out too much and go to Mur Mur or Kitchen Table instead!
By the time we made it to our apartment on our first night, it was past 8.30 Tulum time, and after 1.30am English time. We were all starving and exhausted and so set out to walk to the first restaurant we came across. That just so happened to be El Capitan. There is a second branch in Tulum Pueblo but we were at the one on the road going down to the beach.
To be honest, I don’t really have much to say about it. We shared a ginormous bowl of nachos with re-fried beans and cheese which was delicious and was polished off by the four of us in about 3 seconds and I then had a chicken quesadilla which was equally delicious. James had fish tacos which are apparently meant to be the best fish tacos in Tulum – he thought they were really good. But on the other hand, we were all so exhausted and hungry that maybe anything would have tasted good!
The manager of our Air Bnb, Roxy, had recommended La Chula to us, and as it was just a bit further down the road than El Capitan we decided to try it out for lunch on our first day. It had a really nice relaxed atmosphere, in the shade with a gentle breeze blowing through and friendly staff, although the service was a bit slow – not that that mattered to us as we weren’t exactly expecting London service! The guacamole was great (I’d decided I had to have guacamole with every meal) but the best dishes were the meat dishes, cooked over an open grill and served on a wooden platter. The freshly made juices were also delicious – I had one with strawberry and watermelon and Charlotte had something with kale in it!
We discovered that La Chula also served brunch so decided to make it our regular for lunch. The huevos rancheros were delicious, with perfectly cooked eggs and just the right hint of spice. The breakfasts also come with a coffee and a fruit juice and its a really pleasant place to while away a few hours. If I was travelling alone I think I would spend so much time here.Best of all, large breakfasts (ie lunch) for 4 people with lots of (non-alcoholic) drinks plus tip was less than 500 pesos.. I.e. less than £20!
We were ravenous after a morning spent at the ruins and as it was approaching 3pm so were disappointed when we discovered the beach restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed to get ready for NYE. We wandered down the beach and stopped at the next place we saw – Playa Esperanza. I wouldn’t recommend it – really slow service by a waiter who seemed intent on making jokes rather than bringing us our food or getting us the key to the toilets. I ordered a burger which was average at best – although, on the other hand, I had a mango daiquiri which was delicious! Perhaps this restaurant fell foul of the way we all felt at that particular time, but it wasn’t one I would recommend.
Charlotte had been hit with a travel tummy bug, either from swallowing a lot of water in the cenote or from having an ice lolly sold by the vendors outside Tulum ruins (unlikely to be made with purified water!). So one night it was just James and I for dinner as Jack kindly stayed behind to look after her and so we headed out to Encanto, a restaurant Charlotte and I had read about on a Tulum blog, and that looked good on a quick google. And it was good!
We walked through a narrow bar area, with tables to the right and the bar, shelves lined with bottles, to the left, to find ourselves in a leafy garden, lit with candles. As there was a bit of a wait for a table for two on New Years Day, we retreated to the bar, where I had a huge glass of delicious red wine.
Once we got our table, the service was still really slow and James had to wait a while for his beer… But once the food arrived we were happy – guacamole served with pomegranate seeds, James had chicken in a mole sauce and I had the Chile en nogada – a typical Mexican dish. Portions were small but the food was delicious and it was nice to spend a relaxed evening with just James! I would have liked to go again for the great food, pretty garden and cool atmosphere and would recommend it if you are in Tulum. Just be warned that it is on the other side of the road from where Google maps thinks it is!
This was so good we not only went twice, but I also reviewed it in a separate blog post. An eco restaurant, hand-built, cooking local ingredients on an open wood-fired stove – it had a wonderful atmosphere, service was brilliant and the food was great.
Mur Mur – this too I have already blogged about – a fantastic new restaurant along the same lines as Hartwood and Kitchen Table but serving more authentically Mexican food cooked up by a top-rated chef from Mexico City.
Zama – this hotel overlooks the sea and handily is right opposite MexiDive. After a morning of scuba diving we were all pretty hungry and tired so walked in, enticed by the fact they had some non-spicy things on the menu! It’s a lovely spot with tables set out beside the beach and the sea, and a nice, laid-back atmosphere. We shared delicious nachos with manchego cheese and black beans, and then all copped of eating Mexican and went for the chicken sandwich instead! It was just what we needed after some dodgy tummies. Having said that, James and Jack did get pretty ill th he afternoon after we ate at Zama…. Although I ate exactly the same food and was (relatively) fine so who knows!
So there you have it! We went back to both La Chula (so many times they got to know us) and Kitchen Table, and also had lots of little lunches in our Air Bnb. One reason I would like to go back to Tulum is to try out more of the restaurants – we never went to the top taquerias nor tried out cochinita pibil which I think we need to do next time!
If you’ve been to Tulum and I’ve missed out your favourite, let me know!