Cartagena’s dining scene is more impressive than Bogotá’s, if not more so. The atmosphere is definitely better. Vera is one of the most anticipated restaurants to open in the walled city in a long, long time. Part of the reason is the setting. Vera sits on the ground level, partly poolside, of the most anticipated boutique hotel to open in Cartagena ever, fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi’s seven suite Tcherassi Hotel + Spa. The breezy open air dining area is all white, like much of the hotel, and fronts the courtyard, pool, and an amazing vertical garden that features 3,000 plants native to Colombia. Mirrors line one wall. A second, air-conditioned dining room is equally as sleek.
Vera’s chef is Daniel Castaño, a Mario Batali protégé who is also the head chef at Bogotá’s popular Emilia Romagna and co-founder of the Brooklyn-based supper club social experiment A Razor, A Shiny Knife. He’s talented. The coastal Italian dishes fit right in with the fashion forward hotel and the beautiful crowd that frequents it.
There’s a fine selection of Carpaccio, Antipasti, Salumi, and Formaggi and the Risotto Pescatore (Arborio rice, cooked with a compound butter of shallots, roasted garlic and basil, served with clams, mussels, shrimp and squid) is the star dish I’ve heard, though I didn’t try it. My primi piatti, Risotto ai Funghi was more than I could eat, though my second dish was already ordered when I realized this. Delicious. My secondi, the Maiale (suckling pig, fennel, broth, and honey) was one of the most satisfying dishes I have ever eaten. There was plenty of pork, perfectly cooked and amazingly sweet. I’d even go as far as saying as Vera is one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever eaten at (FYI: I have been to Italy several times and eaten at Mario Battali’s restaurants in New York).
For dessert there’s Pane Mocca, Mandarin Sorbet, and Panna Cotta di Salvia. The wine list for the 40-seat restaurant is impressive. Mostly Italian, though there is a considerable amount of bottles from Spain, Napa, Chile, and Argentina.
With an average of about $25 per plate, Vera isn’t cheap. However, the air is far from stuffy and the food is worth every peso.
Inside the Tcherassi Hotel + Spa
Calle del Sargento Mayor 6-21
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.