Medellin’s Top Destination For Gastronomes
The South American nation of Colombia has developed into a particularly popular travel destination over recent years, and the mountain city of Medellin is a large part of its newfound success. Famed for its abundant natural beauty and balmy weather, this picturesque destination is home to a wealth of hostels, making it perfectly suited for backpackers—and there’s no shortage of luxurious accommodations found across the city either.
Located in the heart of Medellin’s high-end El Poblado district, the Elcielo Hotel serves as one of the city’s most prestigious accommodations, outfitted with a wealth of lavish amenities for all guests to enjoy. Upon arrival, guests can marvel at the property’s verdant plant-filled entrance complete with a towering five-story vertical garden, then head a few floors up to begin the check-in process. There are 28 suites found across the property, with the lavish Presidential Suite offering a jacuzzi and spectacular surrounding city views—but when it comes to true hospitality, there’s no beating the hotel’s top-tier dining program.
A veritable crown jewel of Medellin’s fine dining scene, the opulent Restaurante Elcielo elevates traditional Colombian cuisine, offering a wealth of dishes that put an eclectic modern spin on centuries-old culinary practices—and the mastermind behind the venue’s success? Chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, an acclaimed restaurateur and Medellin native with more than thirteen businesses to his name. While the Restaurante Elcielo chain also has locations in Bogota, Miami, and Washington D.C.—the latter of which earned a Michelin star in 2021—the Medellin venue offers one of the finest dining experiences in all of Antioquia: La Experiencia.
Measuring in at a titanic 17 courses, this multi-hour event is expertly engineered to engage all five senses throughout the meal. While there’s no shortage of dishes designed to tantalize the taste buds, with savory duck buns, refined Colombian arepas, and truffle-laden onion soup all making an appearance, one of Restaurante Elcielo’s most fascinating courses deals directly with the sensation of touch.
Known as “Chocotherapy,” the process kicks off with a quick toweling off of the hands, followed by a massive dose of coffee-infused liquid chocolate poured directly over the diner’s hands and into a bowl below. Guests are then welcome to lick the mixture directly off of their hands and use it as a scrub, with the coffee grounds adding a fascinating texture to the entire experience—and while Restaurante Elcielo may be one of the most prestigious operations housed under the Elcielo Hospitality Group umbrella, it’s far from the only one worth visiting during a trip to Medellin.
There’s a wealth of top-tier dining destinations found just a few steps past the hotel, with Kai serving as a haven for plant-based diners in particular, offering plantain hummus, black bean burgers, and a plethora of other vegan dishes. Just a couple of steps away, Agua Fresca is perfect for those in search of flavorful Latin American cuisine from beyond Colombia’s borders, featuring a wide array of Mexican classics ranging from blue crab quesadillas to aguachile, with no shortage of savory sauces to pair them with.