El Boliche Cebichería
The sublimely talented owners of El Boliche Cebichería, Oscar Colmenares and Viviana Díaz, created Cartagena's superior ceviche joint for a great resason - to honour the local art of fishing.
A no-nonsense dispenser of ultra-fresh seafood delights, the owners of this petite San Diego restaurant like to do things right and for all the right reasons. Celebrating the fisherman that make their insanely fresh culinary delights possible sits at the top of the list.
In this spirit only fish caught by artisanal fisherman gets chopped into the city's best tasting ceviche creations. Colmenares experiments with lion fish when he can, and his cooking is strongly invested in creating a sustainable fishing industry here in Cartagena. Even the restaurant's name, Boliche, is named after Cartagena's fishing practices.
Trained in the culinary arts in the three Michelin-Star kitchen of Martin Berasategui's eponymous San Sebastian restaurant, Colmenares fine-tuned his ceviche skills working at Colombia's finest purveyors of Peruvian cuisine - Astrid & Gaston and Rafael Osterling - in Bogota.
He's added a few tricks of his own since he formed his own kitchen in 2012 and has never looked back.
Working to blend a well-selected array of sensational Colombian fruits and traditional Caribbean flavours with immaculately sourced fish and even big-arsed ants from Santander, Colmenares' accomplished menu has earned itself the reputation of hosting the most innovative and creative ceviche creations in Cartagena. No easy feat when you consider the abundance of ceviche offerings this small city contains.
Ask anyone, including heavy hitting food critics from the likes of Conde Nast Traveller and Travel + Leisure, if they've tasted lime-cured seafood in Cartagena with the same panache as Colmenares. The answer is no.
His refreshing coconut ceviche, vegetable ceviche, the succulent grilled octopus served with organic potatoes or the king prawns grilled with butifarra, a spicy local sausage, and quail's eggs, served on a hot rock, are sublime additions to the worldwide ceviche conversation going on at the moment.
If you're feeling adventurous, the Textura de Maiz, is another stand out taste sensation of shellfish and white fish blended with corn foam,corn sticks and popcorn (yes, really!). Make sure you eat it with a spoon, the soup at the bottom of the bowl is the best part.
It's helpful to remember that El Boliche is a fiercely Colombian-ceviche restaurant which doesn't imitate Peruvian recipes. Their original concoctions place privilege on national ingredients and methods. Consequently, locals feel the memories of Grandma's kitchen whilst foreigners are stunned by the exotic ingredients before them. It's a truly electrifying mix.
Open for lunch and dinner the real charm of this place is dropping in on the laid-back couple between meals to find them chatting with Tío, a sixty-year old fisherman plying his wares, or other salty local characters.
The childlike joy with which Colmenares greets the arrival of another batch of handsome tiger prawns or scandalously good-looking sea bass is all you need to know you're in good hands.
El Boliche will not be taking reservations from December 24th to January 6th.
THIS IS WHAT WE LOVE
* Tamarind-, sour cream- or coconut-flavoured ceviches that will leave your taste buds tingling and you wondering if there is anywhere else to eat during your stay in Cartagena
* Savouring the best fresh fish delights in Cartagena. Plucked fresh from the sea every day
* Being served by no nonsense owners in a petite restaurant that gets the details spot on
* Grilled whelks served with a hint of garlic to kick the evening off
* Although El Boliche is strictly a ceviche restaurant, their coffee is suprisingly amazing.
THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
* The ceviche here is not cheap and cheerful like some of the prawn cocktails in La Matuna but by paying extra you are supporting artisanal fishing practices. Good for you, good for the environment
* This is a small restaurant that seats a maximum of 25. Reservations are difficult to secure on the spot so we strongly advise booking ahead.
* Unlike many restaurants this place understands the word 'spicy'. Tread carefully with the picante.