By Suzan Crane
Continuing with our last article about Tulum’s foodie insider, the celebrated Australian-born chef Paul Bentley helms the charming ocean vista restaurant at Mi Amor, Colibri Boutique Hotel’s 18 room adult-only refuge, with a virtuosic Italian-French menu while Arca’s farm-to-table Yucateca-inspired offerings and La Posada Margherita’s home-made pastas and charming setting are prominently positioned in all Tulum restaurant guides and review sites.
El Pez, another Colibri Boutique Boutique Hotel property and restaurant known for its sumptuous live jazz-backed Sunday brunches highlighted by an Eggs Benedict rendition said to be the best ever tasted.
An evolving multi-national menu overseen by Guadalajara-bred/European trained Paco Ruano – named one of San Pellegrino Latin America’s “One to Watch” chefs — consistently ranks as a top Tulum restaurant.
The beginning of Tulum as a Foodie destination
“Things weren’t always this elevated,” Colibri CEO Brendon Leach explained to American Way Magazine in 2017. Arriving in Tulum as a backpacker in 1996, the New Zealand native returned permanently in 2003 when dining choices were basic — and limited. It was “like a little truck stop,” he was quoted as saying.
Citing Posada Margherita (which opened in 2001) as a forerunner in Tulum’s currently exalted foodscape, the pueblo’s real gastronomic date of birth came quite a few years later when such jungle-side restaurants as Cenzontle and El Tábano spearheaded a new artful approach to Mexican food.
Then arrived Hartwood in 2010 which lifted the bar higher. “We’re all playing off each other and improving the quality,” Charlie Stuart Gay of Sanara’s The Real Coconut restaurant observed in the American Way article. And such one-upmanship is what now draws hordes of epicureans to this little hippie village that could – and did – rise to the occasion.
But perhaps the most pivotal moment in Tulum’s ascension into the venerated foodie universe came in 2017 when — in partnership with La Zebra — Rene Redzepi, the world’s most esteemed chef, transported his world renowned restaurant NOMA — considered by many in the know to be the best on earth — from his native Copenhagen, Denmark to the jungles of Tulum, becoming Noma Tulum.
This bringing with him virtually every food critic on earth, a staff of 145, and a level of anticipation matched only by the first moon walk. Despite the $750 USD price tag for a 15 course tasting menu, the seven-week Noma Mexico pop-up in Tulum sold out in three hours – unrivalled even by Chef Redzepi’s previous acclaimed pop-ups in Sydney and Tokyo.
About raising the bar in Tulum
So here we are, still with one narrow road dissecting the translucent Caribbean from the lush indigenous jungle, humming generators still powering eco-luxe boutique hotels and quaint wood-hewn shops proffering designer togs and flowy frocks. A resident donkey occasionally obstructing traffic, and a dichotomous and deliriously delicious fusion of flavors awaiting the discerning palate in a most unlikely setting.
Tulum is a Ruins to Culinary Riches story that will be shared by dedicated foodies for the rest of time.