restaurants in Metro Manila

[Kitchen 143] You can buy yourself flowers in this Cartagenian restaurant – and eat them too

Michelle Aventajado
[Kitchen 143] You can buy yourself flowers in this Cartagenian restaurant – and eat them too
It’s no surprise that Celele has been named one of the best restaurants in Colombia

Celele is an award-winning Colombian Caribbean restaurant tucked away in the Getsemani neighborhood of the historic district of Cartagena de Indias. A 15-minute walk from the tourist destinations of the walled city, this renowned gem is the brainchild of Chef Jaime Rodriguez. His study of Colombian and Caribbean cultures provides the knowledge and inspiration, while serving up bio-diverse ingredients through indigenous-inspired recipes. 

JAIME RODRIGUEZ. Delighting foodies from all over the world, this award-winning chef delights guests through a fine dining experience that feels like home. Photo courtesy of Celele

Celele preserves this melded cuisine’s identity through edible art. Proycto Caribe Lab, as they dubbed it, was the prelude to Celele’s contemporary cuisine, which is rich with the history of a beautiful people.

CARIBBEAN FLOWER SALAD. Floral fare with pickled cashew fruit, cashew nut cream, roasted camajón seeds, “Granitos de Paz” fresh greens, and ginger flowers with a passion fruit dressing (P500+). Photo by Michelle Aventajado

I was blessed to accept a dinner invitation to this very special meal for our last night in Cartagena during the Hay Festival. The Hay Festival is hosted all over the globe and provides a platform for thinkers, writers, artists, and musicians who aim to “be the change” in a world as we all imagine it to be. Sparking inspiration through new ideas and providing opportunities for discourse was the perfect way to build up an appetite for this luxurious meal with two Nobel Laureates and two intriguing women.

DUCK RICE DOLMAS. Rice with almonds, house cured duck ham, and black eyed pea hummus (P538). Photo by Michelle Aventajado

Celele’s unassuming yet vivid exterior is deceiving to the average passerby. Making reservations for one of the two dinner seatings is a MUST if you want to enjoy a feast for the senses. 

INTERIORS. An invitation to dine feels like home, while the newest facet of the restaurant offers opportunities to purchase artisanal products and hard-to-find ingredients. Photo by Michelle Aventajado

The warm, earthy interiors are juxtaposed against detailed tropical murals, with soft lighting, and a carefully curated playlist that provides a welcoming ambiance, as if you were invited to a very special meal in someone’s home. 

CRAB. One of the most creative dishes of the night, this crab dish is served with a sweet pepper mash textures and long green beans. After our server explained all the components of the dish, she served the crab mixture atop a toasted arepa. Photo by Michelle Aventajado

The thought and preparation that goes into each dish, as it tells a story with both the simplest and most luxurious of ingredients, took me on a journey of palate, history, and culture.

CELELE-STYLE PORK. Pork confit terrine, dried banana puree, preserved sweet peppers, Caribbean beans, local kale, and pork broth. Photo by Michelle Aventajado

My favorite of all the entrees was the pork named after the restaurant. Tender shredded pork mixed with five humble beans in all styles, tastes, and textures elevates the pantry staples in this dish to a level of indulgence. These simple ingredients become a story of elegance when prepared with such care and attention to detail.

HEN CONFIT. Hen confit with ripe sour guava BBQ, roasted bananas with coconut oil, lactofermented candies, fried banana peels, and a smoked chicken broth. This dish was such a surprise! Photo by Michelle Aventajado

Near the end of our meal, we were joined by owner and restaurateur Ingrid Correa, who passionately explained the inspiration and years of study behind the restaurant concept and the desire to preserve the Colombian Caribbean cultures. We chatted some more about the festival, and documented the visit with photos of the incredible company we enjoyed over the lavish meal.

FRESH COCONUT AND YLANG-YLANG SORBET. It was almost too pretty to eat. What a refreshing way to end such a delightful meal. Photo by Michelle Aventajado

It’s no surprise that Celele has been named one of the best restaurants in Colombia. The pride with which their food is prepared and served is evident in every cocktail and dish brought to the table. Staff and servers excitedly tell the stories behind each creative course. Ranked as the 19th in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, this is definitely a restaurant you do not want to miss when you visit Cartagena.


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Michelle Aventajado

Michelle Aventajado is a Filipina American striving for an ever-elusive balance in everything she does. Advocating for individuals with IDD through Best Buddies Philippines, sharing her parenting journey with her daughter's extra chromosome through Momma 'N Manila, and churning out love of home and hearth through Kitchen 143 are just some of the things that fuel her passion and serve her God-given purpose.