Perched atop Poblado with a commanding view of the city, Restaurante Marmoleo is a steakhouse worthy of special occasions.
When I first read about it last year, I was captivated by the photos of horses parading around one of the dining rooms as patrons sat at their tables watching and eating.
“Now that’s paisa culture on display,” I thought.
I’d later learn the horse shows only occur two or three times a year, but I didn’t let their infrequency stop me from planning my first visit.
I recruited a Colombian friend a few Saturdays ago, and together we took a taxi to Loma del Tesoro.
The driver consulted his GPS frequently as we wound our way higher and higher up the mountainside. The air became cooler as the altitude increased.
From the road, a large sign tries to grab your attention. We initially drove past it, but a quick U-turn lead us to the entrance of the driveway, and from there it’s a short but steep incline to reach Marmoleo.
The first thing diners see upon arrival is the grand outdoor patio. The stonework, hedges and fountain in the middle all combine to give you the feeling of dining al fresco in a pueblo.
Planter-style boxes feeding off natural gas are an elegant and non-obtrusive way to offer guests the warmth of fire.
We took a seat at one of the outdoor tables, as a three-person band prepared to perform.
Feeling festive, we ordered the recommended pitcher of the Sangría Rosada Espumosa Lambrusco (85,000 pesos, $45). This turned out to be plenty for two people over the course of dinner.
Other options, including lychee, rose and red sangrias, all of which are available in either Grande (68,000 pesos, $36) or Mediana (38,000 pesos, $20) sizes.
Also available from the bar are wines by the bottle, cocktails, national beers plus a selection from Bogotá Beer Company, Heineken and non-alcoholic beverages.
The menu is so full of tempting dishes, I had trouble deciding.
I ordered two appetizers: the beef carpaccio made with Certified Angus Beef, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar (21,500 pesos, $11) and another recommended dish, the Papialpa Grille which consists of fresh white cheese cooked on the grill (19,500 pesos, $10).
My friend wasn’t keen to try the raw beef, but I enjoyed it. The cheese, though, was something different and I couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t know that it was the flavor so much as the texture that I liked.
Additional appetizers include ceviche de chicharron, grilled seafood ceviche, shrimp and scallops in garlic butter, traditional empanadas and a mix of chorizos.
Marmoleo is a steakhouse, and one that prides itself on serving Certified Angus Beef imported from the United States.
The list of imported steaks include tenderloin, rib eye and striploin with prices between 54,000 to 58,000 pesos ($29 to $31), each of which includes a side of potatoes.
I ordered the tenderloin, cooked medium rare, with mashed potatoes. I know that might be sacrilegious to some meat lovers, but the chef cooked it perfectly as far as I was concerned.
It was still red in the middle, but it wasn’t bloody. The beef was tender and juicy, with the portion size large enough to feel I was getting my money’s worth, but not so big I couldn’t finish it.
It was one of the best steaks, if not the best, I’ve had in Colombia the last five years.
Domestically raised options are a bit easier on the wallet, starting at 21,000 pesos ($11) for the Chuzo de Res.
My friend ordered the Pollo Marmoleo, consisting of a chicken breast bathed in a cheese sauce, with mushrooms and bacon, and a side of fries (29,000 pesos, $15).
Other options include beef medallions with three cheeses, a surf and turf, ribs, pork, chicken, salmon, tilapia with mushroom sauce and even grilled lobster (58,000 pesos, $31).
Meat may take center stage, but there are also some soup, salad and rice dishes available too.
Between the multiple glasses of sangria, appetizers and steak, I was feeling full as dessert time approached, not that I was going to let that stop me from picking something sweet and delicious.
I asked our waiter about the most popular dessert, and he pointed toward the first one on the list, Nevado de Arequipe, which is described as a chocolate cake with arequipe sauce (10,500 pesos, $6).
The cake arrived with two spoons, thankfully, because it was much too rich for me to finish on my own.
Next time, I’m going for the Oreo cheesecake. An apple pie and a maracuya pie are among the other highlights from the dessert list.
Marmoleo’s website lists their menu, with prices, so you can get a feel for everything on offer, and the costs. I wish more restaurants made their prices so easily available.
As dinner came to a conclusion, we were offered a tour of the rest of the restaurant. Each dining room has its own character and design. The outdoor patio is the place for romantic dinners, or to enjoy live entertainment as we did.
A small study-like dining room featured a fireplace, with old photos of the Medellín train station from the early 1900s. The table in the photo above is my favorite in the whole 240-seat restaurant.
I like the proximity to the light and warmth of the fireplace, plus the view out the window toward the city below.
The chiva room is home to the bar, and is decorated like, well, a chiva party bus.
The tables, chairs, walls and bar are all painted in bright colors, and extra lighting in the colors of the Colombian flag (yellow, blue and red) ring the room.
If I were reserving a table for a birthday party or other celebratory event, I might opt for this room.
On the side of the chiva room opposite the bar is a porch with semi-outdoor seating.
The hanging planters remind me of Antioquia’s pueblos.
And finally, there’s the back room decorated in a more rustic fashion, which is used for the horse shows, as well as special performances.
The week after we visited, Pipe Pelaez performed here on a Thursday night to a sold out crowd. The tables for four people each went for one million pesos ($530), including a bottle of liquor and finger food.
As for me, I’m now following Marmoleo’s Facebook page as I anxiously await the chance to attend their next horse show.
My dinner was provided compliments of Marmoleo.