OCI (Medellin, Colombia) – upmarket dining at reasonable prices
Ah, Medellin. A city that has become a household name due to the recent popularity of a certain Netflix show, and one that has seen an enormous amount of development over the past couple of decades. We had one of our best days ever in this city, as we took the incredible free tour (don’t miss if it you’re passing through), had an amazing lunch at OCI (more on that one below), saw a football match between the two local teams (Nacional vs Medellin, a nail-biting affair), and then went out salsa dancing at a local underground club until 3am, sweating like never before. I love this city!
We stayed in El Poblado, or ‘gringo central’, which is bursting at the seams with cafes, bars, clubs, and hostels. Unsurprisingly, most of these cater to foreigners, with hipsterdom being the order of the day. Many are overpriced, and our nightlife experience wasn’t the best, as the Colombian friendliness we’ve been accustomed to did not apply. But then we found OCI, which was located a couple of streets away from Parque Lleras, to its advantage, and our confidence was reinstated.
OCI definitely would not be out of place in London, and it actually reminded me a lot of one of my favourite places, Polpo, though slightly more upmarket, and with slightly lower prices!. There was one key difference though: in London, you simply couldn’t have the same kind of outdoor green atmosphere and open space, which made for a lovely ambience. The service was attentive yet uninstrusive, and as we arrived at the end of the lunch hour, we benefitted from a relatively empty space.
We were faced with a dilemma when we perused the menu, as absolutely everything sounded amazing. There were ingredients we hadn’t seen on a menu in South America so far, such as burrata and truffles, so we knew we wanted those, and with some help from our waitress, we finally took a few decisions.
Starting off with a beautiful lychee cocktail, which was summery and fresh and one of the nicest cocktails we’ve had on this trip, we knew we were in for a treat. It was accompanied by the ubiquitous plantain chips we’ve grown so fond of in Ecuador and Colombia, and served with a vinaigrette which I loved, but was slightly too acidic for my companion.
The burrata dish was an absolute winner. Good cheese is extraordinarily hard to come by in South America, but this one was perfect and oh so creamy! The accompaniment of deep fried butternut squash was a genius mix of textures, and the pesto drizzle was fantastic and superbly fresh. Like I said, an absolute winner.
To me, the most interesting dish was the salad, which consisted of a whirlwind of flavours and textures. Crispy pork belly, pickled carrots, a slightly spicy Ponzu dressing, and sour grapefruit – who knew all these things would combine to make a perfect medley? Answer: OCI.
As the portions for both starters and mains were very generous, and OCI focuses on sharing, we decided to have just one ‘large plate’,, which was definitely the right thing to do. We chose the solomito de res con jus de trufa negra, acompañado de gratin de batata con cebolla caramelizada y tocineta. Sounds like a mouthful, and it sure was. The beef was phenomenal and perfectly cooked, and the truffle was heavenly. We also loved the sweet potato gratin – the layers of bacon were a stroke of genius!
And then to the desserts – the one thing that let OCI down. The cookie and macadamia ice cream sandwich with salted caramel sounded beautiful, but it fell apart as soon as it hit the table and the caramel was too sweet for us to stomach. In contrast, the cheesecake tart with berries and melon was lovely, light, and fresh, but the melon flavour didn’t quite fit with the rest of it, leaving a bit of an odd taste in our mouths. I would therefore recommend skipping dessert and perhaps indulging in another small plate to start, if you can!
It wouldn’t be a Colombian meal if we didn’t end with coffee… and here, OCI certainly did not let us down. It was absolutely phenomenal, and tasted just like the authentic real coffee we’d had in Salento (in the coffee region of the country) the week before. You know it’s the real stuff when even I don’t need any sugar!
OCI is definitely a bit more expensive than your average meal in Colombia, but it is absolutely worth it. Go hungry, take a few companions so you can split and share more dishes, and focus on savoury, rather than sweet. You won’t regret it!
I was a guest at OCI, but as always, all opinions are my own.