When Alexis visited Tulum last week, we both had one spot at the top of our list. Hartwood. This restaurant is notorious for it's strict waiting list, and for it's stellar food in the jungle setting. The NYTimes had a complimentary write up in their travel section a few years ago, and everyone I talked to before showing up here said the same thing - you'll have to go there! I had started to wonder though, was it hype? Was the draw the fact that it's impossible to just walk in? That you have to show up at 3pm and wait for hours at the bar until a table opens up? Local residents all seemed to scoff at the exclusivity of the place and suggested that there were far better options scattered all over town and the beach. This town has no shortage of really good jungle-chic-fusion restaurants with kitschy decor, that's for sure.
We decided to give it a half-hearted shot one evening and took a taxi down to the end of the beach. Hartwood was like the kingdom of Oz, emerald gates of palm and a small person with a long list forbidding us to enter. And this is as far as we got...
The bench at the edge of the restaurant, in a sad semi-waiting purgatory, next to the street, wedged against a large tree. This is what happens when you show up after 3pm and expect to get a table. After the hostess told us that she had no more spots for the night, no we couldn't even sit at the bar, and no there would not be any cancellations, Alexis convinced some one to let us sit in the corner and order some drinks. We watched as food was delivered in steaming incense infused pots, drinks were put on the tables, people laughed and chatted while unwrapping banana leaves full of delicious surprises. It didn't look that magical, to be honest.
Later on we found this article titled "waiting like an idiot at the Hartwood?" which really struck a chord. Lesson learned here? Perhaps the food at Hartwood truly is out of this world. Maybe those purifying detox vodka martinis are the best thing you've ever tasted. I'd just rather not stand around waiting to find out.