Bogotà, Colombia: a City Tasting Tour
Since it’s reemergence as a holiday hot spot, Colombia and particularly Bogotá has begun to make a name for itself in the culinary world.
It may not be the fine dining destination that Lima or Buenos Aires are just yet, but with such a wide variety of both traditional and international food on offer and an ever expanding palate for mixing new and old flavours, the future is looking tasty.
Hot Chocolate & Cheese at La Puerta Falsa
La Puerta Falsa is the go to place for traditional Colombian food. Officially the oldest and one of the most famous restaurants in Bogotá, you'd expect it to have grown since it was first established, but true to its roots it’s still the same small hole-in-the-wall eatery it was when it first opened its doors in 1816.
Their two most famous servings are the classic Bogotanian breakfast of hot chocolate and cheese (drop the cheese in the chocolate for the true experience) and their highly rated tamales (with their secret 100-year-old family recipe), but they also do a mean ajiaco soup.
It does tend to be busy most of the day so you might have to wait a little while for a seat, but for a quick bite whilst sightseeing through the Candelaria (the historic colonial quarter) it's a sure bet. For a slightly more relaxed option check out La Puerta de la Catedral 2 doors down.
Lechona at La Planchoneria
There’s an entire district in Bogotá (Zona L) dedicated to this classic dish of roasted pork, rice, peas, onions and spices, traditionally served directly out of the pig’s belly with thick pieces of fat and crispy crackling. And its from here that the mother (who is also the chef) of one of the young entrepreneurs of La Planchoneria hails from.
La Planchoneria is Bogota’s first gourmet street vendor of Lechona (minus the pig’s belly) and they are quickly gaining a reputation for their fast, fresh and tasty servings. As they move around you need to check the website to find out where they will be on any given day, but if they happen to be somewhere local they are well worth a visit.
The pork is succulent, the crackling crunchy, and the fatty yellow rice and peas are melt in the mouth. Served up with a corn arepa, just like mother used to make it. (Fried egg on top optional).
Market Juices at Paloquemao
Colombia is known as a mega-diverse country and is home to a huge array of edible plants, vegetables and fruits. A great place to sample a few of these and get a feel for real Colombia culture is the bustling Paloquemao market.
Nestled in amongst the Oca roots, gourd wind-chimes and medicinal herbs and flowers you will find some of the best juice stalls in the city serving some unusual, yet refreshing exotic delights, such as lulo, guanábana, arbol de tomate, mamoncillo, corozo and many more (mixed with either water or milk).
Sancocho at Club Colombia
Sancocho is the ultimate Colombian classic, and possibly the most famous of the many Colombian soups (though ajiaco lovers might disagree).
It is known not only for it’s diverse range of flavours and recipes, but also for it’s importance in Colombian family culture. Ask any Colombian and they will tell you sancocho holds a special place in their hearts (and that their mother makes it the best). Each region has it’s own sancocho with distinct flavours and variations depending on the local environment.
Club Colombia (under the purview of Harry Sasson) offers a different regional variation of the dish every day, such as Sancocho de Costilla del Altiplano (A local beef rib soup), Sancocho de pollo de valle (Country Chicken) and my personal favourite; Sancocho del Pescado (from the Caribbean coast), with tender white fish, creamy coconut milk, yuca, yam and a pinch of coriander. Served with a side of Avocado and white rice.
Real Ale at the Bogotá Beer Company (BBC)
Not usually one to recommend chains in this case I find it fair to make an exception. The Bogotá Beer Company is Colombia’s first ever real ale brewery.
They still call themselves a micro-brewery, but what started from humble beginnings after founding beer maker Berny Silberwasser returned from a trip visiting American and European breweries in 2002 has grown into one of the most recognised beer brands in Colombia, earning them a string of awards for their finely crafted ales and lagers. And rightly so.
Set in the style of a traditional British pub it’s one of the only places you can find a real pint of beer in Colombia. So take a moment off from your busy sightseeing tour, pull up a stool at the bar and sample a cool glass of one of their award winning ales.
Nibbles and Evening Cocktails at W Lounge, W Hotel
No city tasting tour is truly complete without the obligatory evening cocktail. A moment to sit back and reflect on the day’s epicurean excursion. Located on the third floor of the W hotel the W Lounge fuses the modern with the classic.
Trendy graffiti-painted walls play counterpart to 1920s style drapery and plush lavender and gold upholstery. This is where is where the cool kids hang, blending high-end sophisticated cocktails and European style fine dining with the hippest dance DJs.
Designed by world renowned chef Jean-George Vongerichten, the restaurant and lounge menu boast his "greatest hits," – chic creations such as crispy sushi and chipotle mayonnaise (pairs excellently with their ginger margarita) and their classic shore rib with apple sauce (fall apart tender), whilst their signature lulo mojito is the perfect balance of sweet and citrus. A cool twilight taste to savour, as the sun sets on Colombia’s first city.