We invite you to enhance your gastromic experience by visiting the following sections:
Dining and Restaurants in Bogota
Say “Oui Oui” to Camilia
Buttery brioche, flaky croissants, rich pan-au-chocolat, soft pastel macaroons – these are the things French pastry dreams are made of – and a dream made real at Camilia Patisserie, recently opened near Parque 93. Created by Chef Camila Baquero, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, this jewel-box of a space invites passerby in with its clean and bright décor and the tempting pastry masterpieces displayed on the counter and in the glowing case. In addition to the lovely creations mentioned above, Camilia offers inventive takes on French classics such as the éclair; in addition to the popular chocolate, vanilla and café options, the Chef has added lavender cream to the mix for a truly unique experience.
Her love of lavender is also present in the Provence pastry which encases lavender cream in white chocolate dacqoise topped with lavender infused crème Chantilly and candied lavender. You might think that all of this lavender might turn you purple, but under Baquero’s masterful hand, the concoction is subtly sweet and floral. Macaroons, which are easily found in Bogota (we are not complaining) get the Camilia treatment with special flavor combinations such as Chocolate and Galupa (passionfruit’s subtle cousin) and rose petal.
Camilia also offers three-kinds of savory quiches, incredibly fresh and natural soups, lovely sandwiches and salads. Of course a variety of tea, coffee drinks and fresh juices are served in a distinct style.
Even though Camilia is new to Bogota’s culinary scene it has already attracting a loyal clientele and once you try their offerings you will become one two.
Carrera 13 No. 93 B – 51
Cacio & Pepe Delivers Innovative Italian from New York to Bogota
With custom made tile floors, beautiful hardwoods, a welcoming bar, brass and red leather banquets overseen by a swarm of attentive service staff, Cacio & Pepe is an exciting new option for dining in Bogota. By now most of us know that Bogota’s culinary scene has gained international recognition for its variety, sophistication, blending of flavors and – perhaps most significantly – freshness of ingredients. That is the signature of pure Italian fare and Cacio & Pepe promises to stay true to the source.
Created by the Grupo Takami, the team behind Horacio Barbato, La Fama, 80 Sillas, Central Cevichería, Osaki and Sipote, Cacio & Pepe, so-called after a traditional and simple Roman pasta dish, holds a promise to source only the best and freshest ingredients from farmers in Cundinamarca. When something must be obtained from outside, such as wonderful Italian cheeses, it is done so with the strictest quality control standards.
The menu, designed with precision by Executive Chef and Chief Barman Robb Finn – an alumni of several of the Big Apple’s finest dining establishments – reads almost like an Italian tasting menu with definitive New York accents. Appetizers include wonderfully creamy aranchini, salmon carpaccio, roasted polenta with grilled mushrooms and freshly shaved pecorino, and wildly popular meatballs with pomodoro sauce and queso fundido.
Of course the pastas are all house made to the precise recipes of Finn. The Gnocchi, stuffed with ricotta and served with pieces of crab, roasted red pepper puree and an accent of jalapeños is made with wheat flour as opposed to potatoes, which creates a delightfully light and puffy texture that is well-suited to the accompaniments. One of our guests opted for the Ravioli Rojo – a classic pumpkin ravioli in a light red sauce topped with roasted pumpkin seeds. There is also a linguini with shrimp, calamari, a pappardelle over stewed lamb mixed with chiles and yogurt and two or three other pastas.
Finn is big on his pizza, which we didn’t try, but based on the Chef’s unbridled enthusiasm, it is a must have for the next visit. Eschewing pizza for the Canilla de Cerdo was a delicious choice. A plump piece of pork stewed in red wine and served over creamy polenta, with a hint of pear mustard was perfect for the cool Bogota night. And it paired very well with the lovely Chianti. The Risotto de Hongos could have been a bit more robust, but it was nicely prepared and filling. Salmon filet, served with crispy skin, over roasted carrots, a bit of yogurt and pumpkin seeds, was a lovely presentation of a usually standard menu item.
The highlight of the evening was the Langostinos Asados, perfectly grilled shrimp nestled atop a creamy, dense, yet not too heavy, polenta and accompanied with bright caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes which created an unexpected and delightful combination of textures and flavors.
The modest wine list offers a nice variety and a bit of everything for every one and is organized by grape and price-point, which helps in the selection process.
For deserts the gluten free volcan chocolate cake is a delicious way to end the evening. And start planning your next visit….
Cacio & Pepe
Carrera 11 A No. 89 – 38
One of the truly great pleasures of life in Bogota is its mesmerizing gastronomical scene. Given the privileged location of Bogota, nearly halfway between every continent on earth, and the fact that Bogotanos have travelled the world in great numbers, returning home with varied tastes, an unusual diversity of restaurants can be found in this metropolis.
Colombian gastronomy has also benefited from the country’s welcome of immigrants to its shores over the centuries. From Indian to Iranian, from Swiss to Serbian, from Mexican to Peruvian, and from Korean to Israeli, it can all be found in Bogota –but, with a significant difference to other world cities; the vast diversity of ingredients used in Bogota are truly of the highest quality and freshness, attracting chefs from around the world to settle here. …A Lyonnais’s chef’s dream! –
In fact, Swiss immigrants moved to Bogota over a century ago when they discovered how beautiful and similar the topography of Bogota was to their alpine landscapes. This immigration helped to create a dairy industry that would become the best in the New World, as is evidenced by the Colombian corporation Alpina, which is currently increasing its exports to North America. The Dannon (Danone) corporation has also built a state of the art production plant in the city’s outskirts.
Among the many immigrants and cuisine styles that have enriched Bogota’s culinary heritage, are also the French and Belgians. One of the greatest examples of classic French-style cuisine, in the grand tradition, was a restaurant called El Gran Vatel that served clients for many decades, before closing with the owner’s retirement. We mention this iconic restaurant to pay homage to the many other great restaurants of Bogota’s well seasoned past.
And if anyone thinks that Paris has the best ice cream in the world at the fabled Bertillon on the Isle Saint Louis, wait until you taste the ice cream in Bogota at such amazing Colombian establishments like Crepes & Waffles –where amongst the many flavor choices you will even find Rose Petals! You will then understand why, despite there being so many points of sale, the lines to eat at these establishments are so seriously long, and why Crepes & Waffles branches are opening up as far away as Spain.
Colombia inherited a very European culinary tradition, and Bogota is the single-most Castilian city in the New World, a fact that has well translated into its culinary identity and heritage. Moreover, Bogota has quietly morphed into a surprising international gastronomical Mecca, where you will find the greatest culinary diversity enhanced by the best product-quality. This is in addition to the city’s highly rated water supply. Yes, the water is very drinkable, and you might even find it more palatable than what’s on tap in your hometown. All in all, the healthy and fabulous tastes that are found in Bogota will surely amaze you!
If you don’t count the McDonalds franchises –found in far greater numbers in Paris and New York than in Bogota– you may actually discover that Bogota probably has more restaurants than New York or Paris, and that Bogota can now challenge those great cities in the art of culinary creativity. Incroyable mais vrai.
Enjoying a geographical location that climbs the peaks of the Andes, spans both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, encompasses part of the Amazon basin, and sits on the equator, Colombia is an unrivaled cornucopia of food choices. The stunning Colombian larder offers a vast array of dairy products (lactosas), eggs (huevos) fruits (frutas), vegetables (verduras), tubers (papa or patata, yucca, arracacha), plantains (platanos amarillos or verdes), fish (pescado), poultry (pollo, gallina, pato, pavo), pork (cerdo), beef (carne or carne de res) and veal (ternera). Bogota is doubly honored by being not only the capital of the nation, but also the capital of Cundinamarca, a leading lactate and potato producing Department. It should be no surprise then that the national dish, Ajiaco, contains cream, three types of potatoes and an herb called guascas (a cousin of parsley) that grows only in this region.
Breakfast (desayuno) typically consists of huevos al gusto (eggs your way), huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with diced onion and tomato), a tamale, coffee or chocolate. Look for the signs posted outside the many breakfast restaurants for the choices.
During lunch (almuerzo) people from all walks of life and professions dine side-by-side to enjoy what is called the Menu Ejecutivo, Menu del Dia or Almuerzo Casero, a special pre-set menu that normally costs between 5,000 COP to 10,000 COP (about $2.50 to $5.00 U.S.), that usually includes soup, salad, rice, vegetable, sweet plantain or yucca, meat (such as beef in Creole sauce, chicken breast with mushrooms or pork filet with applesauce), a fresh juice (jugo natural) or real lemonade (limonada natural) and a dessert (postre). Some restaurants also serve Ajiaco, Bandeja Paisa or Sancocho, or buffet style (forget your past experiences with horrible buffet lines and overheated chafing dishes). Vegetarians are not forgotten either as vegetarian restaurants such as Vega, which has been in operation for decades, also offer a variety of selections.
While most of these meals are served rapidly in standard style restaurants, you can find unique dining rooms such as La Casona de Mi Abuela in Cedritos, in the former home of a Colombian master artist, Talula in Chapinero Alto, is located in a vast Spanish colonial mansion that evokes a time when this area was replete with such homes. Dining in an enchanting plant-filled courtyard of a restaurant in La Candelaria lets one’s mind wander far from the city and into a lush forest.
The traditional mid-afternoon snack (onces) is most typically a selection from the bountiful Colombian bread basket at a panaderia: pan de coco, pan de queso, pan de yucca, almojabanas, pandebonos, a pastel or an empanada. Coffee, chocolate or an aromatica are the usual bebidas calientes.
At around 4:00 in the afternoon, what can be called hora del helado, you will see many Bogotanos enjoying ice-cream. Cones, cups and on sticks, ice cream is an absolute favorite in this city. You will soon be screaming for more after taking one lick of the dairy delights from specialists like Crepes & Waffles, Popsy, Pompelmo or the Crème Helado street vendors.
The evening meal (comida) offers a plethora of choices with restaurants of all shapes, sizes and cuisines prepared to serve you. Most restaurants are concentrated in the Zona G (Gourmet Zone), Zona Rosa, the Financial District, Usaquen, La Macarena and La Candelaria.
Beef dishes are readily available in restaurants of all sizes, especially at the many picaderos, parrilladas, Llaneros (from the vast Llanos region on the eastern plains) and Argentine restaurants in Bogota. Pork is also commonly found, and visitors should not miss the chance to taste the Tolimense specialty lechona, a whole roasted pig whose meat is mixed with rice and spices and baked until the skin crackles. Various sausages, such as chorizo and morcilla are also found throughout the city, and can be bought either from the grill of a street vendor, or in a restaurant.
Establishments such as Las Acacias have been treating Bogotanos to true Antioqueño, or paisa, fare for decades. Specialties like Bandeja Paisa, of the coffee growing region, are served in a festive setting and often times accompanied by wandering musicians who treat diners to a vast repertoire of traditional Colombian songs. Casa Vieja provides a tour of classic recipes from the varied regions of Colombia, starting with their famed Ajiaco and sobrebarriga al horno, and the historical-country settings add an element of time travel to Colombia’s colonial past.
Seafood is not as foreign as one might think given that Bogota sits high in the Andes. Look out for restaurants from the Pacific Coast where seafood is the main event. Fish and crustaceans from Colombia’s rivers and oceans are in great supply; the most popular fish are sweet water trout (trucha), viuda, mojarra (usually served whole and fried – watch for the bones), tilapia and catfish (bagre). Shrimp (camarones), prawns (langostinos) and lobster (longosta) make regular appearances on menus. It is very easy to find a stew (sancocho) or casserole (casuela) with mixed seafood (con mariscos) or shrimp in garlic sauce (camarones al ajillo). In addition to the abundance of fine sushi establishments, such as Teryaki, Arigato and Wasabi you can also sample wonderful paella and other Mediterranean delicacies at one of the many Spanish restaurants in the city, such as Gaudi, Sepulveda, La Bodeguilla, or Jaquevi. Cevicheria's can also be found throughout Bogota.
Four popular seafood palaces in Bogota are La Langosta (where lobster is the star among other delightful creations), El Buque (savor the chef’s amazing creations in the ambience of a romantic 1930’s cruise ship), La Fragata (the World Trade Center location features a revolving dining room on the top floor that provides diners with a truly spectacular view of Bogota while they feast on bisque, bouillabaisse and filet preparations), and Pesquera Jaramillo (this restaurant and purveyor has been serving seafood from international waters for over 75 years, and holds a monthly festival to highlight a particular region or type of fish). A surprising spot is Los Almendros, a gourmet fish market, sushi bar and restaurant all in one location.
While honoring tradition is very important, Bogotanos also appreciate the risks taken by innovative culinary artists to advance their cuisine. In recent years a handful of Colombian chefs have emerged to showcase how traditional ingredients can be used in new and innovative preparations. Chefs such as Leonor Espinosa, whose establishment Leo’s Cocina y Cava in La Macarena, was named one of the top restaurants in the world by Conde Nast Traveler for her infusion of the bold flavors the Pacific Coast with those of the Colombian interior and interesting usages for hormigas colonas (the protein rich fat-bottomed ant); Luz Beatrice Velez at abasto in Usaquen, whose singular herbed rotisserie chicken has gained a cult-following, and who is also renowned for her usage of all natural ingredients, tropical fruits, innovative flavor combinations, fantastic weekend brunches and unique design aesthete; Eduardo Martinez at mini mal in Chapinero Alto, who has earned a fan base for introducing the intriguing seafood and fruits of the Amazon basin to Bogota; and the incredible chef of Local, in the charming Parque 69, who is pushing the boundaries of vibrant taste combinations.
Not only innovators in the kitchen, but also when it comes to social causes, Martinez, Velez and other chefs volunteer part of their time teaching the culinary arts at the Escuelas Taller de Colombia, a network of vocational schools created to train disaffected youth in a trade. After graduation the students are invited to gain on-the-job experience by working in a professional kitchen. With four campuses throughout the country, the schools also teach landmark restoration, carpentry, paper-making and pottery. This program has been met with great success, and has had a profound effect not only on the students and teachers, but the nation as a whole.
Bogota also boasts restaurants from seemingly every other country. Peruvian, Argentine and Chilean establishments appear very frequently. French restaurants and cafés have long found a following amongst Bogotanos with such restaurants as Criterion, Le Cigalle, La Brasserie, Donde Gilles, Balzac, Le Poivre, Chez Jacques and C’est Bon indulging the desire for French cuisine.
Middle Eastern populations have found a warm and welcoming home in Colombia, and thankfully, Colombians have made room for Comida Arabe. El Khalifa is perhaps the best known Middle Eastern restaurant in Bogota, with others such as Gyros y Kebab and the Israeli L’Haim serving delicious representations of this intriguing cuisine.
There are many quick food choices such as succulent chicken served at the many asaderos such as Cali Vea, empanadas, pizza, arepas, pasteles, mazorca (grilled sweet corn on the cob) and freshly sliced fruit. For a quick snack or light meal, enjoy bread at a panaderia or a pastry in a pasteleria.
Colombians recognize that culinary tradition is an integral part of the nation’s patrimony, so much so that during September, Patrimony Month in Bogota, exhibits are arranged and seminars are held to celebrate the city’s rich culinary heritage.
Azafran, an exciting festival created by the intellectual and creative think-tank Casa Malpensante, offers foodies a whole new way to taste their passion. On the menu are intellectual forays into the culinary arts, seminars, demonstrations by international chefs, round-table discussions, a gourmet food shopping area, and exclusive dining encounters at the famed restaurants of the Zona G (Gourmet Zone).
Bogota boasts so many restaurants that the annual culinary festival, Alimentarte, is staged in Parque Virrey over two weekends. For those readers who are familiar with New York’s famed 9th Avenue Food Fair, it should be noted that that festival cannot even be compared to Bogota’s Alimentarte for either quantity or quality. One weekend showcases regional Colombian culinary delights, while the other is dedicated to highlighting many of the top-notch international restaurants this city has to offer. This important event benefits Corazon Verde, an organization that provides aid and support to the family members of police officers injured or killed in the line of duty (see the Festival schedule for more information).
Over 20,000 visitors, 130 exhibitors and invited chefs from around the world attend the annual food extravaganza Gastronomia held in November at the Corferias Convention Center. This is a truly exciting event that allows visitors the chance to sample many culinary delights that they might not otherwise encounter.
Whatever you have a taste for, and no matter your appetite or budget, Bogota is ready to serve you something fresh, exotic, familiar, extraordinary and memorable. Just open your palate and let the delicious adventure begin.