Bogotá is all about change and progress. The turbulence of the past has quickly been forgotten as the city moves forward to becoming a destination of refined sophistication in South America. With Colombia’s love of good food and a growing restaurant scene, Bogotá is experiencing a boom that has attracted a long line of international chefs and fine dining lovers.
At more than 8,600 feet above sea level, Bogotá has year-round mild temperatures that translate into an abundance of gardens. They sprout from rooftops, grow on the facades of buildings, and pour over balconies. With this love of all things green, it’s not surprising to find that most fine dining in Bogotá includes outdoor dining; a calm oasis to soak up the sparkling mountain sunshine during the day or a romantic garden atmosphere for an evening meal.
Near the upmarket Parque 93 is the intimate and elegant Matiz restaurant – a perfect place to be spoiled. Its secret weapon – the service. Personalized and attentive, it has a hawk’s eye on even the smallest detail. Dishes boast regional ingredients in its gourmet setting; tiny charapita chiles, hearts of palms from the Putumayo jungle, and tropical gurupa and jungle tangelos fruits.
Chilean chef Nicolás Quintano’s seven course tasting menu shows off his technical skills and aesthetic aptitude, providing an around-the-world tour of culinary tastes and techniques. There’s no set menu, giving the chef and the customer free creative reign and harnessing an innovative fine-dining experience that will surprise, delight and satisfy.
For regional Colombian dishes in a first-rate setting, Club Colombia stands in a carefully restored 1930’s National Heritage house. From the traditional menu, the posta negra Cartagenera - beef in a sweet and sour sauce with coconut rice steals the show, although the patacón – popular deep fried plantain pancakes from Cartagena - are crowd puller. Known for having the best ajiaco soup in the city, there are also outstanding appetizers like carimañolas filled with cheese or meat. Teamed with the floor-to-ceiling replicas of pieces from the Gold Museum and dim lighting, Club Colombia is almost like taking a few steps back into Colombia’s past.
For exceptional dining Harry Sasson is an irrefutably great eatery. As you pull into the driveway and past giant eucalyptus and evergreen trees, an elegantly restored 1940’s mansion comes into view. Although a perfect spot to lap up the Colombian sun, inside boasts a luxury of details; bouquets of long stemmed orchids, rustic wood beams, rich upholstery, and three immense glass chandeliers that hang from the high ceiling on the second floor.
Chef Harry Sasson’s culinary education is reflected in the menu, combining Colombian ingredients with influences from around the world. Extravagance at the ready, the special tasting menu created by Harry himself, takes place at the chef’s table in a private upstairs room.
Once a charming residential area, Zona G is now Bogotá’s hub for boutique restaurants. Tucked away among the area’s quaint shops and gourmet restaurants is one of the best Peruvian restaurants in the city, Rafael where executive chef Rodrigo Alzamora takes Peruvian food to new heights. With an emphasis on highly visual dishes chef Alzamora produces masterpieces like the crispy, golden suckling pig glazed in a sake-based mibakami sauce over apple and pear puree.
Also gracing the streets of Zona G is Criterión, owned by the illustrious Rausch brothers who have spent the last decade creating classic French dishes and earning the restaurant’s spot as number 19 on the list of 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America. One of their most popular creations is grilled tilapia with stuffed courgette flowers served with country-style mashed potatoes and a shellfish reduction cream. Executive chef-owner Jorge also oversees Bogotá-based Bistronomy, which offers a more relaxed environment to indulge in some of Colombia’s culinary gems.
Once a city the world spoke of in pejorative terms, Bogotá is now a treat to those after a culinary experience like no others. Showcasing regional and international, simple and fine-dining, this is a city that offers it all, and offers it well.