Arepas with hogao sauce, food of Colombia

The JT Insider Food Guide: Colombia

Rausch brothers Jorge and Mark are the brains (and tastebuds) behind several highly acclaimed fine dining restaurants in Bogotá and Cartagena, including the former’s Criterión, which was rated number 19 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants San Pellegrino awards. We grilled (ahem) one half of the culinary duo, Jorge Rausch, on his top tips for a taste adventure in his native Colombia – from his must-try dishes to the restaurants you mustn’t miss.

Criterion by the Rausch brothers in Bogotá, Colombia
Criterion by the Rausch brothers in Bogotá, Colombia

Colombia is such a large country, with more than 45 million people. The fusion of indigenous, African and Spanish culture, with two oceans, the large Amazonian jungle and the Andes, all make Colombian food unique,’ says Rausch. Since there are few things we enjoy talking about more than food, we couldn’t wait to hear more…

How Colombian food varies across regions

‘Our main ingredients from the Atlantic and Pacific regions are of course seafood and fish. In the Andes we have plenty of different tubers and potatoes, and almost everywhere in Colombia, you’ll find corn as the main ingredient, alongside plantain and yuca.’

‘In Bogota there’s ajiaco, a potato soup with chicken, corn and guascas – a herb grown in the Andes – garnished with capers, avocado and cream. On the Atlantic coast there’s sancocho, a soup made with fish, potato, yuca, corn, plantain, cilantro and different garnishes, which you’ll find in other regions with pork, beef or chicken.’

‘In Antioquia and La Zona Cafetera [the coffee region] there’s bandeja paisa, a dish of beans with pork belly, beef, rice, arepa – a flat corn bread – and many different garnishes, like avocado.’

Ajiaco soup, food of Colombia
Colombian speciality, ajiaco soup

The Colombian dishes you have to try

‘Other than ajiaco, sancocho and bandeja paisa – best cooked in Cundiboyacense in the highlands – try mote de queso [a cheese and yam soup, originally from the Atlantic coast], tamales [corn dough stuffed with different fillings, before being wrapped in leaves to be steamed], lechona tolimense [suckling pig], ternera a la llanera [barbecued veal], and posta negra [Colombian-style black beef] of Cartagena, which is my favourite, alongside many more wonderful dishes.’

Arepas with hogao sauce, food of Colombia
Traditional Colombian arepas with hogao sauce

Where to eat in Bogotá

‘Go to Usaquen. This was a small town on the outskirts of Bogotá, but as the city grew the town and city merged together. It has a small-town atmosphere, but it’s in the middle of a huge metropolis of 10 million people. It’s full of restaurants and bars, as well as a flea market each weekend. It’s a must for every tourist that comes to Bogotá.’

Where to eat in Cartagena

‘All of the walled city within Cartagena is beautiful; for me it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s a colonial city that has been refurbished exquisitely, and it’s full of small boutique hotels and trendy restaurants – you could eat in a different restaurant for an entire month without going back to the same place. We have a lovely restaurant there called El Gobernador By Rausch.’

El Gobernador By Rausch, Calle Del Sargento Mayor N. 6-87, Cartagena.

The colonial city of Cartagena, Colombia – photo by Leandro Loureiro
The colonial city of Cartagena, Colombia

Where to have a blowout Colombian dining experience

‘In Bogotá, try Harry Sasson’s restaurant.’

This restaurant was named among the world’s 50 best restaurants in the Diners Club awards for its international fine dining menu.

Harry Sasson, Cra 9, 75-70, Bogota.

Where to have an authentic Colombian dining experience

‘Go to Andres Carne de Res in Bogotá.’

This steakhouse has made a name for itself thanks to its atmospheric surroundings and regular parties – as well as serving top-tier food, of course.

Andres Carne de Res, Calle 3 No. 11a-56, Chia, Bogota.

Andres Carne de Res in Bogotá, Colombia
Andres Carne de Res in Bogotá

Where to experience a unique dining setting in Colombia

‘Go to our restaurant, Marea By Rausch, in Cartagena.’ This seafood-specialising dining spot by the Rausch brothers overlooks the sea and historic centre, and boasts a beautiful outdoor terrace.

Marea By Rausch in Cartagena, Colombia
Marea By Rausch in Cartagena

‘Or try Casa San Isidro in Monserrate, Bogotá.’ This French restaurant is known for its use of fine seasonal produce and is based in a colonial building at the top of Monserrate, with an outdoor terrace where you can absorb views over the city.

Marea By Rausch, Centro de Convenciones Cartagena de Indias, Barrio Getsemani, Cartagena. Casa San Isidro, Cerro de Monserrate, Bogota.

Colombia’s latest food trend

‘In Bogotá we have many new restaurants of every kind, from fine dining restaurants with tasting menus, to casual dining with nice local ingredients, and even restaurants from big-name international chefs like Paco Roncero, who has two Michelin stars. For me, the trend for bistro-style places stands out, offering fine dining in an informal environment. These neighbourhood restaurants – like Gordo bar, El Bandido Bistro, La Despensa de Rafael and Donostia – are defining the style of dining in Bogotá.’

Gordo, Carrera 5 No. 66-84, Bogota. El Bandido Bistro, Calle 79B 7-12, Bogota. La Despensa de Rafael, Calle 70A 9-95, Bogota. Donostia, Calle 29 bis No. 5-84, Bogota. 

The Rausch brothers, Jorge and Mark