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The JT Insider Food Guide: Colombia

Highly acclaimed chef Jorge Rausch of the culinary duo the Rausch brothers, gives us an insight into Colombian cuisine and which restaurants to head to.

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Regional eats

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.’

‘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.’

Top dishes 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.’

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Foodie neighbourhood: 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 is a must for every tourist that comes to Bogotá.’

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Foodie neighbourhood: Cartagena

‘All of the walled city within Cartagena is beautiful; for me it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is a colonial city, which 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.

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Blowout 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.

Authentically local dining experience

‘For this go to Andres Carne de Res in Bogotá.’

This steakhouse has made a name for itself, for the regular parties it hosts and its atmospheric surroundings, as well as serving-up top quality food.

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

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A stellar setting

‘For a great setting go to our restaurant Marea By Rausch in Cartagena.’ This dining spot by the Rausch brothers, which specialises in seafood, is situated overlooking the sea and historic centre, with an outdoor terrace to enjoy it from.

‘If not, try Casa San Isidro in Monserrate, Bogotá.’ This French restaurant is known for its use of fine seasonal produce. The colonial building is located at the top of Monserrate, with an outdoor terrace for views over the city.

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

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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 trending and 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. 

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The Rausch brothers, Jorge and Mark, have collaborated in opening highly acclaimed fine dining restaurants in Bogotá and Cartagena, as well as Panama and Costa Rica. Criterión in Bogotá was rated no. 19 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants San Pellegrino awards. The brothers have also published their own cookbooks.