Recently I was lucky enough to visit Colombia, a place that is both crazy and amazing. Somewhere that perfectly encapsulates this beautiful country is a restaurant-slash-club in a place called Chia, on the outskirts of the capital, Bogota – Andres Carne de Res.
A place that is hard to put into words; as the Lonely Planet guide suggests, it’s
‘an otherworldly entertainment cocktail that’s equal parts Tim Burton, Disneyland and Willy Wonka’.
Sort of. I mean, I guess it’s one way to describe something that’s pretty indescribable…
Taking about an hour’s cab ride from Bogota, you have no idea where you’re going or what to expect until it suddenly appears; an entire street of flashing colours, illuminating a dusty road. Stepping through the turnstile, you soon find a magical wonderland of neon lights, salsa, whooping locals, and the most beautiful wait staff you’ve ever seen.
By 10pm the three dance floors (if you can find them in the warren of tables) are full of new friends and three generation families dancing bachata to Marc Anthony – who it turns out is more famous than J-Lo in Colombia.
But first and foremost, Andres is a restaurant – a dining experience that would be hard to match. They have everything down pat with every small detail perfectly worked out. Tequila served from a lime, to welcome you as you enter. Two waiters to your table. Neckerchief-ed wine bottles, rum bottles be-stickered with the Andres brand, a 40 page magazine that constitutes the mammoth menu and the bill with a magnifying glass and torch attached.
And the food. Oh. My. God. My Chile Relleno en Papilliote was nothing short of delicious, but for my friends, you have never seen 4 people so happy with a sizzling hot plate of beef and sticky chicken wings. Add two bottles of wine and half a bottle of rum, and it came to no more than £40 each, which frankly felt ridiculously cheap for what we had.
I’m not sure how you’d recreate Andres anywhere else, nor would you want to, but restauranteurs all over the world should make the pilgrimage to see just how dining should be done.
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