Eater presents the five best Colombian restaurants in London.
Practically on the tracks of Tooting Bec station, Sabor is a small and always hospitable paean to the food of Colombia. Arepas rellenas are the centre of any meal: griddled cornbread filled with Colombian chorizo, shredded, grilled beef or softly scrambled eggs, accompanied by snappily fried cassava chips or grilled plantain, as well as shattering chicharrones. Meat lovers can take solace in charry, smoky grilled meats churrasco style, while the drink of choice should jugo de lulo, the juice of a fruit indigenous to the northern parts of South America. Known as lulo in Colombia and naranjilla elsewhere, its flavour is close to rhubarb: tart and citrusy, with a hint of lime.
2 Tooting Bec Rd, London SW17 8BD
With its big screen TVs and raucous atmosphere, Donde Carlos on Goldhawk Road would be the perfect place to watch tonight’s match from a partisan perspective. Their Colombian breakfast — eggs scrambled with tomato and onion, refried beans with rice and an arepa — would do well to toast a victory or commiserate a defeat, while a daily changing house soup makes for a fine lunch in even the hottest weather. Come evening — come tonight — steak a caballo served with a fried egg and yellow plantain is a winner, but visit at the weekend for two national specialties. Saturday offers sancocho de gallina, heady with garlic and cumin, while Sunday brings ajiaco, a chicken soup made with multiple potato varieties. Worth a trip.
143 Goldhawk Rd, London W12 8EN
El Rancho del Lalo
One of the few restaurants in the Brixton Village arcade still left from before its regeneration, El Rancho de Lalo more than holds its own against all the newcomers. Empanadas are dense and stuffed to bursting with strands of spiced pork, fried to order and ready to be dipped in fiery homemade aji (chilli relish). An excellent rendition of the Colombian national dish ‘bandeja paisa’ comes as an enormous platter of meat and protein, including standout crispy chicharron (pork belly fat) and kidney bean stew. Prices are low and lunch deals sometimes induce a double take - a main with a drink and sopa de mariscos (seafood soup), a rich stew of mussels, prawns and fish, still only costs £6.
Village Market, 94-95 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PS
The street-side face of the Pueblito Paisa market near Seven Sisters station, like many of the Latin and South American restaurants in London this has had the Damacles sword of ‘redevelopment’ hanging over it for the last few years. Treasure it while it lasts. Beef and potato empanadas, aborrajado (stuffed plantains) and deep-fried cassava chips make the perfect snacks for anyone in a hurry, whereas heartier stews, soups and large plates are available to have in. The Latin Village is a hub for the Colombian community so make sure to check out the rest of the market, where it is possible to buy fresh meat and produce to take away, and come on a weekend evening where there is live music and singing.
235 High Road, Seven Sisters, N15 5JT
Elephant and Castle’s Distriandina, aka The Colombian, calls itself “the best place to watch the FIFA World Cup in London.” It certainly will be among the most atmospheric this evening, the place where south London’s Colombian community will gather to watch its nation take on England in the last 16 of the tournament. There are screens galore to catch all of the action and a food menu to fortify all patrons. For starters, choose from beef empanadas; patacon, green plantain or fried cassava with guacamole; chicken wings with Colombian coffee barbecue sauce. And for main course, there’s classic carne asada — grilled sirloin steak with green plantain, chimichurri and white rice; or frijoles Colombianos — Colombian style red bean with white rice, ripe plantain, avocado and fried egg.