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Photograph: Jorge H Gonzalez, courtesy Leo

The best restaurants in Colombia

From street food to refined haute cuisine, the best restaurants in Colombia will please anyone in search of a good meal.

Written by
Laura Field
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Think you know Colombian food? Think again. The humble corn arepa, dozens of potato varieties, Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, and biodiversity that spans multiple biomes and altitudes are all core contributors to Colombia’s ever-inspiring food scene. Too long overlooked and undermined, Colombia is now showing the world its power as a culturally and gastronomically rich and diverse country. There’s no doubt that eating well is on the cards for anyone traveling here. 

To help navigate the country's hottest food spots, we’ve rounded up the very best restaurants in Colombia, with options ranging from the Caribbean coastline right up to the 2,640m altitude of its capital, Bogotá

The best restaurants in Colombia

Cartagena and Medellín 

One of Colombia’s most renowned chefs, Carmen Angel, has two namesake restaurants in Medellín and Cartagena. The modern interiors provide an elegant setting, adorned with tropical foliage, and showcases fresh Colombian ingredients. The menu features exquisite dishes like Pacific coast-sourced ceviche and beef tenderloin with Andean potato gratin.

Bogotá and Medellín 

The brainchild of Colombia’s first chef to be awarded a Michelin star, Juan Manuel Barrientos, the high-end ElCielo can be found in both Medellín and Bogotá. This is one of the most luxurious restaurants you’ll find in Colombia, with the option of a 12-course tasting menu and wine pairing. Dishes are inspired by Colombia’s biodiversity and aim to invoke diners’ senses.

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Bogotá

Contemporary and minimalist Leo is a subtle yet refined spot celebrating Colombia’s biocultural heritage. Award-winning chef, Leonor Espinosa, uses her restaurant to promote her country’s varied produce and diverse biomes. The Innovation Cocktail Bar serves Colombian-inspired fermented drinks and diners can choose between seven to 13-course tasting menus or opt for á la carte.

Cali 

Showing off some of the best cuisine in the salsa-dancing capital of the world, Platillos Voladores is a Cali essential. The restaurant combines Pacific ingredients and flavours with international cuisines resulting in mouth-watering fusions. Start with the spring rolls made from a local vegetable, chontaduro, paired with spicy ají jam before diving into heftier seafood and meat mains.

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Barichara

Known as the most beautiful town in Colombia, Barichara is home to the incredible Elvia. The sense of pride and energy shared by the chefs and team here is infectious. The open kitchen showcases the rural-inspired magical creations that Elvia serves up with ingredients sourced from their very own organic garden.

Medellín

A Colombian staple, Ajiacos & Mondongos does what it says on the tin. It specialises in traditional dishes like ajiaco, a chicken and potato soup hailing from Bogotá and mondongo, a soup made from tripe and slow-cooked vegetables. A laid-back yet popular restaurant, Ajiacos & Mondongos has welcomed some of Colombia’s most famous musicians, politicians and artists to enjoy its traditional dishes. 

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Bogotá

Family-run Prudencia sits in the heart of Bogotá’s beautiful historic centre, La Candelaria. It has a rustic charm and includes an open kitchen so diners feel part of the action. Dishes feature locally sourced ingredients that deliberately take a long time to prepare like smoked meats and fermented veggies. The garden out back ensures a convivial, relaxed atmosphere—just don’t forget to book in advance.

Medellín

Sambombi celebrates the delicious simplicity of small sharing plates. This suave yet humble bistro wants locally sourced ingredients to take centre stage. As such, the menu changes every fortnight or until the produce runs out, so freshness and creativity remain at its core. Artisanal beers, carefully chosen wines and fresh fruit sodas are on hand to accompany the plates.

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Popayán

Mora Castilla is a casual restaurant serving up traditional dishes from the Cauca region in a laid-back and rustic setting. Empanadas de pipián are a staple from the region as well as carantanta (ground corn poppadom-style crisps) with hogao (a typical tomato and onion sauce). Wash these down with a sip of champús or lulada, sweet fruity drinks made primarily of lulo, a citrus fruit endemic to Latin America.

Medellín   

Chef Yeison Mora focuses on Colombia’s biodiversity to create thoughtful and wholesome dishes at the relaxed and intimate Idílico. Fruits from the Amazon, potatoes from the Andes and seafood from the Pacific all feature on the menu, paying homage to Colombia’s variety. It highlights seasonal ingredients and makes the most of certain produce that can be cultivated year-round thanks to Colombia’s diverse climate.

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Bogotá 

Chic El Chato is in the capital’s prospering Chapinero neighbourhood. A contemporary Colombian bistro, El Chato combines flavours of the world with Colombian ingredients to create plates like lamb served with coconut rice and white trout in filo pastry. A relaxed and friendly setting, El Chato is ideal for catching up with friends or experiencing a first night visiting Bogotá.

Medellín

Set in the City of Eternal Spring’s thriving Botanical Garden, In Situ provides a light and airy space to enjoy a host of dishes ranging from avocado gazpacho to tuna steak and ricotta ravioli. The service is impeccable and it’s the ideal spot for whiling away an afternoon after visiting Medellín’s city centre.

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Cartagena

The swanky Caribbean gastro bar, Mar y Zielo, sits in the heart of Cartagena’s colourful historic centre. Its signature cocktails and caringly crafted dishes take inspiration from the four corners of Colombia, all to be enjoyed in an elegant and contemporary setting showcasing the beauty of Colombian design and thoughtful hospitality.

Medellín 

Alambique is tucked away just off the popular Parque Poblado in Medellín. Heading upstairs, diners are greeted with the bohemian interiors of this creative culinary laboratory. Plates like the pork crisp ceviche or the seafood stew are slow-cooked and designed to be shared. The experimental cocktails fuse fruits with botanicals for the ultimate burst of tropical flavor.

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Filandia

Perfect for a group meal, Restaurante José Fernando is in the heart of the beautiful pueblo, Filandia, in Colombia’s coffee region. The building is hard to miss; its colourful walls and intricate textures are eye-catching in their own right. Traditional Colombian comfort food is on the menu including hearty dishes like grilled beef marinated in black beer and arepas of all sizes.

Cartagena 

Caribbean-inspired Celele lies in Cartagena’s vibrant Getsemaní neighbourhood. With a goal of preserving and celebrating recipes from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Celele’s dishes explore unique tastes offering everything from goat kebab to lobster tartare and coconut sorbet. The restaurant sits in a historic building with high wooden ceilings and exposed stone walls.

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Medellín 

Inspired by Asian cuisine and combining its techniques and flavours with Colombian ingredients, Oci.Mde is a hit restaurant on a leafy Medellín street. Slow-cooked meats and marinated fish dishes are all on the cards, thoughtfully set in a laid-back and convivial atmosphere. The staff are exceptionally friendly and welcoming.

Rionegro  

Hidden a short drive outside Medellín in a rustic farmhouse, Casa M is a passion project between friends. Motivated to find the freshest locally sourced ingredients, the menus change monthly and diners are treated to expertly crafted dishes, desserts and drinks with the Andes mountains as the backdrop. Booking in advance is crucial. 

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Medellín

A Medellín favourite, Café Zorba has a menu of addictive vegetarian pizzas, craft beers and botanical cocktails. The relaxed, friendly and open-air atmosphere brings in tourists and residents alike. Wednesdays are a particular hit when there’s live music, ranging from jazz to tango, but tables can’t be reserved so get there early to bag a spot.

Bucaramanga 

Italian-inspired Battuto is the best dining spot in the Santander region’s capital, Bucaramanga. Artfully prepared pizzas, risottos and pastas grace the menu and are ideally accompanied by one of the signature cocktails, like a Battuto Spritz, from the well-stocked bar. The atmosphere is lively and welcoming here and there’s even an Italian piazza-style area at the back. 

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