La Bodeguita
Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre
Southwark SE1 6TE
Yvonne and Fernando put on some music; they said it was Cumbia. He was a Chef, in a popular French restaurant, I can’t remember what Yvonne did. It was back in the days when I was living in Bethnal Green. We never talked about Colombian food or Colombian culture. We just danced Colombian rhythms.

6 years later and no contact details of the guys, I find myself surfing the net obsessively trying to find a Colombian restaurant. The result is La Bodeguita. I was expecting a small family place; instead we walked into a colourful, Nando’s style, well positioned (in Elephant & Castle though), large “restaurante”. With Cumbia playing in the background. One of those places that gets very busy in the weekend and becomes the local take-away during weekdays.

The polite waiter addressed me in Spanish and I replied, stumbling a little. The Aborrajados Edo ordered to start, were not available. Plantains were too green and they have to be ripe. They put attention in their food – I thought – and had Yuca frita con aji de aguacate: fried cassava served with guacamole and Chicharron con arepa: belly of pork with cornbread. Really impressed by the slightly spicy guacamole, the rest…ok. Portions being on the smaller side, we moved to the Mains and had Bandeja Paisa: rice, pork belly, red kidney beans, minced beef, sausage, fried egg, fried plantain, avocado and garnish and Cazuela de Mariscos: seafood stew with rice and fried green plantain. Both huge this time! My soup was really nice and tasty and thick…rich, full of seafood, more a cream of beans and fish than a soup…and definitely too big to finish! As for Edo’s meat feast and the accompaniments that came with the mains, well, nothing to die for. Edo and I sit there, with our beer and wine, looking at each other and then around, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for people to dance, maybe? For a surprising, unexpected aftertaste? For an explosion of life? But it was all calm, predictable, definite as the beat of the “tambora”, as the 4/4 time coming from the speaker. I thought it would have been nice to turn and suddenly realise Yvonne and Fernando were having dinner at the table behind. But maybe they are in Bogota’ cooking “escargot” now…

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 2.5
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 2.5
  • Overall: 2.5
I am uninspired by this one, I don’t really feel like writing it, so I’ll keep it short.

It looks like a dated version of Nando’s inside a dramatically dated and famously ugly shopping centre in Elephant and Castle. It is directly opposite the new Strata skyscraper, that was good as the view is nice and the building interesting whether one likes it or not. Clearly an effort has been made to make the venue look pretty; in fact we were not disappointed at all at first impressions. It must be buzzing at weekends and they must have a DJ then.

The waiter was very kind but service was way too fast, it really felt like a fast food / microwave place. Also he was obviously Hispanic but got quite confused about what language to speak when Monica and I started addressing him in Spanish.

Pork belly with arepas was acceptable but different from what I had expected, as the pork belly was a single piece and a bit tough, not soft and fluffy.

The big assorted Colombian plate was alright but a bit plain. It was essentially a mix of different dishes:

The pork belly from earlier (had I checked…);
A sausage with herbs which I really did not like;
Minced meat that tasted OK albeit a bit sandy;
Way too little fried plantain;
Plain rice;
A separate bowl full of beans that were pretty good;

I think that’s it but I am not even sure.

Value: whatever, I did not like the food, I am not going to say it was good value even if it was indeed cheap.

Food: 2
Ambience: 2.5
Service: 2.5
Value: 2
Overall: 2.25