Secret Bar in Bogota with Hand Crafted Cocktails

IMG_3325*******Update: The location has changed! It’s now in the neighborhood of Quinta Camacho. Calle 69A, #10-05. *********

Yes, it’s a speakeasy, not illegal, but kept a secret like back in the days of prohibition. Yes, it has no name. Yes, it’s not well known yet…

IMG_3339The craft cocktails are good. That’s the important thing. The drinks have names like “J Bird” and “Shi-taque” and “Ayguey” (or something like that) and other cleverness. The drinks are gin or whiskey based with infusions and chartreuse as ingredients. They are refreshing, strong, and delicious. The bartender takes great care making the drinks as he mixes, shakes, squirts, dusts, and coddles the drinks (Plus, he has a magnificent beard).

It’s the kind of place where one can hear oneself, and ones friends talk (although it’s so dark you may not be able to see them) because the music is blues or other old school music played loud enough to enjoy but not so loud that you have to yell. The two booths have chains which activate a red light when you want to call for service (so you get to yank their chain). Fresh water is always served with the drinks to make sure that you won’t be hung over the next day.

IMG_3342The location has changed! It’s now in the neighborhood of Quinta Camacho. Calle 69A, #10-05. No longer secreted behind the Pan Asian food restaurant, Thom Ngon, on top of Xarcuteria near Parque 93. Go up the stairs and ring on the doorbell. Someone will open the little window (just like in the prohibition movies) and let you in. Maybe. The owner says that he wants this place to stay secret and hidden so that only those who like a good hand crafted drink will hear about this place by word of mouth. He says that he doesn’t want the meat market “seen scene” (my description) types here. We shall see.IMG_3340Unlike the other speakeasy, this place does not have food or snacks. Yet. Our waiter, Jesus, told us that snacks like peanuts or albondigas (meatballs) will be coming soon.

But no fish fillet sandwich… which some of us wanted… did I mention that the drinks are strong?

The Secret Speakeasy Restaurant of the Gilded Age of Bogota

Gilded chocolate brownie a la mode.
Gilded chocolate brownie a la mode.

Going out has become a form of theater and the secret speakeasy of Bogota delivers (just like the one in Buenos Aires). It’s called NN (because it’s a secret) and the name is a coded part of the front, a shop called Miss ElaNNia. One has to make a reservation with one of the waiters. I don’t have the number. You’ll have to find a friend who can make the reservation.

Magnificent decor.
Magnificent decor.

On the appointed night, one shows up at Calle 71, No. 5-65. The location is on a quiet street off of Septima, a main road. It is possible to see glimpses of something grand through the windows, but ignore that to get more out of the experience. The front is a shop selling kitsch. You need to go into the shop which actually has cute items for sale.

The biggest Baileys ice cream sandwiches, evah!
The biggest Baileys ice cream sandwiches, evah!

At the appointed moment, a brilliantined waiter will appear and lead you to the back. Once you enter, you walk through past the kitchen, up winding back stairs, only to pop out on the other side of the looking glass. This entry makes the experience feel clandestine.

The front.
The front.

The staff play their roles well even if the service is a bit slow (take your time and drink in the ambiance). The inside of the restaurant is luxurious. They have large round tables with booth seating allowing for parties of ten. There are also smaller tables for intimate conversations. While the cathedral style painted ceiling adds a palatial feel, the restaurant still manages to feel cozy. The music spans Frank Sinatra, Erasure, and more modern beats, interrupted with live jazz from the balcony.

Teddy, is that you?
Teddy, is that you?

The food was French or European and some of the dishes were good. The food was of mixed quality. But, the desserts and ambiance made up for it. The cheese fondue was more of a cheese soup than a fondue. The creamed spinach with bacon was delicious. The steamed mussels with fries was not special. They also have salmon and Beef Wellington. I’ll be back to try more of the menu and get my own portion of spinach. Including several bottles of wine and desserts to share, we each paid around 120,000 pesos (50 U.S. dollars) for dinner, tax and tip.

Baked Alaska. Theater continues in the dessert course.
Baked Alaska. Theater continues in the dessert course.

The gilded brownie is actually a combination of soft mousse and utter decadence. Appropriate for a Bogota entering its golden age.

Secret Restaurants and Speakeasies in Buenos Aires

Eat, drink, and be merry on four continents.
Eat, drink, and be merry on four continents.

There’s a well known secret about Buenos Aires. Actually, there are more, but here are two gastronomic ones.

One is that there are “secret” restaurants to go to (sort of like the inadvertent secrets in Dhaka). The concept is a fixed menu in someone’s home and you pay a suggested amount. It’s all sort of furtive and illicit, therefore enticing. The concept is the same as in Washington, DC and other cites.

Nola, come on in.
Nola, come on in.

 

In BA (that’s what the they call Buenos Aires), I went to a former secret restaurant. Instead of being located behind the closed door at the back of a garage, it’s now open to the street. Called Nola, it was started by a Louisiana expat, and it serves some good ol’ food. It was the best fried chicken in the city. The fried chicken has crispy batter. The sweetbreads with red pickled onions makes a savory bowl of crunchy goodness. The cornbread was more like a bread pudding and the tea, it was sweet. Best go early for BA, around eight, so that you don’t have to stand while eating your chicken. As the place filled up, the patrons spilled out onto the sidewalk through the open front. The restaurant looked like a former garage. They have a few desserts as well, including a cupcake sized blueberry pie. While the prices were not cheap, Nola was as sweet as its pie.

Blueberry pie, single portion.
Blueberry pie, single portion.

The second secret in BA is the “speakeasy,” A speakeasy refers to a bar that is hidden, just like back during Prohibition in the U.S. In current-day BA, these are bars with a fake entrance. The one that I went to had an innocent looking bakery as its facade. We went in and walked to the back “brick” wall. I imagining a secret knock or handshake would be required. But, we simply told the hostess that we wanted to go “to the back” and she let us through. Once through the looking glass, we entered a world of Victorian England, and I half hoped to see Johnny Depp swish or sway past wearing a cape. Alas, other than the disproportionate number of tall blondes, the only swaying I saw was a short gold lamĂ© skirt that glittered and glistened as its owner made forays to the powder room.

A cocktail for 10 bucks.
A cocktail for 10 bucks.

Perhaps next time, I’ll blog about the 48-hour eating tour of BA to match my 48-hour food tour of Lima.