A Day at the Colombia Gourmet Festival
Last Saturday I was invited together with two other friends to the Cookbook Cafe, an informal eatery located on the ground floor at the five-star InterContinental Hotel London Park Lane, which is currently hosting a Colombian Gourmet Festival.
The hotel has flown all the way from Colombia, Luis Meza, an award winning Colombian pastry chef who works at InterContinental Medellín. Together with executive chef Paul Bates and his team, they are preparing delicious traditional dishes using original produce brought exclusively for the occasion to add to the authenticity of the festival. Colombia is the only South American country to enjoy both Caribbean and Pacific Ocean coastlines, for this reason their cuisine is diverse and it’s worth a taste. In it’s third year, the aim of this week-long culinary festival is to celebrate the Brand Latin heritage. The first InterContinental hotel opened in Belém, on the banks of the Amazon estuary, in the northern part of Brazil, in 1946.
To access the venue we went through the glorious hotel reception as the restaurant hasn’t got an independent entrance. Once we arrived we were warmly greeted by the front of the house staff. The room has full height windows which let a flood of light in and overlooks Park Lane opposite Hyde Park. I was pleasantly surprised by the reception we received. We were shown to our table immediately by the very welcoming and charming staff. Once seated the Maître d’ came over to greet us and to explain the self-service buffet, the menu and introduced us to the Colombian drinks on offer on this special occasion. The staff seemed knowledgeable and eager to help.
Red guava & sparkling wine, lulo juice and aguardiente sour cocktail
The Colombian chef, Luis Meza, and his crew were at hand to explain the dishes
Rice, peas, pork and spices stuffed suckling pig
Ajiaco Santafereno – named after Santa Fé de Bogota pieces of chicken, large chunks of corn on the cob, two or three kinds of native potatoes (tiny papas criollas that fall apart and thicken the soup, and give the soup its characteristic dark yellow color; the waxy sabanera and/or the soft pastusa), and guasca (Galinsoga parviflora), a weedy, aromatic herb common in all America that lends the dish part of its distinctive flavour. It’s served with avocado, cream and tiny capers.
A variety of Colombian food – sausages, black pudding, shredded meat with peppers wine and thyme – my favourite, arepa (made of white corn), pork belly and fried plantain
A selection from the buffet – including beef with coffee sauce and chicken in physalis sauce – delicious!
Ceviche, cooked meats & cheeses
Stunning display of deserts
Bolo de rolo – very light sponge cake filled with red guava paste and rolled – cake traditionally eaten at breakfast in the Northern states of Brazil.
A selection of Colombian deserts, including some Brazilian delights too!
The Cookbook Cafe is a relaxing place set in luxury surroundings, full of light and right by Hyde Park. The decor is nothing to shout about, it’s neutral and impeccable. The food was good and the ingredients were of exceptional quality. The highlight of our visit, in my opinion, was the service! It is prompt without being intrusive, friendly, accommodating and faultless. Some places should take a leaf of ICParkLane’s book. I will definitely be back!
Also, the InterContinental Kitchen Cookbook has just launched a free lovely ipad app: here
Words by Rosana McPhee. You can read more of Rosana’s writing on Brazilian food at Hot and Chili.