Leo – No. 46 Restaurant in the World

We walked into an amazing-looking room. Bright, modern and adorned with bold lighting. The room was minimalist with tables very spread apart. We were seated at a round table right by the open kitchen. 

Our waiter came over to give us welcome drinks. Our first course had four dishes. The first, you ate with a fork. The second, with chopsticks. The third, with your hands and the fourth, with a spoon. The ingredients in these dishes were from all across Colombia. But it’s a little bit deeper than that: on Leo’s website, they describe the dining experience as “A gastronomic journey through the ethnobotany of the cultures that inhabit the various Colombian biomes”. Similar to other renowned restaurants, so much of the country’s culture, heritage and personality have been showcased using food as the medium.

The next course came the same way with four types of dishes on a stone plate. The variety of the food was amazing and made eating an entertaining and intriguing experience. To add to the show, our plates were taken away from us simultaneously by two waiters in a choreographed sort of display—a great presentation style.

Next on the menu was a cold cream-based soup with Amazonian fish. It came with fresh bread and seasoned homemade butter. The French white wine paired with it was a great touch.

The open kitchen was to the right of us in an adjacent section of the room. We watched the chefs and cooks masterfully plate the courses.

For our next dish, we were given a spork. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were thinking fish soup or ceviche. It happened to be Guinea Pig in a broth with corn and queso. Luckily, we had eaten Guinea Pig in Peru a few weeks earlier, so we were prepared for this slightly odd choice of meat—which is good (but can have a lot of bones to deal with). The fermented corn drink paired well with this course.

Our next drink came in a wine glass and looked like red wine but it was fermented açai. A great-tasting liquid that drank like a sour port. A bowl with thinly shaven duck came soon after. The sauce tasted like teriyaki and gravy mixed together—the sweetness of teriyaki with the richness of gravy. This course was followed by a similar dish, pork belly covered in an even richer sauce that paired perfectly with a Syrah from Sicily—made by a Danish winemaker—called Vinding Montecarrubo. Our waiter told us that the winemaker, Peter Vinding-Diers was known as “the Viking in the Vineyard”.

Our meal at Leo finished with two dessert courses. The highlight was our coffee being made table-side in a siphon coffee maker, which was an interesting process. Essentially, the device has two chambers: in the bottom chamber, clear water is boiling and in the top chamber are coffee grinds. Gradually, the water transfers up to the top chamber and mixes with the grinds as the barista stirs. Then, the coffee transfers back into the bottom chamber and is poured into small sake-like mugs. Supposedly, this siphon coffee maker was invented by the Germans and this style of brewing is still popular in Asia including Japan.

We paid the bill (which was completely reasonable), but our experience at Leo did not end there. What we learned is that Leo is a mother-and-daughter duo. Leonor runs Leo and her daughter and sommelier Laura runs the bar upstairs called La Sala de Laura. La Sala de Laura happens to be the number 70 bar in the world! So following dinner, we were escorted upstairs and seated at the bar in a minimalist and swanky room. We ordered two cocktails from their signature menu, which were made using specially made and naturally fermented alcohol created by Laura and her team. To have a top restaurant and top bar in the same building and combine them into one experience is something that needs to happen more often and in more countries! A great night out in Bogota!

Additional notes: (1) the cutlery throughout the entire experience was phenomenal for two reasons: one, the diversity of the cutlery and the unusual and unique shapes of each utensil was admirable and two, there was a dedicated “cutlery server” whose only job was to serve cutlery for each course. (2) Arielle’s drink at Laura came with a glass pipe and it was part of the cocktail to smoke “herbs” while enjoying the drink. I guess it’s similar to cigars and scotch, but this was the first time I had seen it as part of a cocktail.