When it opened its doors on the Calle 81 last year, La Cesta, joined a growing list of bakeries and cafés offering the residents of Retiro a welcome departure from designer furniture shops and the formal restaurants of the Zona Rosa. The incursion of bakeries and bistros has been so noticeable that a new term is being used to identify this corner of Bogotá, the “Zona C” or Coffee Zone.
Founded by partners, Juan Duque and Emilio Adatto, La Cesta, is as much about enjoying a frothy cappuccino with friends, as it is about offering clients a health conscious menu for the three meals of the day. “We wanted to create a local café,” states Jaime, “and one dedicated to healthy, fresh ingredients.”
As clients stream in, taking their places in the outdoor terrace or cozy interior space, a warm, positive “vibe” is evident, as guests converse over frothy coffee served in La Cesta blue ceramic mugs. The music is low key as well, setting the ambience, but not overbearing, a welcome companion to the afternoon get together, the “tertulia” of both young and elderly.
The fresh loafs of bread, baked on premises, could define La Cesta as a bakery; but it is so much more: books and magazines on a wooden shelf are there for clients to read, and take, if they fancy. Red toasters at each wooden table also encourage guests to “do it yourself,” to set the dials for exactly the right temperate for your toast.
As successful businessmen in the retail sector, Jaime and Emilio decid- ed to break with routine and took up bread making with a course at the Culinary Institute of America, in New York. After a trip to Germany where they learned everything they needed to know about yeast at high altitude, the entrepreneurs took the decision to open their “café local” starting with eight types of bread, a breakfast menu of eggs and muesli and a lunch offering of sandwiches, pasta and the Colombian ‘calentado.’
The effort is evident, as is the attention to detail and customer service. The wait staff are informed and offer tips from what’s fresh and in season, to the best type of wine to accompany your bruschetta and salad. The menu includes several sandwiches, among them: Roast beef, Tuna, Pastrami and the king of the club, the ‘Club.’ You can also add extra ingredients to your sandwich, such as avocado, turkey breast, and Koller sausages.
In order to help their clients navigate the ingredients which go in every dish, La Cesta, created a set of symbols which include: the level of “picante,” if there are nuts (for those with allergies), and if a dish is kosher or vegetarian. On the salad menu there are many which stand out, such as the Greek ($18,700) with feta, olives and a lemon dressing, a Quinoa tabuleh, and a Wild Rice with red peppers, onion and cranberry. For a wholesome, hearty dish, try the house lentil salad with lime and feta cheese ($15,900).
La Cesta knows how to prepare its specialty Huila-grown organic coffee. There are no gimmicks nor gadgets in the barista process, rather a return to good old fashion basics: such as the artisanal approach of grinding beans, to a very European, almost rustic, presentation. If you fancy your coffee with a touch of liqueur, you can order a Cappuchino Baileys or Cappuchino Amaretto.
From its tahines to tabuleh, and savories such as a Mexican soup or salmon quiche, La Cesta works to soothe your weary soul, transporting you to those quaint brick cafés of the southern Mediteranean; where time is never rushed, and the coffee is a memorable as the conversation– a rare thing these days, indeed.
Calle 81 No.8-70