I was descending the list towards the ‘Lonsdale’ when the ‘Bogotá Mule’ stopped me in my tracks. It was a Friday night and I was lucky to have been offered a seat at the horseshoe bar of the Black Bear: a relatively new addition to Bogotá’s upscale dining scene.
It had been impossible to get a reservation at the ‘Bear,’ but I chanced it anyways. Thanks to an accommodating hostess, I was escorted to a curved marble bar at the heart of this renovated home and within elbow’s reach of lemons, herbs and cocktail shakers.
With a very polite use of his English, the head of the bar, Gabriel Lowe, recommended I start the evening with his Maple Derby. I take up the challenge and within seconds, Lowe, is creating a concoction of Bourbon, grapefruit juice, lemon and maple extract. It’s a masterpiece in miniature. My dining companion who had finally settled into her seat next to some jovial costeños, headed towards the East, to the mythical land of Mandalay, with Black Bear’s Rangoon Gin Cobbler. Her tall glass arrives brimming with crushed ice and Lowe remarks that it is a house favorite. While we relish in our libations, the bar buzzes. It’s a greet and meet atmosphere with plates arriving at tables in a constant ebb and flow. Everyone seems to delight in seeing what the waiters will deliver next, and from the kitchen of Andrew Blackbourn.
Turning the pages of Black Bear’s menu, there is plenty to agree upon. The small plates – platos pequeños – offer a sampling of world cuisine, such as the Devilled Eggs with chipotle chili and shrimp tempura or the oven roasted octopus with lemon and olive oil. We go for a plate of marinated white fish, knowing the dedication Blackbourn puts into his fish as the executive chef of two of Bogotá’s most outstanding restaurants: 80 Sillas and Central.
While Gabriel artfully prepares drinks, my glass runs out. Never out of sight, I request a ‘Lonsdale’ from the San Francisco-born bartender. He insightfully remarks that the drink was named after a Bloomsbury hotel in London. I select my gin of choice and Lowe works the magic: apple juice, honey and basil. I begin to walk the razor’s edge, and order another of the pequeños, yet generous, house dishes: the tuna on a bed of sushi rice.
The Black Bear merits many visits to best understand its cooking philosophy, which include slow cooked meats and an Asian connection. On my next visit (and there will be one) I will get my table in advance and enjoy an equally important space of the Black Bear experience, which is their formal diningroom.
Black Bear. Cra 11A No.89-06
Reservations: 57 (1) 644 7766