Prudence is considered the mother of all virtues; it is the ability to make the right decisions as opposed to following instinctual cravings, the ability to discipline oneself by using reason, foresight, and sagacity. Those who are prudent are not reckless. Those who are prudent are gentle rather than loud. They are neither imposing nor abrasive. They move graciously through life, touching the lives of others in a positive way.
When you walk into Prudencia, opened 11 months ago in La Candelaria, the historic colonial center of Bogotá, you certainly perceive an air of gracefulness and serenity, paying homage to its name. Great energy flows through this renovated Spanish colonial house.
As we arrived for a late Saturday lunch, we were given a warm welcome and ushered to our table. A very competent young waiter guided us through the concept of the restaurant and its menu.
Prudencia offers, in the words of the owners, “food from all over the world, using local ingredients, minimal waste, a connection with the natural environment, and preservation techniques that take time, such as smoking and fermentation.” The menu is described as “one that both wanders and educates.” It is never set, instead offering a small number of daily specials. People who come to Prudencia “should be open to following a culinary adventure.”
We decided to kick start our Saturday afternoon with a well-deserved arazá gin and tonic, a refreshing Amazonian take on this classic cocktail. For starters, we ordered green olives with caramelized plums bathed in Armagnac that were simply delightful.
For our main course, we could choose between slow-roast pork, flank steak, smoked trout with fennel, or organic grilled chicken. We opted for the roast pork and grilled chicken both accompanied by basmati rice with jasmine and fresh curcuma, as well as a mix of roasted aubergine and mushrooms.
Both dishes were cooked to perfection; the pork was succulent and fragrant. The herb roast chicken was tender, yet zesty. Cherry tomatoes with pesto salad accompanied our dishes, as well as homemade crusty bread made with blue- berries and fennel.
The wine list is very complete and composed of mostly French classics, including Cabernet Sauvignons such as Le Vigneau, Chateau le Vigoies and Caractere. We accompanied our meal with a glass or two of a robust Chateau les Marcottes, Bordeaux, one of my all-time favorites.
For dessert we had the chocolate and orange pots de créme, which were smooth and creamy. A pot of fresh jasmine tea rounded off a wonderful symphony of tastes.
Prudencia is owned by Meghan Flanigan from the U.S. city of Baltimore and Mario Rosero from Pasto in the Colombian departement of Nariño. Mario graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Meghan and Mario met and fell in love in La Candelaria, and a few years later, while living in the United States, they started to think about opening a restaurant together. They returned to Bogotá in 2013, with a newborn baby and bought an old dilapidated colonial house with the dream of transforming it into a neighborhood restaurant. Simon Vélez, the prize-winning Colombian architect, famous for his use of bamboo as a core structural element in his designs, restored the house to transform it into a beautiful restaurant.
The venue features light beaming through the ceilings, yellow painted walls, large baroque mirrors and lamps, Republican-era plaster work and edgings, tiled floors and wooden tables accompanied by the iconic replicas of Philippe Stark chairs. A large open kitchen lies to one side of the restaurant with its wood-fired oven, and a busy team of cooks preparing dishes under the quiet guidance of Mario. At the back of the restaurant, there is an herb and flower garden. They also have an oven for smoking meats and vegetables as well as an imposing Yarumo tree, native to the American tropics, which peers over the neighbors’ wall.
Meghan and Mario were very graceful in showing us around their restaurant, which feels like an extension to their home, and telling us about their life story and passion for the simple things in life. They bake their own breads, they process their own pickles, smoke their own meats, and grow their own herbs. They homeschool their beautiful daughter Sully and seem to go through life at a different pace than the rest of us.
Away from the maddening crowds of the power center of Bogotá, well-known politicians, peace negotiators, university lecturers, and the current mayor are known to dine and relax in this culinary oasis.
From a personal point of view, and having shared this experience in excellent company, I took away the energy and sense of calmness that envelopes the restaurant. I left not only having enjoyed a great meal but also thinking about prudence, mother of all virtues. I thought about making sound and knowledgeable choices, about leaving behind what is toxic, and about seeking inner peace.
People and places touch your life in different ways, and of all the restaurants I have recently visited and reviewed in Bogotá, Prudencia is certainly one that has left a lasting impression. I hope to return to soon.
Prudencia – Carrera 2 No. 11-34