It took me seven years to get to 80 Sillas. Seven years too long, I might add, given the fact that this restaurant by Andrew Blackbourn stands out here in Bogotá or in any place in the world.

In a city where too many chefs try to outshine with signature dishes, chef Blackbourn, since the day he opened his restaurant in a renovated colonial house next to Usaquén’s main square, has been uncompromising with a “back to basics” philosophy on food: to eat honest food, always cooked with the best ingredients available.

80 Sillas is committed to serving only the fresh fish shipped everyday to Bogotá under his discerning and experienced eye. “I don’t cook for myself,” remarks Blackburn. “I cook for my clients.” And those who know 80 Sillas come back.

In this perfect sized restaurant of 80 chairs, a sunlit patio, cozy interior dining room, the menu is all fish based. Go prepared because reservations are a must.

Andrew Blackbourn has been around kitchens ever since he left Lincolnshire at age 17. Growing up on a farm in the east Midlands where good traditional stews, Yorkshire pudding and peas were an essential part of the family’s diet, he abandoned plans to become a vet. Old enough to think about a career as a chef, Andrew heeded his parent’s advice “to follow your heart” and headed to London, where he met Omar, a Bogotano working in the same kitchen.

He spent the next few years traveling, but every time he returned to London, Omar seemed dismayed that he hadn’t visited “the most beautiful place on earth.”  He decided to pack his backpack once again and was soon South America bound. The rest is hard work, some business savvy and chance with destiny.

80 Sillas has an established house menu and monthly specials Blackburn announces on his black board. Rotating every month, the tablero is an excellent opportunity for diners to try Blackburn’s personal creations.

Blackbourn is the mastermind behind 80 Sillas, but the success of his restaurant is teamwork. At night the atmosphere at 80 Sillas is serene. Waiters are attentive, but not intrusive. The venue buzzes as martinis turn up at tables. Blackbourn’s “good and honest food” beings circulate around my table. A dry martini with three Queen-sized olives sets the tone for the starter dishes.

First, a plate of oval fish cakes and a spicy mayo chipotle dip. They disappear quickly. Then a plate of prawns on sliced grilled potatoes. A most refreshing watermelon with mint and cilantro ceviche and a plate of smoked trout ravioli arrive and disappear before we polish off our martinis and choose a Malbec to accompany our filet of Mahi Maki garnished with green mango.

While Blackbourn is very much of a kitchen chef, he is quick to acknowledge that head chef, Wilson Albarez, and the rest of the team put in long, hard hours to get these recipes right. “I really believe that we are at a point in the city’s gastronomy, when chefs have to get back to kitchens,” claims Blackbourn.

It has been many years since I have had such a memorable evening: the preparation of the fish, the presentation of the dishes, the choice available – all excellent. My objective for the future is to count my chair among the 80 Sillas.

 

Calle 118 # 6A-05