And then came the big question: Meat or fish? Initially I had my eye on the Bandeja Paisa - a one pot dish of rice, pork belly, sausages, kidney beans, mince meat, plantain, avocado, corn and a fried egg. But then a seafood stew with rice and a side of plantain sounded equally delicious. In the end I went full volte-face and opted for neither - instead I chose the Duos de pescados ("fish duo") which was beautifully presented on a bed of salad and spiralized carrot. Sara went for the steak, salad, rice and plantain dish which I must say, was the biggest steak I have ever seen in my entire life!
She had asked for her steak to be medium rare (a girl after my own heart!) but as this turned out to be quite a thin piece of meat, I was concerned on her behalf that it would be
Comparatively, my dish came with a butter, lemon and white wine sauce. I'm not the biggest fan of sauces, however this was such a subtle and light flavour, it perfectly complimented the fish without being too heavy. The butter was minimal so it wasn't too oily or greasy on the plate - in fact it helped keep the fish super soft and gave it a melt in the mouth quality.
The two fishes in question were salmon filet and tilapia - but it did come with shrimps and a langoustine too. And that orange coloured 'nugget' you may have spotted? That was salmon coated in breadcrumbs and it was wonderful (think posh fish finger!). The salmon was the best salmon filet I've ever had in a restaurant. I find that most places over cook their salmon and as a result, the fish is bone dry. However La Bodeguita's salmon was really moist, and done just how I like it. When I tucked further into my dish, I came across two little 'baskets' (not pictured) which were fried plantain that had been shaped and filled with shrimps, coriander and a tomato salsa. There were the prettiest, most imaginatively presented things I've seen on a plate in a long time, and I'm still kicking myself that I didn't see them sooner and get a picture of them from the offset before I devoured them!
As you can bear witness, these were sizeable portions. Sara managed to clear her plate whereas I had to sacrifice a tiny bit of the salmon, which was a crime when it tasted that good. We were both too full for dessert, so we sat chatting whilst finishing up the last of our drinks (her a cocktail, me a glass of red wine).
If you like flavoursome food, generous portion sizes and plantain, then you'll like La Bodeguita! This is no exaggeration, but plantain was actually an accompaniment for most dishes on the menu! The atmosphere was pleasant - it wasn't too loud in there so we could hear each other speak (always a bonus!), but it wasn't deadly silent either. Which works for me, as I don't like places to be ghost towns - filled seats are always a sign of a good place! The staff there were very attentive, welcoming and friendly. Rather than the obligatory one "how is your meal?", they stopped by our table several times to make sure everything was ok. And we were not hassled once to spend more / hurry up eating / get out of there quickly. It was a lovely, relaxed meal where we didn't feel pressurised or rushed - a sign of a good restaurant. I was also really impressed with the price of my wine. Often in Central London I have to pay £5.90 - £7 for a glass of wine, whereas at La Bodeguita my wine was £2.95 if I remember correctly? And it wasn't a stingy amount, or a cheap, unknown brand either. It was a Hardy's Merlot and it was one of the most enjoyable glasses of red I've had in a restaurant for a long, long time.
So if you're ever looking for food in Central London, don't ignore Elephant & Castle. Not traditionally reputed for its food, don't let that put you off as there are some right gems in the area. And as a fully paying customer, I can definitely vouch for La Bodeguita. If like me you are curious about Columbian food, you can find their menu here.