Tell us a story: In Arauca, near the Venezuelan border, there’s a mango tree whose leaves and branches give much-needed shade to a patio and a dining table that unites friends, families and neighbours to eat, drink and be merry. It’s after this homely dining experience, this honest and frank table (mesa franca), that chef Iván Cadena named his Bogotá restaurant in 2016.
What's the concept? After moving the restaurant to a larger mansion space in Bogotá’s trendy Chapinero district in 2021, Cadena was able to incorporate a wood-burning oven. This allowed him to build on the mestiza and Indigenous culinary techniques that capture the essence of Colombian cooking and include the smoky flavours and aromas characteristic of creole dishes.
On the menu: Having sharpened his culinary skills in Lima at Astrid & Gastón and Central, Cadena focuses on seasonal Colombian ingredients and works with small producers and farmers. Standout dishes include watermelon ceviche; encocado shrimp with rice and crustacean broth; and grilled T-bone with tucupí, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts.
Anything else? Also of note is Mesa Franca’s bar and signature cocktail experience, shaken and stirred by bartender Tom Hydzik, who is a protagonist of equal standing alongside the kitchen. The restaurant’s third partner is front-of-house manager María Paula Amador, who trained as a chef and sommelier in Argentina.