Bandeja Paisa and a Colombian Afternoon

bandeja paisa, colombian food

One of the benefits of teaching ESL in London to adults is being able to date the students that it has put me in contact with a large community of interesting expatriates. My school has about 20-25 nationalities represented in its ranks, and most students are around my age, which has led to the occasional blurring of professional boundaries. However, I believe the English office drinking culture tends to blur professional boundaries almost everywhere, so I don’t think my workplace is much of an exception.

My students treat me really, really, well. For my last birthday I was given a whole platter of Brazilian coxinha, and I have a fantastic Korean student who regularly brings kimbab to class for my greedy little fingers to devour. I’ve been to Brazilian BBQs, and on their advice I’ve explored some of the outer-regions of London’s transport zones in order to find some of the best, cheapest and most authentic ethnic food London has to offer.

This past weekend, to thank me for my help with a document translation, my Colombian friend took me out to lunch to El Rincon del Sur – a restaurant of whose existence I’ve tried in vain to find evidence on the internet, with no luck. I can only conclude that it is truly an undiscovered gem in the London English-speaking community. El Rincon del Sur is located in SE1, about a five minute walk from Elephant and Castle Station (email me if you want actual directions!). We arrived there cold, wet and starving at around 3pm on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

On the way to the restaurant, my friend K asked pointedly—are you sure you’re hungry? This place gives REALLY huge portions. I scoffed a little (thinking he laboured under the impression that I, like some dainty girl trying to impress a date, wouldn’t eat to my full potential) and told him to quit trying to get out of paying for my lunch.

The restaurant has that nice, down-to-earth, functional feel to it—heavy wooden tables and chairs, fake plastic flowers in vases, posters of Colombia on the walls, and a TV playing Latin music videos of long-ago on the wall. As K assured me that ‘real’ Colombian restaurants look nothing like this, I was really enjoying the atmosphere. It was filled with tables of families and couples, all of them loudly enjoying a special Saturday lunch, singing along to the music, the owner bouncing from table to table making small talk.

K ordered Bandeja Paisa, the sometimes-national dish of Colombia, basically consisting of every type of meat known to man: ground steak; chicharrón (deep-fried pork rind); chorizo; and rellena (cleaned intestine stuffed with rice and meat – think Colombian haggis). It also includes arepa (steamed corn bread), plantain, rice, avocado and finally a large bowl of bean soup. Here is a breakdown of the meal:

Bandeja Paisa

I couldn’t fit it all into one picture, so the main dish is pictured above, and here is the bean soup:

Colombian bean soup

Bean Soup

Mmmmm, smoky beany deliciousness.I opted for the ‘smaller’ Lomo con Champiñones (or pork loin with mushrooms):

Pork Loin with Mushrooms

It also came with rice, potatoes and 2 types of plantains (no problem breaking the double-starch rule in Colombia!). I dug in with joyful glee. However, despite threats from the owner that I wouldn’t be allowed to return if I didn’t eat everything, this is where I gave up:

I can't eat everything

this is where I gave up

I wanted to cry, I wanted to force the remaining morsels into my mouth, but I suppose I did valiantly well. It was so delicious—so simple, hearty, and down-to-earth, I wanted to weep and then telephone my mother. Or K’s mother. Or anyone who would serve this to me for lunch on a regular basis. Most importantly, K settled the bill so I didn’t even have to pay for the pleasure. It’s something one could get used to. In case you’re wondering, Bandeja Paisa was £10 though it could easily be shared between two people for a normal sized lunch. My Lomo was £11. The portion sizes make this place a great bang for your London pound, and it’s in zone 1!

I give it 4 fingers out of five. (This restaurant review scale being one I have just invented off the top of my head)

El Rincon del Sur – down the street from the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, SE1, Southwark, London—if anyone has more contact info for this place, let me know!

Update August 2010: The restaurant is actually right next to a shop called El Rincon del Sur, and is now named La Paisita.  It can be found at 103  Newinton Butts.  During the week they serve lunches and a pared down evening menu, but Saturdays and Sundays expect full on Latin American, artery-clogging amazement.

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13 Responses to Bandeja Paisa and a Colombian Afternoon

  1. N says:

    Wonderful post, B! The first sentence made me splutter my coffee hither and thither from laughing. How were the two kinds of plantains prepared?

  2. B says:

    I believe one was simply fried (the type you can see easily in both dishes) – the other type was a kind of plantain arepa (you can see it poking from behind my rice in the pork dish) or plantain-infused corn bread. Or at least that’s what it tasted like.

  3. John says:

    The plantain looks delicious. And the first line is just evil hilarious! :)

  4. John says:

    Sorry – I didn’t just mean the plantain. It all looks delicious!

  5. B says:

    Um, its all delicious! And by delicious I refer not just to the meal, but the students themselves ;)
    B

  6. Su-Lin says:

    Yum yum! This place is now on my list of must-tries! Thank you!

  7. Bron says:

    Don’t have a phone number but it is on the roundabout at Newington Butts. Good post – I go past it on the bus sometimes and have wondered what it was like… now I’m deeply tempted to try it

  8. B says:

    Thanks so much Bron! Thats almost enough for me to be able to add a full address to the site. If you go there before I do – try to snag a full business card!
    B

  9. anonymoose says:

    If you were a Canadian tourist coming to London for the first time, would this place be near anything you might already be visiting, or would it be more of a place you’d have to specifically aim for a visit?

  10. B says:

    Hi Anonymoose – I once was a Canadian coming to London for the first time! Unfortunately, Elephant and Castle station isn’t really near that much you might want to see… most good ethnic restaurants in London are far away from the tourist traps.
    However, it isn’t that far from the Imperial War Museum, should that float your boat!

    B

  11. Laura says:

    I believe the full address is:

    Rincon del Sur
    103 Newington Butts
    London
    SE1 6SF

    Buen provecho!

  12. James says:

    Good stuff, but as my colombian doctor told me, eat it everyday and your heart will fail. I have to eat this bandeja paisa at least 1 time a week. Just cant resist it.

    gringo en paradise

  13. Nosy Mexican says:

    Your heart will fail if you don’t exercise, bandeja paisa or not. You see, all this delicoious dishes from latin america are designed for phisically highly active people… by that I mean, you must play at least 3 times a week a full soccer game, climb mountains on a regular basis and/or walk instead of using a car for normal life. Then you can eat all th bandejas paisas you want.

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