First gourmet showroom in Colombia

Spain's haute cuisine has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Bogota at La Peseta Gourmet restaurant, which offers a novel concept in Colombia : the first "gourmet showroom" where patrons may taste samples, eat whole courses or buy from a wide selection of exclusive goods.

"See, taste, buy" is the motto for Angel Gallego and Victor Martin, the two businessmen managing the restaurant on the north side of Colombia's capital.

"This is not a grocery store and it is not a conventional restaurant either.

It is a holistic experience where you can eat and buy at the same time."

The businessmen's original plan was to set up a distribution company, but most of its food offerings were unfamiliar to the larger public so they decided to open a physical catalog.

Thus these two adventurers, without any culinary background, one a financier and the other an aircraft engineer, set aside their professional activities and jumped on the Colombian venture motivated by "pure passion."

"Colombia is a very attractive place to invest in," Martin said, adding that the country has favorable "geopolitical conditions" and, most importantly, a growing middle class willing to explore a more sophisticated culinary world.

The only hindrance they have found is a "complex" food regulation system requiring many permits that "delays" the process of registration and certification.

To educate customers about the products they offer, Martin and Gallego give advice and guidance with detailed explanations about each item.

The two haute cuisine ambassadors, who import the traditional Spanish "tapas" and servings into the country of arepas (corn flour rolls) and plantain, strive to distinguish their stock through the use of exclusive ingredients and high quality products.

"A careful selection of basic ingredients, the use of traditional cooking ways and an appropriate presentation" are the keys to success for the store, which displays more than 400 products.

La Peseta showcases items unique in Colombia and distributes them only to other stores that share the owners' "philosophy" of "care, cuddle and know how to talk" about Spanish gastronomy.

"The presence of the Spanish market is still limited in Colombia," the restaurateur said, adding that the public's acceptance of the concept signaled "the defined identity and great potential" of Spanish cuisine in the South American country.

The result is this trans-Atlantic encounter with Spanish ham, loin cut, sausages and extra virgin olive oil as conquistadores.

"Our goal is to become the benchmark of Spanish gourmet products in Colombia" .

The businessmen are already planning to open similar gourmet showrooms in Medellin, Barranquilla and Cartagena.

Berny Polanía

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