Club Colombia, Melbourne
Hot chocolate and cheese?! The speciality (and authentic) drink of Colombian restaurant Club Colombia is the first but not the only surprise in this little introduction of cuisine from this part of South America. A friend and I head in for some fancy new flavours and walk out with a newfound appreciation for the versatility of cheese and Colombian cuisine.
Rain, chocolate and cheese
It’s a rainy night that welcomes us into this slightly east-of-the-CBD side of town. Club Colombia is a bit smaller than I was expecting in size, but exactly what I expected in atmosphere. Regular diners, festive decor, lively music and some very friendly staff.
They’re more than happy to induct us in the culture of the chocolate con queso or hot chocolate and cheese. It’s a spiced rich hot chocolate (think cinnamon and cloves) with the special kicker – that’s the cheese. Mild squares of a white cheese that you dunk into the drink momentarily and then nibble on.
It’s served with extra foam and a wooden spoon (molinillo). The C&C mix is an unusual taste to describe – I didn’t mind it! The cheese takes on a sweet creaminess not unlike the cheesecake we’re all used to. For a wintery night like tonight, it was a great way to start things off.
Meat and rice
The starters include a couple fry-day options, cassava and the cutest little potatoes I’ve ever seen. It’s served with a sour cream and a hogao sauce, which is a zesty and fruity Colombian speciality. Both are filling and cassava is such an underrated vegetable that should see more time on our plates.
The pumpkin soup was my favourite of the three starters. It’s made from a mix of pumpkin and ginger and it’s not the bright orange thing that you might be expecting. There’s a nice warming earthiness to this savoury concoction.
The main was the flank steak with criolla sauce served with fried plantains. Or as I like to say, plantain cakes. I’m not a huge fan of the flank (I find this cut a bit too dry for me) but I loved the fried plantain and the sauce is creamy and yum. Our other shared main was the calentado paisa. What a treat – and it’s massive. Served with arepa and an egg, there’s lot happening in this rice/ lentil mix including pork, chorizo and bacon. Good luck finishing!
Finally, the desserts were a right treat too (which I managed to save for the next day). Guess what? More cheese! That’s in the (I didn’t get the name) waffle. There’s condensed milk and cheese in the filling and it’s a crunchy, sugary way to eat a solid meal. The rice pudding is a tad sweet but is refreshing in it’s own way.
I’m thankful for Club Colombia for my first foray into Colombian cuisine. It’s a club you’ll definitely want a membership for.