Donde Carlos, 143 Goldhawk Rd, London W12 8EN
10 September 2015
Donde Carlos (presumably named for the Colombian version of Where’s Wally?) certainly looks the part when we first arrive: a menu packed with exotic sounding dishes, Latin American music playing on the PA, sport on a big telly in the corner, basic furniture and a conservatory-style frontage (not unlike the earlier Bolivian example). Initial excitement is suppressed a little when we realise that availability is very much dependent on the day of the week. There’s a whole tapas menu that is only served on a Friday, and several other dishes that are only available on Saturday or Sunday. In addition, there’s no Colombian beer available, forcing Steve to drink Corona. And they’ve run out of soup. However, none of this really matters since there’s plenty else on offer, and Joe & Sophie go straight for the Rafejo, a sort of fruity shandy made from beer mixed with a fizzy pop not unlike Irn Bru.
We start with a couple of beef empanadas – and all are agreed that these are the best examples of their type that we have ever tasted. Delicious shredded beef filling in a wonderfully crispy fried pastry case, served with a fabulous herb & chilli salsa. Things are off to a world-beating start already.
For main, Joe and Steve both go for the Bandeja Paisa, a combination of all the Colombian foods in one massive meal. This was also available in a “mini” version, which would have definitely been more than enough food, and we knew it. But no, we had to go for the full-sized version, which neither of us were then able to finish. It was good though – a big mess of fried kidney beans, rice with a fried egg on top, pork belly strips, great sheets of fried beef fillet, Colombian chorizo and fried plantain.
Sophie, meanwhile had a more sensible Chuleta de Cerdo: pork escalopes fried in breadcrumbs, served with chips, rice and plantain. The chuletas seemed to have the salsa cooked into the breadcrumb coating, making them particularly delicious.
For pudding, we shared two dishes – black figs steeped in a syrup and served stuffed with dulce de leche, and a sort of dry curd cheese, also served with dulce de leche. The figs were amazing, not really in need of any help from the dulce, while the cheese was a bit weird, with a texture not unlike white bread and not really helped by its sweet companion.
Pretty good food overall, and it all felt thoroughly authentic throughout. When we phoned to book a table, they answered in Spanish, and there were small-ads in Spanish and advertisements for currency exchange pinned to the walls. This sort of place is really what the Foods of the World exercise is all about.
Atmosphere 4/5; Food 3.5/5