English eatery conjures up Colombia in every aspect, from cuisine to ambience
Stars and Stripes November 2, 2023
It’s a special moment when food transports you to your childhood, and as an American of Cuban and Colombian ancestry, I was both surprised and delighted to have such an experience in England.
The word “authentic” gets thrown around a lot at restaurants that nevertheless tame or substitute ingredients for unfamiliar palates. But that’s not the case at La Latina Bustaurante, a lovely Colombian restaurant in Cambridge.
“We make it a point to only hire Colombian chefs and cooks to keep our food as authentic as possible,” said Catalina Uribe, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Nelson.
Upon arrival, we heard the sounds of Celia Cruz, an icon of salsa music, in the background. My Cuban wife and I immediately felt like we were in for a treat.
All the quintessential Colombian street foods such as arepas, empanadas and tostones were listed on the menu. We ordered a starter platter that included all three.
For my main dish, I ordered masorcada, which is made up of pork or beef chunks covered in fries, sweet corn and cheese and smothered in ketchup, mayo, avocado and their homemade pineapple sauce.
My first bite transported me back to summers in Colombia, when I would enjoy masorcada after dancing all night at a club in Barranquilla with my cousin and his friends.
My wife had the arepa with beef, pork and beans. I could see her joy with every bite she took. We’ve lived in England for more than two years and had never tasted real-deal Colombian food in this country until that night.
My kids shared a bowl of Colombian rice and plantain chips, and stole some pork and beef chunks from my wife’s plate. They were a little hesitant about trying a meal they weren’t used to, but their skittishness subsided and both of them ate their fill.
For dessert, we tried the Colombian coffee cake, the dulce de leche cheesecake and, of course, Colombian coffee. The cakes were delicious but not heavy. My wife and I shared both desserts because we just couldn’t pick a favorite.
“It’s very important to me to make sure we follow the original recipes to the letter,” Nelson Uribe told us during our meal.
Both he and his wife are former engineers who decided that they didn’t want to spend their lives working a 9-to-5 desk job and took the leap to go into business for themselves.
Raised in the Colombian capital of Bogota, Catalina comes from a family of cooks. She knew she wanted to open her own restaurant but didn’t know where to start.
Nelson found a love for cooking and brought his wife’s family recipes to England.
They originally wanted to operate a food truck, until they had the novel idea of transforming a double-decker bus into a restaurant on wheels in 2016.
After a few successful years, they were forced to rethink their approach once COVID-19 hit and social distancing took priority. In 2020, they opened a restaurant at the food court in The Grafton, a large shopping mall in Cambridge.
In light of such a blissful experience, I can’t recommend La Latina Bustaurante enough. It’s authentic, friendly and filling — just as I remember Colombian food being in my youth.
La Latina Bustaurante
Address: Grafton Centre, Cambridge, England
Prices: Starters, sides and extras range from 3.80 to 7.95 pounds; mains range from 9.45 to 12.95 pounds; share platters range from 13.45 to 39 pounds; desserts range from 3.80 to 5.95 pounds.
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 12-8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 12-9 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m.
Information: Online: just-eat.co.uk/restaurants-la-latina-bustaurante-cambridge/menu