Is This London’s Buzziest Colombian Restaurant?

By Martha Davies

3 weeks ago

Welcome to Abajo


If you’re in the mood for Colombian food, Abajo offers a tasting menu like no other, says Martha Davies.

Restaurant Review: Abajo, Mayfair

East Sussex Quail served on a black plate with edible flowers

There’s a lot of talk about immersive dining recently, and it’s hard to pin down exactly what it means. Should you expect a four-dimensional experience? A special soundtrack? Are the staff, in fact, holograms? Abajo, the ten-seat chef’s table below Mayfair’s Michelin-starred HUMO, promises a culinary journey inspired by the five ecosystems of Colombia – but there are no gimmicks or elaborate pretensions here; just a masterful tasting menu that could very well blow you away.

Of course, your culinary journey actually begins upstairs, in HUMO, from which you will descend a cast iron spiral staircase and find yourself in the treasure trove that is Abajo. Glass-panelled fridges and cabinets line the walls, proudly displaying the fish, meat and wine you’ll soon be sampling, while executive chef Miller Prada, Colombian Sous Chef Moris Moreno and his team greet you from behind the counter. After an introductory cocktail (the superior way to start a meal) and a chat from the sommelier, you can sit back and watch the magic happen.

It’s difficult to do justice to what happens next. There’s no menu at Abajo; you’ll be given a card outlining each course before it arrives, but that card is whisked away as soon as you’ve finished to make way for the next one – and only at the end of the night will all five cards be returned to you, as if sending you home with all the chapters of a rather wonderful story. 

Chef's table with red dining chairs and a small kitchen

No two visits to Abajo are the same (if you’re fortunate enough to go twice): the menu is constantly evolving, with seasonal changes and a focus on local produce. Regardless of which five courses you try, however, each one will be split into a number of dishes designed to showcase the versatility of one core ingredient – with the entire menu inspired by the biodiversity of Colombia’s natural ecosystems, drawing on gastronomic traditions from the Caribbean coast, the Andes, the Pacific coast and the Amazon, as well as Colombia’s ‘Orinoquía’ (grasslands). A few Japanese traditions are also thrown in for good measure.

Our first course championed sweetcorn, which was presented as Colombian cancha (toasted corn) alongside Morel mushrooms and trout mousse, before the corn husk was served with sansho (ground Japanese pepper) and a miso dressing made from fermented corn. It’s worth noting that the wine pairings are incredible, too: this course was complemented by a brilliant Croatian white.

Bluefin tuna served on a tamal leaf

Moving from the fields to the Amazonian rainforest, the second course was all about Mediterranean bluefin tuna. The loin was dried and smoked to form a cecina (a type of cured Spanish meat) and topped with a coconut reduction, while a separate part of the tuna was drizzled with sauce made of coffee from chef Miller’s family farm. Meanwhile, the tuna cheek was served atop a carimañola (a crispy South American fritter) stuffed with aged caviar, and all the tuna trimmings were used to create a consomé flavoured with lemongrass and coriander. As if that wasn’t enough, part of the dish was even served on the (enormous) spine of the tuna itself, which had been dried and aged in the cabinets behind us. This isn’t just immersive dining – it’s ingenious.

By the end of three-hour sitting, we had also sampled East Sussex Quail, with the eggs baked into an arepa, the bones used to flavour a dish of Arborio rice, and the breast roasted and scattered with wild garlic and shallot ashes. Next was Kagoshima Beef – brisket, sirloin and tongue – and finally a show-stopping dessert course based on, of all things, tomato (and paired with Rathfinny sparkling wine). It was only then that we were finally handed the menu in its entirety, sealed in an envelope like the perfect keepsake.

THE FINAL WORD

You might not actually have traversed the rainforests and plains of Colombia, but a visit to Abajo certainly transports you to somewhere else – and then makes you want to come right back to Mayfair and do it all again.

BOOK IT

Abajo, 12 St. George Street, W1S 2FB. abajolondon.com