Pasteleria Francesca was a bit of a disappointment for us. We had read quite a bit about this “authentic” French bakery and were looking forward to a hot baguette and hopefully some decent coffee. It is a very cute little place with walls filled of old black and white photos of Paris. It does feel like you've walked into a French cafe once in the front door.
Favorite Dish: While we loved its charming interior and the baked goods looked promising, we found out looks can be deceiving. The baguette was pretty lackluster and my cappuccino, while very pretty to look at, was lacking in the coffee department. The sweet pastries we ordered (a neopolitan and an almond croissant) were pretty good but overall, we though La Gata had better quality cake and coffee. The prices were not too bad. We paid 9000 COP (about $4.50) for the two pastries, a baguette, a cappuccino, and a tea. I wouldn't tell someone not to check it out but not sure I'd go back aside from liking the interior so much.
Cafe Don Eloy was our stab at doing something inexpensive in Villa de Leyva when it came to eating. After a fairly expensive lunch at the Asadero Llana y Sabana, and a few rather awful beers at the upscale brewpub on the main square, we dropped in this little cafe for a couple sandwiches rather than going for another big (and probably expensive) meal. It was quite small and full of Colombian's enjoying a hot beverage to fight off the cool evening air.
Favorite Dish: We both had an aprepa con queso y jamon (corn cakes with cheese and ham) and while tasty, they were a bit on the small side. The bill came to 8000 COP ($4) so not overly expensive but not really what you would call a great deal either. It seems eating truly cheaply in Villa de Leyva is not an option and if it is, we didn't find it.
La Gata is the kind of place that I would not normally go to while traveling around South America but when in Colombia, do as the Colombians do and while this might appear a gringo coffeehouse, it was very much frequented by Colombians. Add to this my wife loves her cake and I was hoping for a decent coffee after one too many weak tintos and we gave it a try. It's a very cute little place, very upscale in appearance and while the prices are certainly not cheap by Colombian standards, they are a fraction of “back home” which was oddly becoming our mantra during this splurgey visit to Villa de Leyva.
Favorite Dish: A nice cappuccino, a double espresso and a huge very rich piece of chocolate cake set us back 12000 COP ($6) but it was actually worth every penny. The piece of cake was quite big, easily enough for us to share, quite rich and delicious. It was real coffee and gave us faith that we would find good coffee in Colombia after all.
I don't usually go to places on the thoroughfare into very touristy towns like Villa de Leyva and when they don't have menus I truly shy away from them. Asadero Llana y Sabana had all these things going against it but when walking by, it was hard to resist the smell of the meats slowly roasting at its entrance. The woman tending to the meat noticed my interest and offered me a piece of meat freshly sliced off. It was an offer I could not resist and after a piece of each of the meats, we decided to give it a try. The meat is more like an accompaniment! The restaurant was a very cool old Hacienda type place with some locals playing cards. It was also quite open so a nice place to escape from the midday sun.
Favorite Dish: With no menu to work with, we just picked two different meats and I wanted to try the local sausage to it came to three meats with roasted corn and a potatoes for good measure. It was pretty sizable and very tasty but we were a bit put off by the 38,000 COP (about $19) bill we got at the end of our meaty meal. Villa de Leyva was turning out to be quite an expensive little town! To be fair, it was a lot more meat then you would get on a budget meal. Generally speaking, when you get one of these small $4 affairs, you mostly get rice, beans, and potatoes.
While I'm not one for indulging in typical gringo-aimed food while traveling, on long trips, it is sometimes nice to eat something aside from the grind of South American budget restaurants that can become tiresome in their lack of variety. What makes these places nice also is the fact that many of them actually cater to locals who now love these foods too and with everywhere in the world, Italian cuisine is king. So, we decided to check out this pizzeria on the town's main square. To be fair, it was during the week and many places were closed so there weren't a lot of choices!
Pizzeria Olivas & Especias was a cute little place with wooden-shuddered windows opening onto the main square and since we were out fairly early, it was easy to secure one of the tables with a view. It was a bit warm inside so we were happy to have the hint of some air too. The prices were not cheap but to be fair, our server had warned me that a medium pizza was probably too big for one person to eat. Undaunted, I ordered it anyway and my wife got a chicken mushroom lasagna. We downed a couple beers with our meals and she got a guanbana fruit shake. It came to 45 COP (about $22) but was enough food for three people and we really could have got a much smaller pizza as suggested.
Favorite Dish: The food was very tasty but quite rich. My pizza was swimming somewhat in olive oil. While I love olive oil and this one was of a very good quality, it was perhaps a bit too much for me, especially considering the size of the pizza. Between that and the lack of oxygen/temperature in the restaurant, I started to get a bit woozy and had to step outside towards the end of our meal. I was fine once out in the square, sitting down and getting some fresh air. Needless to say, I didn't go to Italian again for about a month! That said, it was a very nice little place and my wife enjoyed her meal immensely and it was certainly a romantic enough place until the room started to turn green.
Pastelería Francesa is an authentic French bakery, just two blocks from the main square. It is situated in a house with typical wooden balcony and there is a wooden miniature replica of Eiffel Tower at the entrance, a sign that it is owned by a French. This small café with old-style wooden showcases and black&white photos with Parisian motives from early to mid 20th century make you feel as if you have come in France. French confectioner Patrice Rio came here, fell in love with Villa de Leyva and stayed. He opened this charming little place where fine French pastries can be found.
Pastelaría Francesa serves exquisite French pastries, good coffee and hot chocolate. Don't miss croissant de almendras (croissant with almond créme fillling) or pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant), or try one of his delicious tarts, such as feijoa tart (made from a local fruit) or chocolate tart. There are mini quiches and baguettes, white or whole wheat. He also makes cakes to order.
It is open Thur-Mon 8am-6:30pm; closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Favorite Dish: I came across Pastelaría Francesa accidently while looking for a place to have breakfast. When I saw all those sweet delicacies, I knew I came to the right place. Well, it was not easy to choose, everything looked so tempting. I finally decided to have a chocolate tart and hot chocolate drink. Looks like somebody had a craving for chocolate :)
Eating in Villa de Leyva tends to be on the high level, in style of cuisine and in price. There are some really nice restaurants in town, offering local dishes as well international cuisine. Unfortunately, many restaurants are only open on weekends when the town gets packed with Bogotanos. But dining options are very limited during the week.
Wandering the charming streets of Villa de Leyva I came across La Gran Mojarra, named after fresh water fish from the region. I noticed a good choice of fish dishes on the menu. Since I wanted to try mojarra I thought that would be a place for me. The restaurant has a pleasant ambience with wooden chairs and tables, colourfuly painted walls and a wall mural of Plaza Mayor. I sat at the table closest to the entrance doors so I could observe life in the street while waiting for the food.
Favorite Dish: I had grilled mojarra fish which was nicely soft, sweet and very delicious. It was served with patacones (fried plantains), rice and mixed salad (lettuce, melon and papaya). A glass of fresh mango juice was a nice companion to the pure and natural taste of the food. I liked it so much that I came back the next day. I opted for mojarra frita (fried mojarra), a whole fish, which was served with potato fries, patacones and salad (tomato and avocado). I had a glass of feijoa juice to accompany this very delicious meal.
Nice place, friendly service and delicious food, more than enough reasons to come back - hopefully some day :)
Casa Quintero is another beautifully restored mansion with nice gardens and several good restaurants. La Cocina de la Gata is one of them. The menu contains several dishes of western and local cuisine. Try 'lomo', a beef steak; it is delicious!!! There are salads for 6-7$, coffee only 0.75$ and other main dishes that cost around 10$.
Al Horno is a bistro with good quality food and a special character. The colourful decoration has an artistic touch. There is western food and local delicacies. There are pastas, hamburghers, desserts, many types of coffee and excellent hot chocolate! There are also good wines, crepes, arepas, pizzas and tasty lasagnas. But my favourites were the brownies. Mmmm!
It is run by Juan Carlos Leon Luiz. Some prices:arepas 2.5$, main dishes 8-10$, salads 6-7$, sandwiches 3-4 $
La Mision is a cozy restaurant just around the corner from Plaza Mayor.
I liked sitting on the little terrace. It's frequented both by locals and tourists. The menu has mostly local food very well cooked. The people running it are very friendly and take good care of the clients. It is a bit cheaper than the rest. I used to have the very nice trout dish in this restaurant which cost 8$. Spaghetti costs 6$.
Restaurants 'La Terraza' and 'Arcadia' have a perfect location on Plaza Mayor on the northern side under the archway. They both have similar menus with a good variety of local and western dishes. Seafood is very tasteful including lobsters prawns and ceviches. Pizzas are tasty and pastas have an Italian touch, cooked correctly 'al dente'! But the best thing is that meals during sunset are accompanied by the most beautiful picture in the town! Look for yourself...
They also function as bars later in the evening.
Prices range from 2$ for small things to 10$ for main dishes.
Click for more photos...
When Pastelería Fransesa was closed I looked for another place where I could have breakfast. The first open place I found was Restaurante Azteca on Carrera 9. The breakfast was good with scrambled eggs, bread (first I got only one piece but when I asked I got another one), orange juice and coffee. The breakfast was 4800 pesos.
I had eaten at Restaurante Azteca before 8 o’clock, but when I came back next morning it was closed. I sat down and waited until five past eight, but when it still hadn’t open I went to Plaza Mayor to see if I could find an open place. I went to Café Mandarin in the eastern corner. A big juice, two pieces of bread, egg and coffee was 5000 pesos.
I came here several times to use the Internet. There are a few computers with fast conection and also telephones where you can make international calls.
Once I sat down in the café side to have something sweet before using the Internet. I had a chocolate cake and a warm fruit drink. The warm fruit drink is called Aromatica tropical and it was not what I thought it to be. As long as it was hot it was good to drink, but I didn’t like the warm fruits in the end very much. Drink and cake was 3500 pesos (July 2007).
If you eat at the restaurants around Plaza Mayor you have a great view over the life going on around the square, but you also pay more. Just half a block from Portales and the square, on Calle 13, there is a restaurant that offered today’s lunch for 6000 pesos (July 2007). While I was waiting for my food they took down the sign for today’s lunch. It was 15.30 so I guess that is the time when the lunch offer ends.
First I got a creamy chicken soup and then a plate with chicken, French fries and salad. In the price a glass of coke was also included. It was a good meal.
Walking around Villa de Leyva quite early in the morning I first couldn’t find a place for breakfast, but then I found Pasteleria Fransesa on Calle 10 (between Carrera 9 and Carrera 8) and it was just what I was looking for. I had two coffees and two croissants for 3800 pesos. On the walls in the café there are black and white photos of Paris. It is a nice café and I wanted to go back there the next morning, but then found out it was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.