South Americans are renowned for their zesty nightlife, but no place serves it up better than Colombia's most famous club, Andrés Carne de Res. An hour north of Bogotá in the suburb of Chia, it's officially a steak house cum dance hall, but anyone who's been and everyone has, from novelist Gabriel García Márquez to pop singer Shakira knows it as party central.
"Half the world comes here," says owner Andrés Jaramillo. The original restaurant contained seven tables; nowadays the place can squeeze in over 3,000 people. The gaudy, eccentric decor think Urban Cowboy meets carnival features neon signs, menus on scrolls hanging from the ceiling, sombreros, bells and rugs made of bottle caps.
But think of the decor as a starter. The carne in the moniker refers to the house speciality beef, and great big grilled hunks of it. Vegetarians can tuck into yam and plantain with chili sauce, or the arepas (cornmeal cakes) stuffed with cheese. There's a dizzying drinks list, and the nonalcoholic cocktails (try the Mandarina) slide down as smoothly as the minty mojitos. Pace yourself and then get ready to rumba. The music ranges from salsa to merengue and vallenato, but it's the spellbinding vibe that inspires you to dance with delirious abandon. "The place invites you to take off your mask and reveal your true soul," says Jaramillo.
This writer, who turned up there haggard and weary, discovered her inner Dionysus: a rib-sticking meal, half a bottle of aguardiente (the local fire water), and five dance-filled hours later, I was still whooping for more. If you need just one reason to visit this beautiful country, a soul-reviving night at Andrés Carne de Res is it. www.andrescarnederes.com