With more and more people from Latin America coming to live in Australia, we are of course seeing more South American restaurants. Latin Manna is one such restaurant, serving high-quality Colombian food in a cheerful and relaxed environment. Colombian cuisine combines the exotic and familiar for a great dining experience.
About Colombian Cuisine
Latin Manna Colombian food in West End
Food in South America often combines local ingredients with a range of culinary traditions. In Colombia, it is Spanish, African and indigenous cuisine from 6 distinct regions. The dishes feature ingredients we don't often see in Australia, such as plantains, cassava and tropical fruits, with different varieties of beans and potatoes. Of course, there is a lot that is familiar as well, such as coconut, maize and so on.
There are a lot of dishes people would be familiar with, such as empanadas and chorizo, and the exotic that is hard to find in Australia until recently. Latin Manna gives you a good sampling of the cuisine.
The Latin Manna Experience
Located in an old Queenslander house in West End, there is some seating inside, often giving you privacy, seating on the back verandah as well as a covered seating area out the back which is great for groups. They have a little seat with lights as well, which is a nice place for people, especially couples, to take photos.
Latin Manna has seating inside, on the back verandah & in a rear sheltered yard
My preferred spot is the back verandah as it has tables for 2 or 4 people, and has a relaxed intimate feel about it. It is also the spot with the most interesting cultural decorations.
The Food at Latin Manna
Traditional Colombian hats as decoration at Latin Manna
We were of course only able to try a few dishes ourselves, but there is a fairly extensive menu. Those coming in for lunch have a lot to try. We went to the Patacon with chicken as one of our dinner selection, but it is something you could think about for lunch. Patacones are made from green plantains, which is an unsweetened banana, and fried. The dish is then served on top. I didn't mind the flavour but I think that next time I would go for the arepa instead, which is a cornbread served with the same dishes. Both are great for lunch.
A patacon is made from fried plantain. They are served plain with some dishes or with food on top.
Another good lunchtime food are the Empanadas. These savoury turnovers come in the choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian.
Another lunch or solo meal option for big eaters who want to have lots of little things is the paisa. They have the traditional bandeja paisa or their own Manna's paisa. This is your combo meal of rice, beans, egg, pork belly, paintains, avocado, arepa, chorizo and beef mince. It is what you eat to really fill up.
For our other main, we chose the Tilapia fish. This freshwater fish is native to Africa and has been exported and raised all over the world. The fish has large mostly boneless fillets, and the fish is usually cooked fried with slices so you can pull them easily from the body. Keep an eye out for bones, but they are all generally large and easy to spot on the occasion you do get within the fillet. At Latin Manna, they serve fish with coconut rice, patacon and salad.
The tilapia fish at Latin Manna in West End
While many people associate Colombian cuisine with fried food, not that much is fried, and there are plenty of soups, such as the ajiaco with potato, sweet corn and pulled chicken, or the restaurant's version with chicken maryland instead of pulled chick. Don't forget the Ceviche de camaron, which is prawns and tomatoes, cazuela de frijoles, for lovers of beans, but of course, it has mince, chorizo and pork belly in there as well, and sobrebarriga en salsa, which is slow cooked beef and potatoes.
In a group, you might go for the picada, which is a share platter with lots of bite sized bits of steak, chicken, pork belly, chorizo, with arepa, potato, cassava and plantain. There are lots of other snacks that are good for sharing, including bunuelos, which are corn flour and cheese balls, tequenos, a type of traditional cheese stick from Venezuela, or almojabanas, a traditional Colombian cheese bread. You can always get some baby fried golden potatoes (criollitas) or cassava chips to go with your meal.
They also do breakfast with several Colombian favourites. Colombians traditionally eat big breakfasts, and the calentado is perfect for the hard working person who needs energy and nutrition for a long day's work. It is rice, beans, egg, chorizo and arepa. There are are also several types of Colombian scrambled eggs, with pericos or parrot scrambled eggs with onion and tomato being a family-cooked staple. Rancheros adds chorizo to this. The house speciality, Manna Way scrambled eggs has bacon, sweet corn and chorizo.
The hot tamales at the restaurant at literal hot tamales. These are steamed parcels of corn dough with pork, chicken or vegetables. For something lighter, try guacamole on toast, arepa or patacon.
The main types of drinks available are a range of tropical fruit drinks. The exotic ones you might not have tried are the lulo, soursop or feijoa, with the most recommended being the lulo. When you order, it can be served mixed with water, milk, as a frappe (with ice) or as a smoothie. Some of the less sweet fruit can be served with added sugar.
Lulo juice at Latin Manna Colombian restaurant
We chose a jug of the lulo, as it is the most recommended by Colombians and we had it with water and no sugar. My friend, who had never tried this before had the perfect reaction. First she made a funny face because the taste is a little unusual, then took another sip, realised it was healthy, and then kept drinking more as it is actually really refreshing on a hot day. If you don't want to too adventurous there are things like guava, passion fruit, mango, pineapple and sugarcane as well.
Should I mention the coffee? I mean, it is a Colombian restaurant so of course they do Colombian coffee. Did I need to mention that?
You can expect the coffee to be good at a Colombian restaurant
There are also a number of Colombian soft drinks available in cans or bottles. But looking around at the tables, everyone else was going for the juices.
One small room of the restaurant is set aside as a shop with lots of Colombian favourite grocery items. Lots of Colombians always pick up a few things whenever they eat there.
Latin Manna also has a small selection of Colombian groceries in their attached shop
The service is friendly and welcoming, though the levels of English spoken by the staff range from none through extremely good. They will do their best to answer your questions about the food and will encourage you if you want to practice your bad Spanish when you order.
Overall Latin Manna serves a broad range of high-quality Colombian food, catering everything from breakfast through to dinner, with lunch and snacks in between. I can't attest to the authenticity other than it was recommended to me by a Colombian person who visits the restaurant every time she comes up from the Gold Coast, and the fact that most of the people there on a Tuesday night were speaking Spanish.
Latin Manna, for a lovely Colombian dining experience
It can be a lovely romantic destination in a relaxed atmosphere or a fun place for a group. It certainly is a great place to try Colombian food if you haven't in the past, or try more Colombian food if you already have.