MEXICO CITY REDUX
Everything Old is New Again
At one time in the not too distant past, Mexico City was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. News outlets sensationalized the mayhem and many tourists believed that one wrong turn and you’d be rolled for your deniro. Luckily, Ciudad de México (or CDMX as its commonly known) has changed drastically since the dark days of the 80s. In 2019, this bustling metropolis is not only safe - it’s downright sexy. From dimly lit dining meccas, to pulsing clubs and luxurious guest houses; Mexico City is muy caliente.
The right home base is absolutely essential to a sultry CDMX getaway. It should capture the energy of the city and provide the creature comforts of the place you left behind. Nestled amongst the mature trees and funky restaurants of Colonia Roma is a guest house that delivers on this and so much more.
The Ignacia Guest House was built as a family home in 1913, and reimagined and reopened in 2017. That same year, the mansion – named after the esteemed housekeeper who cared for it (and its inhabitants) for 70 plus years - won the Best Interiors of Latin America and The Caribbean competition. Ignacia boasts 5 stylish suites equipped with Nespresso machines, Loredana toiletries and bluetooth sound by Bose. The Master – or Negra Suite– is dark, seductive, and the only accommodation located in the original residence. It’s a show-stopper. With black walls, chrome accents and luxe bedding that inspires intimacy and excitement. This is a space designed to shut out the chaotic city outside. A space where sexy siestas are mandatory. Negra even has a private veranda overlooking a secret garden filled with fragrant fruit trees.
Decadent breakfasts honoring Mexico’s rich culinary history are served in a lovely, modernist dining area. Every day, I would stuff myself silly with chilaquiles and pozole (a proven hangover cure) and then cozy up in the library to peruse Ignacia’s curated collection of modern and folk art, architecture and food publications. In the afternoon, I would retreat to the lush garden for a complimentary cocktail and a little mixer with the stylish guests and friendly staff.
The Ignacia Guest House strikes the perfect balance between historic and modern and luxury and comfort – truly raising the boutique hotel bar.
Oysters have been a reputed aphrodisiac since the Roman Empire. High in zinc and low in carbs, these tasty mollusks are believed to have virility-boosting effects. CDMX has a handful of excellent oyster bars, but La Dolcena is my pick to get the juices flowing.
This New Orleans-inspired seafood house is at the epicentre of CDMX’s seafood scene. They have two prime locations in the chic neighborhoods of Roma and Polanco, and five days a week they are overflowing with Mexico’s wealthy set. I chose to do my slurping at the Roma location – a convivial space with an open concept kitchen, floor to ceiling windows, and a happening patio.
La Dolcena’s menu is as lively as the atmosphere. Featuring Cajun po’ boys, crunchy octopus tostadas, and a killer shrimp aguachile prepared with carrot juice, ginger and habanero. Pair any of these with a frothy Clamato La Docena made with clam cocktail and Union Light Cerveza and you’re guaranteed a feisty feast.
Whether you grill them with shallots, bathe them in butter or throw them back raw – the oysters here are to die for. La Dolcena’s rotating selection is sourced from Mexican coastal states and as fresh as it gets.
Tell anyone you are going to Mexico City and nine times out of ten you will be asked if you are going to Pujol. This fine dining institution has been wowing patrons since 2000 and is currently holding down the number 13 spot on the ‘50 Best Restaurants Of The World’ List. Like many food lovers, I was introduced to Pujol by the pinnacle of TV food porn known as Chef’s Table. Pujol was already on the culinary map, but that show pushed Chef Enrique Olvera even further into the limelight. Olvera capitalized on this exposure – schooling diners on the elegance and complexity of Mexican flavors.
In 2017, he relocated the restaurant to a stunning, midcentury modern space in the trendy Polanco district. It’s all warm wood and mood lighting, with a wraparound patio perfect for romantic interludes. Olvera and his team recently introduced a very buzzed about Taco Omakase (chef ’s choice) tasting menu that goes down as one of my all-time favorite date meals.
The “Barra de Tacos” is an 8-course tasting that was inspired by both the history of Oaxacan corn and the craftsmanship Olvera witnessed at Japan’s top sushi bars. It’s served up by a knowledgeable staff at a beautiful 10 seat dining bar. The tacos - of which you’ve never experienced - can be paired with generous amounts of wine/sake, Mexican beer or mescal. I went for the wine/saki option but found myself drawn to the mysterious mescal cocktails my date was savouring.
Olvera’s creations can only be described as tremendous. But I’m not going to list every drool worthy dish I devoured during the two and half hour seating. Pujol’s Taco Omakase is an adventure for the senses and one made better by the fact that I had no idea what kind of decadent dish was going to show up next.
Casa Franca was a spontaneous find and the only haunt I revisited during my four night Mexican odyssey. It’s a labyrinth-like jazz bar housed in a rickety character building in the heart of Roma Norte. It has multiple, dimly-lit rooms with velvet loungers, a dance floor and a main stage featuring jazz, tango, funk and blues from local and international acts.
The bar is banging, manned by master mixologists offering up classics or creative concoctions like the celery-based creation I threw back in 10 seconds flat. The crowd is colorful and totally game to share a table, a story and a shot. And when you reach that way-too-wobbly-to-move portion of the evening – simply retreat to a dark corner and really get your funk on.