MEX­ICO CITY REDUX

DRIFT Travel magazine - - CONTENT - BY: ERIN CEBULA

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.

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