‘Colour’ and ‘Corazon’ are the two words that describe a few days spent in the heart of Mexico City. Bright colours pop out everywhere in the streets, the food and the fashion; and the heart of the people pulses in their welcoming nature and how it is expressed in their hospitality, music and, of course, their cooking.
We stayed right in the historical centre of the Zocalo district and after a red-eye flight, we perked up with a glass of freshly pressed cactus juice before a walking tour of the Plaza de la Constitución, Avenue Madero and a must-do visit to the Belle Arts Museum.
The colourful House of Tiles that was once an 18th Century palace and now is home to the Sanborn department store is worth the stop for a mid-morning Caffe Cortado (coffee made with equal quantities of espresso and milk). The bustling ambience of this colonial-style mansion is worth the wait for a table.
Wandering into the romantic 17th century courtyard of Azul Histórico, that is filled with elegant trees decorated with hanging tealight candelabras, sweeps you right into the Mexican mood, even if it is lunchtime.
Here authentic Mexican flavours are given a freshen up, style-wise. We started with a pretty glass of red and white Sangria and guacamole tostadas topped with crunchy fried grasshoppers – quite nice actually!
Then slow-cooked venison with avocado salad and a satisfyingly deep, rich chicken mole spiced with dark chocolate.
The Polanco neighbourhood is the playground of the rich and famous and also where you will find Restaurante El Bajío. An early dinner meant the restaurant was fairly quiet, but I can recommend the Mango and Tamarind Margaritas…Ceviche…Crabmeat Quesadillas…Garlic Octopus… and their house specialty, Stuffed Chillies with Pork, Pomegranate and Cream …yes, we too were stuffed at the end!
You cannot set foot in Mexico City without a visit to the Frida Kahlo museum. Immerse yourself in the story of a passionate and tumultuous life lived by Mexico’s favourite artists – Frida and Diego. A peek into her colourful kitchen and stories of her love of entertaining spoke to my heart and reminded me to always live my most creative life.
Another perfect lunch stop, the Mercado Roma is a modern, street food hub and the place for the best hand-made fried empanadas washed down with Mexican beer, and followed by a serve of the famous El Moro churros. Go hungry, as you will have plenty to choose from.
Forget tequila…when in Mexico City, it’s all about Mezcal – a distilled spirit made from fire-roasted agave plants that has a distinct sweet and smoky flavour – and there is no better spot to do a mezcal tasting than the balcony of the Zocalo Restaurant at Happy Hour.
Time to work off all that food and drink? Then dance all night at Mama Rumba’s salsa club!
If you are taking day trip to the Teotihuacan Aztec pyramid in the Valley of Mexico, 40km out of the city, be sure to pack a light picnic lunch and bottled water as there are slim pickings when it comes to food around the site.
It’s a good idea to stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the way back, and look out for the Mercado de Comida, Guadalupe for real home-style Mexican street food. We stopped for a quick snack of freshly made quesadillas with quesa fresco and zucchini blossoms, but wished I had more time to explore more of the food vendors and their handmade specialties.
Casual settings and freshly cooked food is really where the soul of Mexican cuisine shines. We stumbled on El Cuatro 20, a Taqueria and Cervecería (beer hall) after a late night out. A huge menu, sizzling parilla (grill) and pumping bar can satisfy any craving. Tuck into the fresh and crispy Prawn Tostadas and your choice of any cut of steak flame-grilled in a flash before your eyes.
But my favourite food experience was this. Queuing up near the station with the rest of the commuters on their way home, for an authentic street taco of slow cooked pulled pork, a little onion, chilli, cilantro (coriander), fresh pineapple and a squeeze of fresh lime in a soft tortilla.
Now that’s a real taco! Me happy….