While in Mexico City we were lucky enough to be taken out by some lovely locals to a really really nice restaurant called La Capital in Condessa – a more hip part of the city.
The restaurant was modern and the menu was actually quite exciting. After a week of meh food experiences (barring the pan de muerto and those tacos el pastor on the day of the Parade) it was totally amazing to be presented with wonderful food choices that were a fusion of traditional ingredients and dishes, with modern preparation and presentation techniques.
The thing that really impressed us however and made us think: why doesn’t anyone in New Zealand do this?? Was that the restaurant was TOTALLY dog friendly. Two of the girls we met that night showed up with their little perritos and had them hang out with us at the table the whole time we were there! How absolutely wonderful and if we ever open our own restaurant in NZ – we’ll be sure to let this happen.
I had two amazing cocktails there – one with mezcal and tamarind, and another with mango and chilli! Perfecto and muy muy delicious. (I really should learn the Spanish word for delicious.. I suspect strongly that it is ‘delicioso’). I could have drunk that all night, but we soon got up and left for the next destination, a restaurant and wine bar that served oysters! I loved it – white wine and spicy oysters, just crisp and amazing (though I paid a heavy price for the oysters later) and then the final stop – an amazing old club called San Luis in Roma Norte. It is a traditional dancehall with a full love band where you can buy a dance with one of the local ‘specialists’ (whose private time was also available for purchase we suspect) or just get up on stage and bust out your moves yourself! The band was spectacular and the dancing infectious! One of our lovely hosts – Rodrigo – offered to teach me how to dance and while he did his best, I’m not sure I quite got it, had a great time up on stage nevertheless. In summary – we love love LOVED it!
We also went wandering about the City itself as much as our altitude sickness would let us. One day we decided to take the Metro to Bellas Artes and go walkabout from there and it was just magical.
To start with, the Metro was super efficient and Bellas Artes itself was a glorious building and set in the lush green surrounds of a park full of happy people. Such a perfect place to read a book or get some iced coffees and do a bit of people-watching! And goodness me are the people worth watching in Mexico City. Every shade and hue, attitudes and emotions worn out in the open.. so different from the head-down, looking at mobile phone, somber walkabout that it is the usual crowd of Aucklanders wandering through – say Aotea square for example. Leaving New Zealand always reminds me how introverted we are as a society sometimes.
Anyway, from Bellas Artes we walked through to the main Zocalo (town square) which was absolutely HUGE and flanked by gorgeous buildings including the national palace where one could see the murals of the great Diego Ribera. We walked through it to head into what looked like a massive street market and indeed it was! Stretching for many many streets and countless blocks we got ourselves happily lost in it’s bustling maze of stuffed toys and knock off clothes and whatnot. There seemed to be a whole block or several blocks dedicated to one type of thing – like a whole block full of stalls selling hair accessories, or one block selling JUST active wear. One of my favourites was the block of stuffed toys!
After walking through what felt like miles of street vendors with goods for sale we arrived in a part of the massive market that seemed quieter – that sold furniture, another street of leather jackets, etc. etc. clearly there were less people interested in these things and also there was less for us to see. At that point we stopped to work out where we were and try to make our way back home.
The way back led us through yet another Market – the Mercado Lagunilla which Google purported to be a market of curiosities, thus arousing ours, but was instead a market of huge wedding and quincenera dresses. Of course! Mexico is so wonderfully mad sometimes.
Garibaldi & the Mariachis
In a wandering mood we charged on in the general direction of a metro station and found ourselves in another square and off to one side, spied what promised to be a food hall! So we ventured in and had some of the best enchiladas of our trip so far. It was small and unpretentious, the beers cold and cheap and the complimentary chips and salsas spicy and satisfying. The escabeche (picked jalapenos, carrots and onions) and salsa amarillo (I assume made from yellow habanero) were divine!
Mid way through our meal, a trio of Mariachis equipped with guitars wandered in and spotting us, the lone tourtisa couple in the whole joint – they zoned in and asked us what song we would like them to play! We tried to explain that we didn’t want a serenade thanks but they were persistent so.. I came up with the only song I knew – Guadalajara – which I had just recently read about in “Mexico” by James A Mitchener. They seemed taken aback by my choice but launched into it with vigor.
I had ABSOLUTELY no idea what it was going to sound like but the book romanticized it to the point where I had a feeling it was going to be some emotional ballard of Mexican nationalistic pride. And yup. It was. You tube it or something guys – until you hear it, you won’t know what I mean when I say that it was just classic mariachi goodness.
Well we tipped those three gentlemen and finished our meal with a happy glow and exited into a square called Garibaldi. Which seemed, rather fortuitously, to be holding a Mariachi convention or somesuch! So we spent a happy hour listening to the various groups blast out songs with passion.. we did notice that some of the vagrants in this particular area seemed er, more vagrant than those we’d seen in other parts of Mexico City – but that didn’t bother us too much. That’s one of the definite upsides of travelling with Steve – at a height of 6”3” and being possessed of a somewhat intimidating presence – Steve comes equipped with a natural trouble-repellant 😀
We were soon approached by a full Mariachi band – seven gentlemen with polished instruments and full costume of black, white, red and silver – and were asked once again – if we’d like to hear a song. Yup you guessed it – Guadalajara again! But this time I think it was played the way it was originally imagined – with drums, trumpets, horns – full noise. Magic.
Well after that performance we decided to get out of there lest we were approached by another band and had to hear Guadalajara again.
We walked back to Bellas Artes and strolled through the park at dusk. There were fountains of light, street stalls selling delicious but digestively dangerous looking things, old men playing chess, tattoo artists doing their work in dimly lit tents.. we even managed to wander through a Chinatown section where lamps lined the streets and yum char promised in most shops.
And at the end of the evening, we spent an hour or watching a talented young group of skateboarders practice their tricks in amongst the crowd beside Bellas Artes before catching the Metro home again.
Like I said – Magic.
So to conclude – we only scratched the surface of what’s possible in Mexico City and we absolutely loved it. MUST. COME. BACK.