Mexico City is a city of contrasts; a colourful, vibrant, sprawling metropolis where old meets new.
A jumble box of Baroque, Art Deco and modern architecture sit happily side by side and a bustling art scene celebrating Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera now also offer new world class institutions like the Museo Jumex.
The food scene is one of the most exciting on earth, where world class traditional street food is just as admired as the sophisticated Michelin starred fare also on offer.
The city really is a dream for any foodie. Here is my guide to some of the most exciting places to eat whilst visiting.
Los Cocuyos, Historic Centre
Head Downtown and dine like a local at this hole in the wall taqueria. A must visit for any avid meat lover wanting to try authentic Mexican tacos. Arrive after 10pm to see the crowds build all excited for the exotic mélange of meat. Los Cocuyos offers nose to tail dining at it’s best.
Rosetta, Roma district
Rosetta has been charming locals and visitors alike since 2010. Housed within an ageing mansion in the Roma district, a leafy dining room greets you upon arrival. The daily changing menu reflects Chef Reygadas time spent at Locatelli in London with a heavy focus on homemade classic Italian pastas as well as playful takes on Mexican staples such as tamales and moles. Rosetta has a legion of passionate fans which appreciate this unusual marriage, so reservations are essential for any visit.
Contramar, La Condesa district
Located in the well-heeled neighbourhood La Condesa, Contramar is widely known to be the best seafood restaurant in the city. An eclectic clientele of tourists, celebrities, hangers on and businessmen enjoy grilled fish, ceviches and tacos whilst polished staff whizz around a buzzy dining room. Open only for lunch service (which stretches to 7pm!) the drinks flow freely where a vast selection of sipping tequilas and mezcals are on offer alongside local beers and margaritas. Lunches have been known to turn into long booze fueled sessions here, especially during the Friday and Saturday service.
San Angel Inn, San Angel district
Conveniently located next door to the must visit Diego Rivera studio, San Angel Inn gives the opportunity to enjoy some old school luxury. Don a frock, a heel if you can manage it, and lap up all the menu has to offer. Located in a colonial former monastery, black tied and white gloved waiters attentively serve diners around the manicured courtyard where the best seats in the house are located. San Angel Inn has been a culinary institution for the best part of 60 years and offers a vast selection of International classics. We couldn’t resist sampling the generously portioned DIY rib eye tacos. Be sure to save space for the inviting and indulgent dessert trolley that creaks past.
Pujol, Polanco district
Pujol is without doubt the most important contemporary restaurant in Mexico. Chef Enrique Olvera is responsible for reinventing Mexican cuisine where he celebrates rustic Mexican flavours and presents them within refined and elegant plates. Currently the 12th best restaurant in the world, Pujol is reason enough to visit Mexico City. Arrive hungry, a seven-course tasting menu awaits. The mole madre dish is ever present on the seasonal changing menu. A fresh circle of mole sits within a larger circle of mole that has been aged for over 1600 days and epitomises the chef’s ethos of old meeting new.
La Coyoacana, Coyoacan district
La Coyacana is easily the most popular Cantina in the South of Mexico City. An all day venue with honest food, excellent drinks and a relaxed environment, guests arrive to enjoy the superb mariachi bands who wander through the tables. A chance to see the real Mexico City, where tourists are treated exactly like locals. You will almost certainly have to queue to get a table on the open terrace but add your name to the list on arrival and pitch up at the bar and enjoy one of the hundreds of mezcals on offer.
Los Loosers, Cuauhtemoc district
Los Loosers is an entirely plant-based restaurant, one that recreates Mexican classics without the environmental footprint. Their freshly made tortillas make up generously packed and vibrant tacos. The Al pastor burger is a local favourite and cocktails are experimental and worth sampling. Pitch up early to get a spot. Music is lively and hours can easily be lost here.
Niddo, La Juarez
Niddo is a stylish sun lit corner café cum bakery nestled on a quiet residential street in La Juarez. Opened by a mother and son team at the end of 2018, Niddo has swiftly established itself as the best place in town for breakfast. Chef Karen Drijanski has created a menu largely inspired by her Jewish heritage but also featuring Mexican and international classics. Latkes, shakshuka and freshly baked bagels share a menu with grilled cheese sandwiches, overnight oats and chilaquiles. Weekends can lead to queues of a couple of hours so schedule a morning visit to be able to walk right in. For those who can’t bear to queue head one block over and nip into their takeaway corner spot.
LALO!, Roma district
Celebrity Chef Eduardo Garcia’s ever popular Roma brunch spot, where you’ll find hipster couples rubbing shoulders on the communal tables. Graffiti adorns the walls and service is relaxed but attentive. A hearty brunch-style menu focusses on Mexican and French crowd-pleasers, Chilaquiles and Croque Madame can both be found here and the freshly baked pastry basket is not to be missed. Fresh juices and good coffee help with the inevitable carb coma. A midweek visit will see you avoid hour long queues come the weekend.
Start your Mexico City trip with a stay at Downtown Mexico. This 17th century hideaway comes complete with rooftop pool (a rarity in the city) and can be found nestled in the treetops of an expansive courtyard where modern industrial design merges with rich, colonial architecture. The hotel offers a breakfast of champions with Mexican and International classics
Rooms are vast and most surround the central courtyard. Expect double height ceilings and luxurious finishes. When booking request an outward facing room for maximum natural daylight. Downtown Mexico is the perfect jumping off point to explore the historic centre, all just a stone’s throw away.
If you are staying for a week or more it’d be worth splitting your stay with some time at sister hotel Condesa DF in Condesa, a neighbourhood with some of the best nightlife and restaurants in the city.