Mexico City


A tempting wedding invitation gave us the excuse we needed to spend a very enjoyable interlude in Mexico recently.

Over a year ago, two of our lovely middle aged friends, upped sticks and moved lock, stock and barrel from the UK and Denmark to Mexico City, now considered to be one of the coolest places to live anywhere in the world, there and Margate on the south coast of England….

Richard is a baker of some considerable renown.

Having started the now world famous Mecca of sourdough, Tartine in San Francisco with Chad Robertson, he was later invited by René Redzepi of Noma to Copenhagen where he established his own Hart Bageri in Frederiksberg. Plans are currently underway to establish yet another artisan bakery to introduce his deeply flavourful natural sourdoughs and viennoiserie to the eager expat hipsters in the leafy La Condesa and Roma area of Mexico City.

His paramour, Henrietta Lovell, aka The Rare Tea Lady plans to run her exquisite, rare tea business sourced from tiny tea gardens around the world from Mexico City and the original headquarters in London.

The wedding in a beautiful venue called Salón Barcelona was further embellished with brightly coloured pinatas. The bride wore a flowing hand printed silk dress in shades of whisper pink with a pale yellow ruff on the hem and carried a bouquet of heritage wheat tied with a pink velvet bow. This was carried all the way from Italy by the farmer, who grows the wheat for Richard’s slowly fermented sourdough loaves. How romantic was that?

Flamboyantly dressed friends travelled from all over the world to celebrate the joyous occasion. Tea cocktails laced with mescal and tequila flowed, Mexican street food, quesadillas, tacos, elotes, esquites, tamales were served at intervals throughout the evening. Live music and dance and a selection of refreshing ice creams, homemade in small batches from ripe mangoes, sapote, and other seasonal fruits, what a fun party.

But Mexico City has so much more. It’s a really hot food city with some of the very best food I’ve eaten anywhere and markets to make you swoon. Before I start to wax lyrical about the food. I must mention that Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world apart from London. The National Museum of Anthropology located within Chapultepec Park is not to be missed and I would also say that Museo de Arte Popular and Museo de Arte Contempóraneo also be on your absolutely ‘must see’ list. Both are in the Centro Historico, so pop your head into the awe inspiring Catedral Metropolitana. Make time, if possible, to see Diego Rivera’s Mural Museum and if you can make it to the Mescal and Tequila Museum, do so. Museo Frida Kahlo needs to be booked months ahead but it’s sooooo worth it.

There are many beautiful markets but at least try to get to the Flower Market and the huge Mercado San Juan just a few steps southwest of the historic centre. There’s a wonderful communal eating area where paper thin slices of beef cecina are flashed over charcoal barbecues then eaten with black beans, avocado and a selection of fiery and mild salsas. Visit the butchery areas where not a scrap of meat or bone or intestines is wasted but continue to wander on until you find the exotic meat stalls selling indigenous delicies, a mesmerising selection armadillo, crocodile, iguana, turtle, snake, skunk, wild boar, deer and buffalo, even lion and tiger…Apart from Mexican, traditional foods, there are excruciatingly expensive exotic imports like the finest caviar, Iberico ham and Parmigiana Reggiano.

Most intriguing of all is the area where they sell the staple of the pre-Hispanic diet, a vast selection of insects – crickets, grasshoppers, ants, spiders, tarantulas, grubs, maguey cactus worms, scorpions, can now be found not just in markets and street stalls but also on virtually every high-end restaurant menu.

They are super high in protein, the Aztecs, Mixtecs and other civilisations flourished for millennia on a diet rich in crickets, grubs, grasshoppers and other edible invertebrates. They have been rediscovered and mark my word; they will be coming our way soon.
A favourite way to eat crunchy chapulines in Oaxaca is on tacos with a dollop of guacamole, a sprinkling of finely diced white onion, crumbled queso fresco, chopped coriander and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Insects, worms and ant eggs are frequently added to omelettes or sprinkled over frittatas and snacks. I greatly enjoyed an ant egg omelette at Cardenal in Mexico City, they are crunchy like popcorn!

They are already being farmed by ‘sustainable entrepreneurs’ and the UN describe them as a ‘promising source of sustainable protein’

I simply didn’t have enough meal slots to get to every restaurant, café, bakery, taqueria, and fonda that I wanted to visit in Mexico City but here is a list of a few that I particularly loved.

Rosetta, owned by the celebrated Mexican woman chef Elena Reygades who spoke at Food on the Edge in 2023, is ranked 49th in the world’s top 50 restaurants, I would put her much higher on the list, the food was memorably delicious.

Panderia, her café/bakery is also superb as is Lardo where we returned a second time – don’t miss the guava pastries and superb brunch dishes.

Máximo, owned by Chef Eduardo Garcia and his wife Gabrielle is also superb and ranked 28th in the world’s top 50 restaurants.

El Cardenale, for breakfast, has several branches in Mexico City, all really good but my favourite is in the Hilton Hotel in Alameda, close to the Centro Historico. I loved everything but particularly enjoyed the escamole (crunchy ant eggs) omelette and of course dipping the soft squishy conchas in their hot chocolate.

Expendio de Maiz in Roma is a very cool, very basic café where they have no menu, but keep on bringing food until you’re feeling deliciously satiated.

Mendl and Maque are two other breakfast spots in the La Condesa area. There’s so much more, but I’ve run out of space…

Burrata with Kumquats and EVO

This simple combination served at Lardo in Mexico City was super delicious with flat bread straight from the oven – kumquats are at their very best just now.  The poached fruit will keep in the fridge for weeks and is also delicious with ice cream, pancetta, roast pork, duck…a leaf or two of rocket embellishes this even further.

Serves 1 as a substantial starter or a small plate

1 burrata (cut in half if too large)

Poached Kumquats

235g kumquats

200ml water

110g sugar

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

First poach the kumquats.

Slice the kumquats thinly into four or five round slices depending on size.  Remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender when pierced with a knife.  Time may vary depending on the batch of citrus. 

Cool and store until needed.

To Serve

Place a ball of burrata on a plate, slice almost in half perpendicularly.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of poached kumquats into the centre so it spills out on either side.  Season with freshly cracked pepper, a sprinkle of sea salt then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Serve immediately with flatbread 

Fried Eggs on a Hoya Santa Leaf

Hoya santa, Piper auritum. Pronounced hah SAN -tah is a leafy herb in the piperaceae (pepper) family.
It is sometimes referred to as the pepper leaf or sacred pepper and has large floppy heart shaped leaves with a velvety texture. The plant grows to a metre tall and can be grown in a greenhouse here in Ireland. Hoya Santa leaves have a peppery, herbaceous flavour and are also used to wrap fish, meat, cheese and sometimes as the wrapping for tamales

A beautiful breakfast for one.

1 fresh hoya santa leaf
a dash of oil
1 freshly laid egg
flaky sea salt

queso fresco
black beans (see recipe)

Heat a griddle or an iron frying pan. Turn the leaf over and over on the hot pan for a few seconds. Remove, drizzle a little oil over the base of the pan, lay the leaf on top. Crack an egg onto the leaf, put a cover on the pan.  Allow to cook until the albumin is set, but the yolk is still runny.

Slide onto a warm plate, egg upwards. Sprinkle with a few grains of flaky sea salt and serve with a little piece of queso fresco to crumble over the top and a side of black beans.
Enjoy the most delicious breakfast.

Frijoles de Olla – Mexican Beans

Beans cooked simply like this and the Frijoles Refritos (refried beans) that are made from them are virtually a staple in Mexico, served at almost every meal including breakfast.  In Mexico, the markets are often divided into two sections, the regular stalls serving all manner of things and the eating side where people eat simply and cheaply at large tables covered in colourful oil cloth.  Hundreds of people eat these beans every day in simple market ‘fondas’ with some coarse salt, some hot green chillies and a stack of tortillas and maybe a few small pieces of creamy cheese melting over them.  They keep well and taste even better the next day or the day after.

Serves 6-8 depending on how they are served

450g dried or canned black beans or red kidney or pinto beans

1-2 tbsp good quality lard or butter

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp salt approx. (may take more depending on the beans)

1-2 sprigs of epazote (optional)

The day before.  

Cover the beans generously with cold water and soak overnight.   Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, bring the beans to the boil for 3 or 4 minutes, then take off the heat and leave aside for an hour or so.

Either way – drain the beans, cover with fresh water, about 1.4 litres, add the lard or butter and onion but not the salt.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1-2 hours depending on the beans – about 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the salt and the sprig of epazote if you have it.  Keep an eye on the beans while they cook, they should always be covered with liquid, if you see the beans peeping through cover with boiling water by about 1cm.  When they are cooked the beans should be completely soft and the liquid slightly thickish and soupy (reserve the cooking liquid if making Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans). 

Frijoles Refritos – Refried Beans

Refried beans with their thick coarse texture accompany numerous snacks including Mexican scrambled eggs.

50-75g best quality pork lard or butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

225g Frijoles de Olla (see previous recipe)

Heat the lard or butter in a heavy frying pan, cook the onion until soft and brown, increase the heat and add about a third of the beans and their broth to the pan and cook over a high heat mashing them as you stir with a wooden spoon, or you could even use a potato masher, gradually add the rest of the beans little by little until you have a thick coarse purée.  Taste and season with salt if necessary.   Although this sounds as though it might be a lengthy business, it only takes about 8 or 9 minutes.  The beans are ready when the thick purée begins to dry out and sizzle at the edges.

Frijoles Refritos keep well and may be reheated many times.

Rare Tea Company Earl Grey Martini

A traditional Earl Grey blended with pure bergamot oil from the ancient orchards of Calabria. This is a classic British tea made to exacting standards. A clean and exceptionally bright infusion with exhilarating citrus notes. 

Infuse 15g of Earl Grey in 1 litre of gin for 3-5 minutes.

Strain and stir over ice to serve.

Rare Tea Company Jasmine Silver Tip Martini

Jasmine Silver Tip tea is not flavoured but carefully scented over six consecutive nights with fresh Jasmine flowers. Once the preserve of the Chinese Imperial family. A deep and heady aroma with a light and gentle flavour.

Infuse 25g of Jasmine in 1 litre of gin for 15 minutes.

Strain and stir over ice to serve. A delicious cocktail…

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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