Shaken but not broken from a tragic earthquake, Mexico City reminds us of its magical allure. Undeniably, there is something captivating about this mega-metropolis. From Aztec temples to carnitas tacos, we can never seem to get our fill of this place. Its exotic sprawl especially takes hold of creatives — the chefs, curators, artists, architects and others who have come to call it home. Take a closer look at the artistic side of Mexico City.
Two Top Boutique Hotels in Mexico City
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Hotelier Samuel Leizorek remembers Polanco before it became the Beverly Hills of his hometown. The produce stand where his abuela shopped sits across from Las Alcobas (lasalcobas.com), the 35-room property he opened after attending The Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
Celebrating the pre-Columbian symbol for infinity, the lobby’s spiral staircase in sculpted rosewood with a zen fountain is the epitome of Yabu Pushelberg’s calm interiors. A longtime Leizorek collaborator, the design team recently completed his Las Alcobas expansion in Napa Valley and is refurbishing the original, 7-year-old hotel in Mexico City for an early 2018 delivery.
Double-paned windows and cross-stitched leather headboards set Las Alcobas apart from hipster hotels. Top-floor suites upgrade to unique amenities, whether a bath overlooking a private lavender garden or a wraparound terrace with a two-sided indoor/outdoor fireplace and volcano views.
Aurora Spa’s scrub bar looks good enough to eat. But the honey yogurt, avocado, and custom blends of chocolate, walnuts and brown sugar ground in a mortar and pestle are instead meant for nourishing body treatments. Save chowing down for the hotel’s Anatol and Dulce Patria restaurants, supplemented with the addictive chile-dusted dehydrated mango from the mini bar.
While other Miami businessmen play golf as a hobby, Yves Naman owns boutique hotel-and-Airbnb hybrids. He opened La Valise’s (lavalise.com.mx) three fully appointed apartments in Roma Norte prior to its recent rise in expat popularity. Christian Louboutin, a regular who gifted crocodile skin to upholster a table, always requests El Patio for its signature courtyard with a siesta-ready hammock. Two can sleep under the stars in La Terraza, whose bed wheels outside.
A 24-hour attendant fetches continental breakfast at the café next door and pours complimentary tequila and mezcal toasts. Naman’s cozy concept spreads to Tulum and San Miguel de Allende this winter.
A Culinary Experience Awaits Around Every Corner
Mexico City’s well-trodden culinary trail leads to Pujol (pujol.com.mx), Contramar (contramar.com.mx; best described as the local Joe’s Stone Crab) and taquerías (El Parnita by day and its sundown sister, Páramo, are good bets).
But after a run of rankings on world’s best lists, chefs are switching gears to humbler Mesoamerican fare. Tetetlán (tetetlan.com) is a hot-pink compound with a restaurant, juice-and-coffee bar, yoga studio and boutique located in restored stables. They are part of an iconic estate by architect Luis Barragán, and the name of the compound borrows the indigenous Nahuatl people’s word for “stony ground.” Clear flooring shows off its namesake volcanic terrain, a trippy sensation even without tequila.
The chef begins his day at Xochimilco, where farmers cultivate the same agricultural canal system as their Aztec ancestors. Heirloom corn, often as roasted cobs coated in huitlacoche, a pungent fungus, also sneaks into an Asadero cheese-oozing quesadilla. A cheese plate sources manchego and brie from Querétaro, whereas the margarita Palenque’s D’Aristi Xtabentún liqueur travels to Mayan territory.
Though Mia Domenicca (miadomenicca.mx) opened last year, its new El Bulli-trained chef, Santiago Migoya, is putting his spin on the Mediterranean menu. His stint at Los Angeles’s French-themed Patina crops up through edible silver pearls nestled in raw Kumamoto oysters and pink oyster mushrooms à la meunière. Red wine-braised lamb shoulder crumbles with a fork. The Salty Gin, a dirty martini with a splash of tonic, outsells a Mexican adaptation of the pisco sour made with mezcal. Alas, principal Diego Patrón worked for the city’s Gin Gin joints (gingin.mx).
A City Full of Artful Shops
Despite a city of 21 million people, independent bookstores like Casa Bosques (casabosques.net) are rare. Its focus on art and design caters to locals who tired of traveling abroad and foreigners in search of esoteric Mexican subjects. Hit the holiday gift jackpot with stationery and house chocolates, and meet authors and photographers such as Ana Kraš, who swung by for her new picture book.
Accessories designers Regina Barrios and Alessandro Cerutti founded Lago DF (lagodf.com) as a one-stop showroom for Latin American lines. The overview culls locals like Carla Fernández’s fashions and Eduardo Herrera’s oxidized silver jewelry. Peca’s leather pillows traditional to Jalisco and Escuda’s hand-loomed alpaca knits from Peru go beyond city limits.
Francisco Cancino, the Vogue-approved creative director of Yakampot (yakampot.com), collaborates with indigenous craftsmen for his women’s collection made in Mexico. He sprinkles in other designers who share his values, such as Caralarga’s primitive jewelry in raw, natural materials. Get a head start on Valentine’s Day with Hua Lingerie’s hand-embroidered, jeweled intimates.
Where to See More Art
Museumed-out art-seekers can cruise the robust gallery scene. Kurimanzutto (kurimanzutto.com), whose garden setting in a repurposed bakery is beautiful in its own right, exhibits a group show featuring Mark Bradford and Kara Walker, among others, through December 16. Civil rights students may recognize its title, Never Free to Rest, as the text of James Baldwin.
Labor (labor.org.mx) presents new oil paintings by Roger White through January 13. The Vermont- and Brooklyn-based artist finds his muse in quotidian objects (mirrors, a box of tissue).
Shakespeare’s “And though she be but little, she is fierce!” applies to Lulu (luludf.com). Art writer and curator Chris Sharp and artist Martin Soto Climent make it work in 240 square feet, where Miho Dohi’s first solo exhibition outside Japan is on view through January 27.
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