February 10th, 2005
A return visit beckons. Perhaps the great metropolis is luring me to return so that I may reassess the rather low opinion I have held of the place. There are seemingly plenty of converts.
New and exciting things are indeed sprouting up all over the city: a new monumental skyline, upscale boutiques, trendy restaurants, new nightspots and an incredible art scene. Not forgetting the favourable exchange rate (21 Mexican pesos = £1) .
There is no question however, that stylish modern hotels have been in short supply in the capital. The super-minimalist 36-room Habita was hailed as a trailblazer when it opened in October 2000; but it remained the city’s only ‘design’ hotel for the next three years – until the 237-room ‘W’ Mexico City opened in November 2003. But the pace of change is quickening.
Finally opening its doors a fortnight ago (31 Jan) was the hip Condesa DF – the first style-hotel in the recently-very-trendy neighborhood of La Condesa – known among young locals as ‘Condechi’ – with its tree-lined Parisian-style boulevards, small green spaces, and well-kept art-deco residences. The area is full of boutiques, street cafés, and a startling and ever-expanding number of new restaurants and nightspots.
At a lavish party, around 1,500 guests were invited to inspect some of the hotel’s facilities (the bar, gift shop, dining rooms…) and then to pop across the street to the garden of the former residence of Plutarco Elias Calles (president from 1924-28) for drinks and hors d’ouerves. The lobby bar-restaurant has already turned into something of a hangout for the city’s “beautiful people”.
The Condesa DF’s 40 sleek rooms are housed in a renovated 1928 apartment building. Each with custom-made furniture, stone floors and flashy extras like wide-screen TVs and DVD players. There’s a rooftop terrace with bar and also a Turkish-bath (why not a temazcal?). Doubles start at US$195.
My amigo, David Lida, who is more knowledgable about ‘el DF’ than most, has written a piece (not online) about the three chefs the hotel hired – a Brit, a Filipina and a Lebanese. They lingered for six months perfecting their own brand of “nueva cocina mexicana“, mainly Mexican with a pinch of Asian, and a little bit of French flair for fusing ingredients borrowed from many of the world’s cuisines.
Another Mexico City insider with whom I’ve recently been in touch is Chris Humphrey, author of Moon’s Mexico City Handbook. He agrees. “In the last couple of years in particular I’ve noticed a growing level of ‘cosmopolitan-ness’ in the city, more openness to and awareness of the rest of the world,” Chris told me. This is particularly noticeable in the dramatic upswing in the variety and quality of restaurants. “There are really some fantastic places to eat in DF now,” Chris continued, “it’s becoming a major culinary mecca.”
Have you been seduced? To recap, Mexico City is among the top ten destinations to visit in 2005. So say Arcarnus, the exclusive ‘lifestyle management’ company (whatever that is) who has surveyed its client list of celebs and entrepreneurs. So it must be true.
Also among the new disciples is Gridskipper – the latest media offering from the bestubbled Nick Denton’s stable of trendy blogs. Trumpeting itself as “the decadent travel guide to urban destinations around the world”, those who consider themselves chic urbanites will find it well worth keeping tabs on what’s posted under their Mexico City category. So far, so good.
For sure, Mexico City is not alone. I have noted elsewhere that Mérida, the hub of Yucatan, is also undergoing a similar transformation. For now though, I will reserve judgement on the capital.
Filed in Mexico City