Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Definitive Guide to Mexico City


Condesadf rooftop bar

An ocean of 18,000 naked bodies met American photographer Spencer Tunick’s lens this April when he staged his largest-ever installation in Mexico City’s massive Zócalo, filling the square’s 17,500 square meters. See, art is major in this sprawling 700 year-old city. It’s no wonder then – with its renowned galleries, Oscar-winning films, and ultra-stylish hotels – that culture vultures are flocking to Mexico City in droves.

South of the Zócalo in this 23-million strong metropolis – dubbed el D.F., short for Distrito Federal – the stylish heart of the city beats in Colonia Condesa and Roma. With more stunning Art Deco buildings than anywhere south of Miami, tree-lined Condesa is home to many of the city’s film, art and music tastemakers. Just north in Roma, elite galleries housed in turn-of-the century French-style mansions front still-gentrifying sidewalks lined with papaya shake stands and tomato-red VW Bugs.

Hot spots
Like New Yorkers, DF natives, sometimes-derisively nicknamed chilangos, are known for their sharp tongues. The chattering classes congregate at the Condesadf, a 39-room Belle Époque hotel with exuberant interiors by Parisian designer India Mahdavi. Regulars including actors Salma Hayek and Gael García Bernal (who lives around the corner) are partial to the triangular rooftop bar, as are Academy-favored directors like Alfonso Cuarón and art world stars like Gabriel Orozco and, naturally, Tunick. When not holding court here, Diego Luna (Bernal’s co-star in Cuarón’s breakout film, Y Tu Mama También), can be found grazing on rib-eye tacos at his kitschy-cool restaurant, La Bipolar, located in bohemian Coyoacán, near the artifact-crammed Frida Kahlo museum. Luna also has a hand in NaCo, a graphic line of irreverent tees depicting wrestlers, telephone wires, or tiered pink cakes that are de rigueur D.F. souvenirs, sold at Kulte and other trendy urban boutiques.

After a breakfast at Casa Lamm – a gated century-old complex where a gallery, shop and modern teak-floored restaurant surround a grassy courtyard – prospective art collectors should ring Mireya Escalante. An advisor to the city’s top collectors, she wrangled this Catholic city into green-lighting Tunick’s nude installation.

Art Smart
• Globally influential Kurimanzutto arranges installations in vacant spaces around the city.

• Established in 1983, Galería OMR is situated in a two-level Art Nouveau townhouse with French windows overlooking pretty Plaza Río de Janeiro.

• The buzzy Garash Galería shows installations by young artists in a discrete bi-level space on busy Avenida Álvaro Obregón.

• Cuban-born gallerist Nina Menocal specializes in digital work and installations by emerging Latin American artists at Galería Nina Menocal.

• Design junkies haunt Emmanuel Picault’s 20th century vintage furnishing selection at Chic by Accident and Gustavo Villazul's new two-floor interiors gallery.

Consuming Passions
Satiated on art and design? Delectable tuna sashimi tostadas are on offer in Colonia Roma, at Gabriela Cámara's nine year-old and ever-popular El Contramar. In an airy palapa-styled dining room, Cámara’s bow-tied crew serves lunch to Oscar-nominated actors, paparazzi-hounded footballers and well-suited políticos. Don’t expect to be productive afterwards – tequila is chased with spicy sangrita at every table.

Condesa’s more discretely chic eateries include Bistro Mosaico, a local favorite that’s packed weeknights with couples slurping oysters and friends toasting over multiple bottles of wine. The cozy Hip Kitchen at the 16-room Hippodrome Hotel, newly ensconced in an unmarked 1931 building near Parque México, has an Asian-inflected menu enlivened by a rotating guest chef program.

A cluster of the city’s most celebrated restaurants neighbor Louis Vuitton and Cartier in Beverly Hills-like Polanco, a 45-minute crawl from Condesa through smoggy, billboard-crammed Zona Rosa. Jaguars and Hummers line the street below the sleek pine-floored third-floor dining room of Aguila y Sol, Marta Ortiz Chapa’s haute-Aztec eatery. Nearby is culinary doyenne Patricia Quintana’s first and most celebrated eatery, Izote. A few minutes down Avenida Presidente Masaryk – past Habita, the Condesadf’s glassy, minimalist sister hotel – lies Pujol, the seven year-old new Mexican standout helmed by 31 year-old wonder-chef Enrique Olvera.

Speed – attempt forty kilometers per hour – back to Roma, because the night is young. Cibeles, Gabriela Cámara's latest project, attracts fashionable hordes to lounge on Chesterfield sofas below baroque mirrors and Starck lamps arrayed by Carlos Cole. Nightcap? Try a cucumber mojito at Condesadf or red chile martini if you stay at Hippodrome.

Address Book
Condesadf, Av. Veracruz N. 102 Col. Condesa; +52-55/5241-2600,

La Bipolar, Malitzin 155, Col. Coyoacán; +52-55/5484-8230

Museo Frida Kahlo, Londres 247, Col. Coyoacán; +52-55/54 59 99;

Kulte, Atlixco 118, Col. Condesa; +52-55/5211-7389

Restaurante Lamm, Álvaro Obregón 99, Col. Roma; +52-55/5514-8501;

Mireya Escalante, +52-55/5250-6512 or 5250 1674;

Kurimanzutto, Mazatlán 5, Col. Condesa; +52-55/5286-3059;

Galería OMR, Plaza Río de Janeiro 54, Col. Roma;+52-55/5207-1080;

Garash Galería, Álvaro Obregón 49, Col. Roma;+52-55/5207-9858;

Galería Nina Menocal, Zacatecas 93, Col. Roma;+52-55/5564-7209;

Chic by Accident, 180 Colima, Col. Roma;+52-55/5514-5723;

Gustavo Villazul, Sinaloa 199, Col. Roma;+52-55/5211-7126

Hip Kitchen at the Hippodrome Hotel, Av. México 188, Col. Condesa; +52-55/5212-2110

El Contramar, Av. Durango 200, Col. Roma;+52-55/5514-9217

Bistro Mosaico, Michoacán 10, Col. Condesa;+52-55/5584-2932

Aguila y Sol, 127 Emilio Castelar, Col. Polanco;+52-55/5281-8354

Izote, 513 Presidente Masaryk, Col. Polanco;+52-55/5280-1671

Hotel Habita, 201 Presidente Masaryk, Col. Polanco;+52-55/5282-3100;

Pujol, Petrarca 254, Col. Polanco, +52-55/5545-4111;

Cibeles, Plaza Villa de Madrid 17, Col. Roma;+52-55/5208-2029
— Rose Reis

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