A superchef’s guide to the secrets of Mexico City

Mexico City has always been my father’s city, where most of his family lived. When I was growing up in Tepoztlán, a small town an hour or so away, we used to come here for important things—family gatherings, my parents’ work, and museums. I remember when I came to the cinema. It has always been a special big city with an emotional connection. And then I made it mine – when I was 19, I entered the university here.

Quentin, a cafe near Kamara's house.

Quentin, a cafe near Kamara’s house.

Mexico City is so visually breathtaking. I love to just walk around my neighborhood, Condesa, and go to the park or bike with my son. We’ll go and have a really good flat white at Quentin, a great cafe close to home. As a chef, I think one of the best things about Mexico is the markets – they are like separate worlds. I love Mercado Jamaica, a big flower market that also has great produce. Of course I love La Merced. This is the biggest traditional market in Mexico City and it’s crazy; eating tons of fruits and vegetables is full of life. The best way to see it as a tourist is on one of the specialty food tours like Anais Martinez’s Curious Mexican. There is also La Nueva Viga, a huge fish market, and the Mercado el 100 organic market, which I was partly responsible for creating. The “100” is because all products are shipped within 100 miles of the Zócalo, a public square in the city center.

Camara at Hugo el Wine Bar

Camara at Hugo el Wine Bar © Maureen M. Evans

Oysters are served at Hugo el Wine Bar

Oysters at Hugo el Wine Bar © Maureen M Evans

Favorite Markets in Camara

La Merced Circunvalación s/n, La Merced, Merced Balbuena, Venustiano Carranza, 15810

La Nueva Viga Eje 6 Sur 650, Abastos, Istapalapa, 09040

Mercado el 100 (El Cien) Orizaba s/n, Roma Sur, Cuauhtémoc, 06760

Mercado Jamaica Guillermo Prieto 45, Jamaica, Venustiano Carranza, 15800

It’s nice to be in town if you love food because there are so many options, although I do have a few favorite restaurants that I always return to, like Hugo, a wine bar with lots of exciting little plates. I love Mikey Crespo who cooks there and also Isabelle. You don’t have to go there and think about what you eat, you just enjoy it. It reminds me of many other restaurants I love, like Estela in New York or what used to be Tartine’s in San Francisco because Mikey was a chef there. Chikuti is great too – I need to go there more often. I love Gonzalo Gout, who is behind this, and when I go there, I just eat whatever they give me.

Terrace at the San Angel Inn

Terrace at the San Angel Inn

Carla Fernandez Flagship Store

Carla Fernandez Flagship Store

For drinks, I go to the San Angel Inn. This is a traditional restaurant with a special atmosphere that symbolizes another era, like a time capsule. It’s in a colonial building with a central patio and really good margaritas and martinis. I like to sit on the terrace and enjoy aperitif-style service.

I love that now everyone is interested in Mexican craft and design. I have always admired it, perhaps because I have a foreign mother and a Florentine grandmother, who always liked unusual fabrics. My favorite designer store here is Onora. Here Mexican crafts are done very well, responsibly and sustainably. There is Remigio, named after its owner, who specializes in Oaxacan fabrics. Remigio sells the products he orders from cooperatives, weavers and dyers. There are so many treasures to be found there.

Remigio in Oaxaca

Remigio in Oaxaca © victorfotomx

Mercado Jamaica, Mexico City

Mercado Jamaica, Mexico © Shutterstock

When it comes to fashion, I love Carla Fernandez. What’s really special about her brand is that she has integrated traditional Mexican technology and textiles into comfortable yet sophisticated clothing. It is quite architectural in its concept. I usually buy from her shop on Alvaro Obregón as it is close to where I live.

Camara at the National Museum of Anthropology

Camara at the National Museum of Anthropology © Maureen M. Evans

The National Art Museum is the first place where Gabriela Camara worked.

The National Art Museum is the first place where Gabriela Camara worked.

When I need to fix a culture, the National Museum of Anthropology is one of the most unusual places in Mexico City. It contains brilliant works of Mexican pre-Hispanic art, as well as household items and utensils. The design and architecture is by Pedro Ramirez Vasquez, who was an important figure in Mexico; and, as most people know, architecture is of particular importance here.

I also love the city center – to be able to look inside incredible palaces, such as the building of the Ministry of Public Education with the first large-scale murals of Diego Riviera. You can also see the frescoes of the Riviera at the National Palace. The National Museum of Art is important to me personally, because this is the first place where I worked. I opened my restaurant Contramar while I was working there. Although the city center has been challenging in the last two years, it is now once again filled with energetic crowds.

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