How Mexico City became a foodie hotspot

It’s an exciting time for Mexico City,” chef Ezequiel Hernandez tells me, speaking loudly over Mexican jazz and the clamour of people having a good time. 

It’s a Sunday afternoon in Campobaja, Hernandez’s seafood restaurant in Roma — Mexico City’s vibrant neighbourhood featured in Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning film of the same name. The upbeat chef with black spider tattoos on his arms is finely chopping chillies and considering Mexico City’s rise as a foodie hotspot. 

For many years the capital has been overlooked by travellers. But that’s changed. Alongside world-class museums, art galleries, the former home of artist Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera’s murals, parks, canals, mariachis and more, it’s the food and drink scene thathas helped put the city on the map, up there with London, New York, Paris or Tokyo.

A fresh spoonful has been added into the mix recently. Mexico has a new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, spearheading a new start for the country. Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Donald Trump is throwing tantrums over his wall. 

“Mexico is seeing a rebirth of national pride,” says Hernandez, over mezcal cocktails and a spicy scallop ceviche. “What Trump is doing is nationalism, and that’s permeated Mexico down to the food and drink scene. In gastronomy, the idea that ‘foreign is always better’ is no longer so strong”.

One new vision is Japanese chef Yasuo Asai’s ASAI Kaiseki in the Polanco district, which serve kaiseki (a traditional set of courses, including sushi and sashimi) using seafood and other ingredients from Mexico, each dish arranged on colourful Mexican ceramic plates and bowls. One highlight among many is the grilled fish course: black cod, salmon and trout served with guacamole yoghurt and a lightly charred mini-cob of corn. 

Gastro heaven: sashimi at ASAI Kaiseki (ASAI Kaiseki)

Mexico City also provides a fast track to exploring cuisines from across the country. At Guzina Oaxaca, which specialises in the food of Oaxaca in the south-west of the country, I try molotito de platano macho con mole negro, a stuffed banana with cream, cheese and a rich thick black mole sauce, then a crusted tuna on creamy rice, alongside fresh-cooked tortillas and glasses of mezcal. 

Mexico City’s markets are also an important draw for foodies. At the giant Mercado San Juan, stall-owners hand us spoonfuls of warming chilli jams and scorching jalapeños, as well as samples of chapulines, the dried grasshoppers served with mezcal. Later, in the district of Coyoacán, we visit Mercado de Antojitos Mexicanos, where locals sit at stalls eating tostadas, sopas, quesadillas and flautas. I try gordita, a fried corn tortilla filled with onion, white requesón cheese and a spicy green salsa.

Chef Ezequiel Hernandez at Campobaja (Campobaja)

Close to Frida Kahlo’s former home, the Blue House, we pass vendors selling mango, sausages and biscuits as we reach Mercado No 89 Coyoacán, where stalls sell bags and purses with the face of Kahlo on them — as well as masks and piñatas of President Trump. 

Mexico’s markets are so vital to the city’s food and drink scene that Limantour, regularly named as Latin America’s best bar, launched a cocktail menu with concoctions named after the city’s markets: Xochimilco, San Juan, Jamaica. I sit with Jose Luis Leon, Limantour’s creative force, at their bar back in Roma. Like Campobaja’s Hernandez, he’s excited by the changing perception of Mexico City. “Gastronomy is the main reason to go to Mexico City now. We have great products, great flavours,” he tells me over the sound of bartenders shaking ice-filled cocktail cups. In the cool, dimly lit bar, we work through a few glasses, including the gin-based Mr Pink and the spicy Mezcal Stalk. 

“Mexico City has been a hotspot for a few years now,” adds Leon. “We want more people to come and explore.”

Details: Mexico City

Journey Latin America ( has a five-day stay in the city from £623 per person, including airport transfers, hotel accommodation on the Zócalo, breakfast and several foodie excursions.


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