On our last night in Mexico we treated ourselves to a meal at Pujol. Recently voted the 17th best restaurant in the world, we knew that we were going to be in for a treat.
The restaurant is discreet, a small dark room in an upmarket neighbourhood. We were greeted and taken to a private table by the window where we merrily sipped champagne and perused the menus. It all felt quite exclusive, which is something I think you need to be in the mood for. Luckily we were.
There are two menu options, either the a la carte or the tasting menu. Both menus were in Spanish (quite rightly) and so we weren’t entirely sure what many of the dishes were but we understood that the a la carte featured the more traditional Mexican dishes and the tasting menu included the chef’s more experimental offerings. Tasting menu it was!
To drink, there was an excellent selection of wines and interestingly, all of the beers were from local micro breweries.
Pujol is known for using dried insects. During the meal I had absolutely no idea whether we tried any because, even as we ate the dishes, we weren’t always 100% sure what the ingredients were. The excellent waiting staff explained each dish to us in English but it was sometimes easy to miss a word or two. However, I’ve since tried to translate the menu and you’ll be pleased to hear that we did in fact try quite a selection of insects.
Shortly after we’d placed our order and chosen the wine, we were presented with this enchanting little pot. My photo doesn’t quite capture it but there was smoke coming out of the top. A very impressive bit of theatre.
Inside there was a bed of straw and two pieces of the most delicious baby corn (sadly to share). The taste was smoky, salty and sweet and the texture was both firm and tender. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily a good thing so early in the meal but this was definitely one of the highlights.
A bit of google research suggests that the corn was covered in coffee mayonnaise, lime, salt and toasted ground flying ants – so it seems we didn’t have to wait long for our insects!
This was served with a hot corn broth.
Aguachile de semilla de chia & Bocol de chicharrón de res y tomatillo.
Amuse done, we were on to the menu. With 13 dishes listed I was a little apprehensive that I would be able to manage it all but our waitress assured us that the portions were very small and she was right. Just a mouthful or two of each dish, which was perfect.
Our first courses were an avocado disk with chia seeds and beef chicharron with tomatoes. Delicious little bites.
Tostada de escamoles & Tamal frito de rana.
Next was a fried tamal frog leg, which was nice but I couldn’t help but compare it to the one at The Fat Duck and it wasn’t as good. It was lacking an interesting sauce to dip it in.
We also had a tostada with ant’s eggs. Yep, ant’s eggs. I can honestly tell you that if I hadn’t known they were ant’s eggs I would never have guessed it in a million years. I would have thought it was some sort of pulse. They were nutty and buttery and really quite pleasant.
Tartar de cecina de res.
At this stage we moved on to slightly larger courses. We were having a great time, it felt like a real food adventure but the ambience and the setting allowed us to also have a relaxed, romantic meal at the same time.
This was a beef jerky tartar with mexican radish. Fresh and delicious.
Taco de ceviche de pescado.
Another of my favourites was this fish ceviche taco. I love ceviche and this one was a perfect example. The little black dots are pureed black beans and the tortilla was make with blue corn, which gives it this black appearance.
Fideos de verdolaga.
I’m getting really hungry now remembering this meal. I had such a wonderful time trying all the different delicacies, many of which were brand new to me, including this one. Purslane noodles.
Purslane is a plant which grows in Mexico. Again this was a very clever dish. I would never have realised that the noodles were actually a vegetable.
Chilacayota nixtamalizada. Salsa Roja.
Chilacayota is a green squash, similar to pumpkin. This has been soaked overnight in water, lime and corn shells and was served with a spicy red sauce.
Taco de barbacoa con tortilla de poblano.
I also loved this suckling lamb taco. The tortilla is green because poblano chilli was incorporated into the corn mix. There was also a spicy chilli sauce served on the side. Did I mention that I loved this?!
Mole is a very popular sauce in Mexico. There are many different varieties and I have to be honest and say that I have no idea what went into this one. As it is dark and was quite sweet I would guess that there was some chocolate in there. This was probably my least favourite course, so let’s move on.
Sorbete de frambuesa. Sal de gusano y chile Chilhuacle.
Now it was pudding time! I was very impressed to find that I didn’t feel stuffed and I was excited about trying the desserts.
The first one was Raspberry sorbet with worm salt and chilhuacle chilli. Who says insects and desserts don’t go together? A small glass of flaming mezcal poured over the top and you have yourself an exquisite palate cleanser.
This was an interesting one. Fermented banana with shaved almonds. You can hardly see it in the photo and there wasn’t much there, but I loved it, unlike anything I had eaten before.
They saved the best for last. This dish, a deconstructed milk cake, was just perfect. White chocolate orb, burnt milk ice cream and a chewy milk parcel. We were told to smash open the white chocolate orb and wait for the milky centre to ooze out before eating it all together. Amazing!
Just when we thought we’d finished, we were presented with a bonus chocolate mousse. I must admit, I was full by now, so I didn’t eat the whole thing but under normal circumstances I would have wolfed this down. It was right down my street, the mousse contained anise and honey liquor as well as chocolate and it was topped with orange cream and grated tonka beans. Tell me you don’t want that in your mouth!
I would absolutely recommend a meal at Pujol if you have a special occasion or just fancy a treat. It gets a 9/10 from me. Whilst we were in Mexico City we also visited Biko, another great option for this sort of meal. The service at Biko was exceptional and I loved the venue but the food, although great, didn’t quite reach the heights of Pujol. However, if you have the time, the money and the inclination then my advice would be to try both.