In Mexico City, we tested the Candelilla 16 restaurant. Or rather the anti-restaurant: here, no separate tables, no menu, no stilted clothes. We meet with twenty other guests to discover an atypical, sensory cuisine with a love story in the background.
The Experience :
We arrive in front of the address: no indication. A bit confused, we send an email to make sure we’re in the right place. Other people who are also lost are coming. We decide to ring the bell: Hector, the owner welcomes us with open arms! Here, it’s a family atmosphere and we are facing a unique, gigantic table ready to welcome guests. But not right away. First, we go to the patio. Hector introduces us to traditional Mexican cuisine: his oven, his pestle, his work plans and we even participate in a workshop to prepare our own cheese, the perfect opportunity to get to know other guests. We enjoy a few tacos before eating.
It is the heart of the experience that begins. a sensory experience that combines hearing, smell and taste. We listen to a story divided in 5 chapters, blindfolded. Today we will follow the adventures of Louis, a talented young pianist from the Mexican high society, a few days before the beginning of the Independance in 1810. At the end of each chapter, a bell rings, we remove the masks to discover our dish. Each one has been specifically designed for the story. Rather interesting as a concept: the dish is at the service of the story. For example, when the chapter is held in a high-society dinner, we have a refined French-style starter, as it was fashion in thoses days ; when we are in the countryside, it is a stew with a lightly worked look that we eat with a large wooden spoon; etc.
What we loved :
Being hosted as a friend :
Hector wanted to create a place where you feel at home, not in a fancy restaurant where you are judged if you can’t match your wine with your dish. He instills his good humour and friendliness, talks with everyone during the meal, we easily talk with his neighbour whom we didn’t know an hour ago. In short, a successful bet to spend a relaxed moment!
A unique experience :
Hector says it: the heart of the experience is not food! The focus is first on the story, then on the smells when the dishes arrive and we still have our eyes closed – not on the names of the dishes, their ingredients or the presentation of the plates. It’s clearly something else than a restaurant, it’s a whole story, with its flavours. There are several stories, with several staging, it’s great!
The flavour and diversity of the dishes :
We wouldn’t be able to name all the dishes we’ve tasted! For the most part, they were really new flavours or diverted from what we can know, and delicious.
What we didn’t like so much :
Remain passive one seated :
We would like to take more parti in the adventure, feel more involved, conduct the investigation with Louis to understand who that mysterious woman is, decide whether or not to support the conspiracy… In a word, make a difference !
The sound quality :
We live Louis’ story by listening to him talking to us, sharing his thoughts and discussing with Maria. But we don’t feel like we’re “with” Louis. The sound comes from several speakers in the room, but it is not spatialized and we can hear that the music is recorded, we don’t have the feeling at all of being close to Maria who would play the piano. A sound immersion would bring us much closer to the characters!
A key learning ?
An experience with storytelling and senses stimuli does not mean it is immersive! Interaction and personalization is what we missed to really immerse us in the past. On the other hand, Hector has already offered experiments on the Mexican Dias de los Muertos, where the guests were… the deads: the house was filled with candles, flowers, pictures of them, words from their loved ones, a little bit of their favorite food… Quite intense and strange to live! (some people even started crying during the experiment…)
More Infos about Candelilla 16 :
Adress : Candelilla 16, Rinconada de las Hadas, Ciudad de México, CDMX,
Price : 950 $MX
The menus vary with each season; you can experience them on Saturday afternoons or on Friday evenings.