Meson del Cid, Mexico City
Meson del Cid is a Spanish restaurant in downtown Mexico City. Although it's a decent venue on regular nights, what makes this place special is the Medieval Dinner hosted weekly on Saturday. The dinner costs approximately $30 per person, which includes all food, wine and entertainment.
The restaurant itself is very imposing-- it looks like a giant cathedral church inside, and on my last visit I found out that the stunning stained glass windows are replicas of those in the Chartres cathedral in France, and the circular lanterns are replicas from St. Germain de Pres. The tables and most of the furniture are made out of heavy, dark wood in the old Spanish style, and there is a knight dressed in full chain-mail to greet you at the door.
My absolute favorite thing about the Medieval festivities is the porron, a typical Spanish wine pitcher that resembles a cross between a bottle and a watering can. To drink from the porron, you bring the spout close to your mouth, pointing the beak down towards your teeth. Once the wine starts pouring out, you slowly move the porron away from your face, look up and hopefully create a nice stream of liquid running into your mouth. Expert porron users can pour the wine onto their foreheads or other parts of the face and have it dribble into the mouth (this is demonstrated by the staff throughout the night).
When you arrive, each table is already set with several porrons, so you can start practicing early. Jesters on stilts, a magician (also named Tony) and dancers wind around the dining room, entertaining tables one at a time.
But it's once dinner is ready to be served that the spectacle really begins. A horn will sound to announce the beginning of the "procession"-- it begins with waiters dressed in Medieval garb carrying in a giant suckling pig that has been roasted on a spit. Next follows a live cat that has supposedly tested the food to make sure it wasn't poisoned (a Medieval tradition used to protect the King). Once the suckling pig is set down at the main table, it is cut with a plate to demonstrate it's tenderness.
I don't even like meat at a regular restaurant, so I have to admit that the meat-centric menu makes me a little queasy. Following the pig, at least five other courses of questionable or unidentificable meat are served. My husband Tony loves it and wipes his plate clean, but I usually only nibble, attack the bread and stick to perfecting my drinking out of the porron.
Once dinner is served, the entertainment continues with a classic Tuna (a Mexican University singing group)-- slightly similar at least in theory to mariachis. We ended up hiring both the Tuna band and the Magician Tony to entertain at an event during our wedding at my parent's house in Mexico City. We also purchased several porrons from the restaurant and taught all of our guests how to use them.
The fun continues well into the night and the flowing wine (literally) helps give the whole place a raucous and debaucherous atmosphere-- something like what I would like to imagine a big Medieval feast would be like.