Last month I was in Mexico City and upon walking around the old centre, which has seen somewhat of a facelift and as a result a revival in recent years-with pedestrianised streets, bright lighting and new bars and restaurants- there was one place I just had to go to.
Aside from of course the beautiful art deco concert hall, Bellas Artes, or walking around the main Zocalo with its majestic national flag flying outside the government headquarters and the magnificent cathedral.
It was El Moro, that for over 70 years has been serving a select few things: churros-warm, crispy sticks of dough pastries-, hot chocolate and milkshakes. Though there are six varieties of the hot chocolate, varying in sweetness, consistency and whether you want a hint of cinnamon or vanilla.
With Mexico being one of the top cocoa producers in the world, you can not miss out on trying the chocolate here. It is open every day, 24 hours a day, so you can stop by any time of the day or night, and is sure to be packed.
Still owned by the same Spanish family that founded it, because churros are in fact originally spanish, El Moro is somewhat of an institution. While now there are areas like Polanco, La Condesa, La Roma to go out, years ago there was only the centre. So inevitably anyone who grew up as a child in Mexico City would be taken for a treat to Cafe el Moro.
In fact the only reason I even knew about the place was because on a previous trip to Mexico my uncle had taken me, and reminisced about how my grandparents would take their seven children their to drink the delicious, thick, rich hot chocolate in to which they would also dip their churros before happily gobbling them up.
And not much has changed since then. As you approach the window you look on to the vast steaming tubs of oil into which the batter is poured in long, thin strips. As it hits the oil it immediately starts to turn golden, while it bobs up and down on the surface, which is when the master churro maker uses a thin metal stick to quickly swirl the dough into a spiral.
Within what seems like a matter of seconds the spiral is ready to be lifted out by the assistant, who puts it on a metal tray and starts to cut up the sticks with scissors, before coating them in either just sugar or sugar and cinnamon-whichever the customer prefers.
All this happens at lightening speed, and the flow of churros being prepared does not stop. It is no surprise given that orders range from a single churro to batches in the hundreds. The art is clearly in the cooking time, as the dough that is mixed right next to the fryer is simply flour, water and salt, a member of the staff tells us.
The waitresses, dressed in their blue uniforms, aprons and hats, together with the cashier taking payments in a small booth by the entrance and the old fashioned decor, with white, blue and yellow tiles, are a testament to the fact that things remain pretty much as they were when El Moro opened its doors.
Once you taste the churros, dipped in the hot chocolate of your choice, it is easy to see why things have been left the way they are. No need for changes in branding, updated furniture or improved recipes when a simple, yet deliciously moorish treat is so perfectly done.
Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas 42, Mexico City, Mexico. Tel: 55 55 12 08 96