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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Hotel Cigno after dark means fine dining under the stars 

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.

The moment I saw Roger Gonzalez Escalante’s latest boutique hotel project on Instagram, I knew we had to visit Hotel Cigno. 

Converting an abandoned grand home once used as a lumber yard of all things, Casa Lecanda’s architect brought his multi-layered aesthetic to La Ermita, just a couple blocks north of that barrio’s park. We continue to be amazed at how well Gonzalez Escalante successfully pairs disparate materials, colors, and textures to create unified and engaging spaces, often in a neoclassical vein. A boxy, ornate ironclad elevator — which appears to be from a fairytale fantasy — climbs up the courtyard wall.  

At right, Hotel Cigno’s exterior, iron-clad elevator anchors the elaborately designed property. Photo: Yucatán Magazine

On a recent Tuesday night, we tested out the kitchen and discovered the hotel’s charms extend well beyond the visual. With the rainy season practically behind us, we had dinner and drinks under an open sky on the roof bar — one long flight of stairs above the central courtyard. Those poor waiters. 

Under those stairs, the waiter allowed us to see a secret subterranean space where a dining room table and masculine lounge chairs turn a former cistern into a man cave or wine cellar.

Hotel Cigno rescued this beautiful old home previously operating beneath its pay grade as a lumber yard. Photo: Google Street View 2009

On the ground floor courtyard, our friends spoke highly of their brunch, a Cigno Omelet (a reasonable 170 pesos) stuffed with spinach, pecans, avocado, cottage cheese sauce, and almonds. French toast (185 pesos) is made with brioche bread, cinnamon, caramelized banana, Worcestershire sauce, toffee, and mascarpone cream. 

Stairs to the roof bar complement a huge mosaic wall that shines beautifully at night. Photo: Courtesy

But it’s a treat to see Cigno after dark. We came around 7 and were astonished that we had the beautiful roof bar to ourselves. I had the catch of the day (330 pesos) accompanied by mashed sweet potato and roasted orange, fish sauce, caramelized carrots, and pea shoots. Chef Ángel Peláez’s flavors were perfectly savory and balanced. My friend enjoyed the poached-shrimp risotto with eureka lemon butter, shrimp bisque, Parmesan cheese, and fried parsley. It was creamy and the shrimp were fresh and briny, so much so in fact that he didn’t share even one tiny little bit of it with me. A sign the food was delicious.  

Roger Gonzalez Escalante’s deft mixture of mosaics, stone, and pasta tile is on display in Hotel Cigno’s dining area. Photo: Yucatán Magazine

The cocktail menu covered most of the bases, but not all. My friend enjoyed a mojito, and I had a choice of Johnnie Walker Red or Black on the rocks. A little vermouth and bitters and I could have had my favorite Manhattan / Rob Roy cocktail — so close yet so far.

Still, the waiters were cheerful and knew just enough English to keep me from having to torture the Spanish language. Cigno so far has gotten consistent five-star reviews online from guests.  

Hotel Cigno, Calle 66 between 73 and 75, La Ermita; cignohotel.com

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