Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Bathhouse: Cazadores 'día de los muertos' fiesta

I partied in a graveyard last night. Cazadores Tequila hosted an event at the Bathhouse bar in Bishopsgate churchyard to celebrate the Mexican fiesta 'el día de los muertos' – the day of the dead.

Tucked away from the bustle of the City, the Bathhouse is a hidden haunt harking back to Victorian London. Serving as a Turkish baths during the 19th century, it's now a quirky nightspot for those seeking an alternative to cookie cutter identikit clubs. Deceptively small on the outside, the venue is cavernous once you descend into its depths. Wonderfully, it has kept many of its original features, from the blue tiles on its roof to the marble bar.

On arrival I was greeted by a pair of girls in pretty dresses with skull faces. The juxtaposition of their lively outfits full of bright red flowers with their dead faces was brilliantly macabre. They offered me a Lolita cocktail - Cazadores and pomegranate with a salt rim - it was divine. I quickly moved onto the Vampiro - Cazadores with orange bitters.

Huge plates of nachos with mammoth bowls of home-made guacamole were brought in by the sexy skullstresses, theatrically carried at arms length above our heads. We were here to celebrate the day of the dead - a Mexican tradition dating back to the Aztecs, who dedicated the day to the goddess Mictecacihuatl (try saying that after a few Tequilas), known as the Lady of the Dead.

The fiesta coincides with All Souls' Day, and, rather than the spooky nature of Halloween, is seen as a chance for Mexicans to honour the deceased. During the festivities people give each other sugar skulls as gifts and graveyards are decorated with flowers while graves are turned into shrines in honour of the dead. The owner of Mestizo, a gourmet Mexican restaurant in Highgate, told me it's common for people to bring their dead loved one's favourite food, drinks and music to their graveside during the fiesta to encourage their soul to visit.

The Bathhouse had its own little shrine, with a cross centre piece made of orange marigolds, the 'flor de muerto' – flower of the dead. A nimble fingered face painter was on hand to deck us out with warpaint. I opted for the traditional black and white skull. Reading the paper on the tube home, I kept jumping at the sight of my reflection in the window – a memento mori indeed.

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