In beautiful Rio de Janeiro, there are few better ways to spend a lazy morning than lingering over over a meal that crosses the breakfast/lunch divide with style.
Brazilian breakfasts tend to be feasts in themselves, with cakes, fresh fruit, freshly-baked breads, cheeses and sliced cold meats all present and correct, alongside fresh-squeezed juices and wonderfully strong Brazilian coffee.
Brunch is a concept that has been slow to take off in Brazil – in fact, there’s no Portuguese word for it, but nobody will bat an eyelid if you order breakfast items at noon. Our top pick, Da Casa da Tata, offers indulgent breakfast and lunch spreads as well as a-la-carte sandwiches, soups and the like, while the cakes and cookies here are legendary across the city.
One restaurant that has picked up on the brunch concept is Pergula, Copacabana Palace hotel´s famously chic poolside restaurant, the Sunday brunch is appropriately grand (smoked salmon and Champagne are both part of the indulgent offering.) It comes at a predictably eye-watering price, too, but it makes for a memorable experience.
More accessible prices can be found at Cultivar Brasil, up in the hills of Santa Teresa. This tiny organic cafe has delicious vegetarian-friendly snacks, including the best Pao de Queijo (little rolls made from manioc flour and cheese) in town. For brunches with a sea view, it’s hard to beat Copacabana’s Cafe 18 de Forte, which has some extremely good cakes and pastries as well as fruit salads and the like. Meanwhile, visitors hankering after hash browns, waffles or other home style North American goodies, meanwhile, can join the hordes of ex-pats who flock to Ipanema’s Gringo Cafe for a taste of home.
Whether you’re a staunch vegetarian, a health-food enthusiast or even a carnivore who has tucked into one steak too many, this cosy corner restaurant in Leblon is just the ticket.
Healthfood and organic eating is a growing sector of Rio’s dining scene, but this Leblon favorite was one of the first to open, and is still unarguably one of the best.
At lunch, diners can load their plates high at a wholefood buffet including soups, salads, beans, rice, soya dishes and a range of healthy pies and pastries for a set price, while a-la-carte options are available in the evening. The vegan version of ‘feijaoda’, the usually-meaty national dish, made here with smoked tofu, is legendary.
Recommended for Brunch because: You don’t need to be a vegan, or even vegetarian, to appreciate the yummy buffet at this Leblon instition.
Lucy’s expert tip: Fancy a drink that doesn’t come loaded with too many toxins? At Vegetariano Social Clube you can choose from a range of organic wines, or enjoy a caipirinha made with organic cachaca.
Located a few blocks from Ipanema beach and right next door to the strip of backpacker lodgings dubbed ‘Hostel Alley’, this health food store, buffet restaurant and snack bar offers a huge range of wholesome ingredients for self caterers as well as a range of eat-in dishes that are every bit as tasty as they are nutritious.
While there is plenty of choice here for vegetarians, New Natural is not entirely meat-free, with low-fat chicken and fish putting in a few appearances on the menu.
The buffet operates on a pay-by-weight system, and prices here, while on the high side, are reasonable for the neighborhood. There’s an air conditioned lounge upstairs and a couple of sidewalk tables and chairs, making New Natural a favourite spot among backpackers looking for a quick, healthy lunch.
Recommended for Brunch because: This health-food cafe opens early in the morning until late at night, and serves coffee and light snacks as well as full meals.
Lucy’s expert tip: Don’t feel like a sit-down meal? There’s a range of takeaway snacks too, among which the oven baked, wholemeal pasties are stand outs. The palmito (palm heart) with soft cheese version is addictively good.
For a taste of Rio’s Belle Epoque past, head to this historic cafe-restaurant in downtown Rio.
Ornate chandeliers and jacaranda wood mirrors make an elegant setting for breakfasts, brunches and afternoon teas, and this is the ideal place to take the weight of your feet and soak up the opulence during a Centro shopping or sightseeing spree.
While most people head here for the experience of diving into Rio’s past, the food and drinks are top-notch, too. Come with the family for a long, leisurely brunch, or by yourself to get a morning coffee fix and try some of the lovely cakes and pastries.
Recommended for Brunch because: The opulent setting is the real draw, but the coffee, cakes and pastries here are delicious.
Lucy’s expert tip: If you’re in a rush, grab a pastry and coffee at the stand-up counter, but for a leisurely afternoon tea try to find a table in the outdoor atrium.
Given its abundant supply of coffee beans, Brazil has been surprisingly slow to pick up on the coffee bar trend, but Cafeina is one spot where caffeine boosts are more inventive than simply with-or-without-milk.
Alongside a range of cappuccinos, lattes and espressos, there are some seriously tasty cakes, pastries and other goodies that make wonderfully indulgent companions to a creamy coffee. Sandwiches here are good lunch options, and the place also serves lavish breakfasts and afternoon teas.
A good place to linger over a book with a good cup of strong coffee, Cafeina has truly earned a place in locals’ hearts.
Recommended for Brunch because: Cafeina serves delicious coffee, cakes and sandwiches at all hours of the day.
Lucy’s expert tip: If you want a hearty start to the day but are keen to keep in trim for the beach, opt for the low-fat breakfast platter with plenty of fresh fruit and wholegrains.
For the ultimate indulgent Rio experience, head to the Pergula, the elegant poolside restaurant at the enduringly elegant Copacabana Palace hotel.
Less formal than the hotel’s fine dining Italian restaurant, Cipriani. at Pergula you can dine in your (suitably stylish) swimwear and sarong.
Watch beautiful people splash around in the pool as you sip Champagne cocktails and dine on seafood and light pasta dishes, or head here for the famous breakfasts and brunches, which include salmon and even caviar washed down with a spot of bubbly. The likes of the Obamas, Will Smith and Madonna have all dined here, so keep your eyes peeled for A-listers.
Recommended for Brunch because: Brunch at Pergula is a wonderfully romantic way to start the day.
Lucy’s expert tip: You don’t need to be a guest at the hotel to dine here, but it pays to dress in your most chic casual wear if you want to make it past the doorman.
Occupying a corner building on Santa Teresa’s liveliest square – Largo do Guimaraes – Cafe do Alto has carved out a reputation for serving delicious dishes at fair prices, in a wonderfully colorful setting. The emphasis is on food from Brazil’s Northeast, but but avoids the stodginess that sometimes weighs down Nordestino cooking. Light dishes include tapioca panckaes filled with everything from tomato and marinated tomatoes or shredded jerk beef, to sweet versions filled with fruit and curd cheese; while recommended mains include moqueca – a typical seafood stew, here adapted to include veggie friendly versions made with palm heart or yucca.
There are abundant breakfast options, and the weekend breakfast buffet – which runs until 1pm – is the ideal hangover cure for anybody who partied hard in nearby Lapa the night before.
Service is attentive, the decor is cheery and the cafe scores major parental brownie points for its kid-friendly menu and drawing materials.
Recommended for Brunch because: This place serves enormous, and delicious, breakfast spreads that will cure any caipirinha-induced hangover
Lucy’s expert tip: There’s a good – if pricey – range of wines, along with an extensive craft beer selection and yummy batidas (mixture of fruit, condensed milk and sugar cane rum).
Your leisurely brunch comes with a refreshing sea breeze and stunning sea views at this al-fresco spot in the grounds of Copacabana Fort.
Breakfast is served at several outdoor table and, while service can be a little on the slow side, who’s in a rush when you’ve got a view over Copacabana beach and out to sea?
The ‘farmhouse breakfast’ (R$29) features corn cake, coffee cheese, baskets of bread, fruit and the delicious Brazilian speciality that is pao de quejo – little rolls of manioc flour and cheese. Come here with time to spare and take your time just soaking up the view and enjoying the cooling breezes.
Recommended for Brunch because: The gorgeous sea view makes this a top spot to relax with coffee and cake.
Lucy’s expert tip: Reward a walk along Copacabana’s 4-mile sweep of sand with a drink and bite to eat here.
Aimed squarely at North Americans with a hankering for taste of their homeland, Gringo Cafe does a roaring trade in US DIner-style favorites such as hash browns, bottomless coffees, pancakes, waffles and French toast, as well as delicious cakes, milkshakes and cheese burgers made with imported American cheese. The breakfasts, served all day, are manna from heaven for many homesick ex-pats, who can indulge a craving for bacon, eggs made any way you choose, while mains such as mac & cheese and spaghetti with meatballs also help to keep homesickness pangs at bay. A couple of blocks back from the beach, Gringo Cafe is also popular with wealthy locals keen to experience a taste of North America, but the English-speaking staff mean that bedazzled visitors to the city can relax and put the phrase book away here.
Recommended for Brunch because: Gringo Cafe offers North Americans a taste of home, with all-day breakfasts and endless coffee refills.
Lucy’s expert tip: The muffins, cooked breakfasts and burgers here are all good, but the bagels don’t quite hit the mark.
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
This small, unassuming, unsigned little lunch and brunch spot is a great option for anybody with an aversion to gluten or a preference for natural, organic ingredients. Alongside a range of wholemeal sweet and savory tarts and pies and some yummy sandwiches, there are gluten-free cakes, tarts (try the palm-heart and yogurt) and a mini-store stocked with a range of pastas, biscuits and other goodies to take away. In addition, Cultivar Brazil serves unarguably the best Pao de Queijo (little cheese breads made with manioc flour), here made with organic ingredients.
There’s no sign above the cafe, but Cultivar Brazil opens right onto Santa Teresa’s main drinking and dining strip.
Recommended for Brunch because: This place serves some of the yummiest breakfast dishes in town, and it serves them all day long.
Lucy’s expert tip: Wait until a fresh batch of pao de queijo comes fresh out of the oven, as these little lovelies are at their best when hot.
A welcoming spot where staff go out of their way to make customers feel at home, Da Casa da Tata frequently crops up in food and drink magazines’ ‘Best of’ lists, with its breakfasts in particular garnering rave reviews.
The range of home-made breads is in itself a reason to visit, and the fresh-out-of-the-oven smell hangs in the air as you enter, to mouthwatering effect.
Breakfasts range from inexpensive and simple, yet truly tasty, plates of bread, butter, jelly, juice and coffee – to lavish spreads of cakes, pastries, breads, cheeses, fresh seasonal fruit and juices, and the coffee is seriously good.
Recommended for Brunch because: Da Casa da Tata is regularly cited by Rio food and drinks magazines as the city’s best lunch spot.
Lucy’s expert tip: Come here with a hearty appetite and time to spare, and enjoy Brazilian brunch at its lavish best.