Al-Fresco Dining in Rio

Food, Romantic, Things to Do, What's New — By Lucy Bryson on August 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm

With its tropical climate and stunning scenery, Rio de Janeiro is a city where dining outdoors appeals much more than sitting cooped up inside a restaurant.

But despite the obvious advantages of dining in the open air, there are in fact relatively few places that offer much more than a handful of sidewalk tables and chairs.

Due to the the closely-built nature of the city’s touristic Zona Sul, it is perhaps unsurprising that the majority of Rio’s most appealing outdoor dining options are to be found some way out of the city itself, with good gourmet options to be found west of the city, in the Vargem Grande region.

For those looking for something a little less off the beaten track, Santa Teresa, with its hilltop location and airy feel, is well worth a visit.

For those looking to treat themselves, the acclaimed French-Brazilian restaurant Aprazivel is well worth a visit. The restaurant sits on a high road set back from the neighborhood’s main eating, drinking and shopping strip, and the setting is magnificent. Straw-roofed gazebos and wooden tables are set out under tropical plants and trees, and lit with twinkling candles at night. With toucans and marmoset monkeys regular visitors to the garden, you’ll be in good company as you enjoy your meal.

Competing for attention are the views over central Rio and Guanabara Bay, while the food itself has plenty to recommend it. The family-run restaurant offers Brazilian food served with a French flavor, as the head chef trained in France. Salads are given a peppery kick, fish and meat dishes are well-prepared, and the entree mixed bread basket is a treat in itself. The wine list, which showcases artesan Brazilian wine, is well worth a look too. While prices are on the high side (mains start at around R$50), this is a perfect ‘special occasion’ restaurant that won’t blow the budget sky high. Get directions before you head off though, as even taxi drivers struggle to find this hidden culinary gem.

Down the hill from Aprazivel, meanwhile, Espirito Santa is slightly more affordable, with mains starting at around R$40), and offers dining beneath the stars on a small balcony with views over the rooftops and ruas of this picturesque part of Rio. Dishes take their influence from various regions of Brazil, including the Amazon, and piranha soup is a regular on the menu. The mixed entree varies according to available ingredients but is always a delight, offering such treats as fresh palm heart and chutney made with the Amazonian ‘power berry’ Acai.

Photo: Lucy Bryson

Tags: dining in Rio, food in Rio, Rio de Janeiro restaurants