It can be tricky to write about our travels without making it seen like are gushing, moaning, worrying or gluttonous. The very nature of the tour we´re on calls for at least one, if not all of these characteristics almost every day. “Oh no, another 20 hour bus journey! Oh, but the sights are just spectacularly wonderful! Oh, but what if…? Oh, but we ate and drank some great stuff!” Southern Brazil has been no exception, but with the comfort and security of a great house in Florianópolis to stay in, and with the much more comfortable lifestyle and amenities brought by the rocketing economic status of the country, it has also afforded us more time to practice the gluttony side of things.

Thus, every day on Santa Catarina we’d walk down to the beach (past the strange daylight loving owls who nested on the ground near the road) and kick up the sand (jumping out of the way of the comedic sand crabs) for twenty minutes or so until we reached the tiny fishing village of Pantolo Do Sul. Here, although it was inexplicably impossible to buy fresh fish at the market, we could sit and watch the fishing boats bobbing on the waves whilst sipping a caipirinha and ordering a dish of something that we hoped hadn´t been long out of the sea.

The most interesting of the eateries here was Arante´s. Apparently founded in 1958 as a general store for fishermen, it´s speciality seems always to have been fried fish with `pirao´, a gloupey but tasty gravy made from fish stock. However it was in the seventies, when students began to visit the nearby beaches regularly but were not endowed with the mobile communications devices of today, that Arante´s began to cultivate its most distinctive feature. Needing to know where the party was, and fuelled by the free cachaca that is still available and just as potent today, the students began to stick notes up for each other on the restaurant walls and at the bar. As more cachaca flowed, so the notes became more poetic and illustrative. Over thirty years later one suspects this has also meant that the owners have never had to buy a tin of paint, as the walls are now covered in booze and fish-insipred artwork and messages, although now the most common subject seems to be how good the booze and the fish are.

Santa Catarina and Florianopolis were good for us; clean, quiet and spacious after the populous and many-flavoured Rio. Nonetheless, the time came to move on and inevitably an overnight bus tooks us eight hours south to the big Rio Grande Do Sul city of Porto Alegre. This large metropolis seems to be home to many students and, depite the rain, we like the place. One of it´s principle attractions for a short stay such as ours seems to be the large old central market. Aside from bursting with better fresh fish (at last, so this is where it all goes!), meat and vegetable stalls than we´ve seen anywhere else in South America to date, it also houses a wealth of eateries of all sizes. These aren´t the dodgy cafes next to hairdressers you often find in English municipal markets, these range from full blown sushi restaurants to extravagant ice-cream parlours. Soaked from the rain and sadly devoid of a kitchen in which to experiment with the afformentioned market-fare, we visited one of these restaurants, Restaurante Gambrinus, for dinner. Unusually for a weeknight, and a main reason for our choice, the menu included feijoada, a traditional stew of beans and beef with pork which we´d been promising ourselves throughout Brazil. Much like cassoulet, but darker and saltier, it was a great way to dry off and worth the wait since Rio.


More than the food though, the welcome from most people in Brazil has been thoroughly warming. Despite us feeling terrible at hardly being able to understand a word of the language we have often been offered help by complete strangers just because of our lost looks or the fact that we´re from out of town. At Restaurant Gambrinus this warm welcome extended to numerous jokes, slaps on the back, questions about football and royalty, requests of letters from England, group photos even (we think) a refusal of a tip. We were only there an hour! So here´s to the gluttony of travel in Southern Brazil, to the sea, to feijoada, to caipirinha and to Jose C.L. Tavares from Gambrinus in Porto Alegre.

Now, where shall we go for lunch?

One Comment to “A Tale of Two (Or More) Restaurants”

  • Your fejoada looks better than the stuff I tried to eat in Rio!