By Alison McGowan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Eating out in Brazil has improved massively over the last thirty years, and these days in major cities you can find restaurants specializing in everything from traditional Brazilian dishes to contemporary fusions of Arabic and Asian cuisine. Off the beaten track, however, you are still more likely to get the meat-rice-and-beans staple, or a “kilo” buffet where you pay for what you eat, so many pousadas catering to international tourists have gone the route of providing a high-class dining experience either as part of the package or an optional extra.
Pousadas are traditionally known for their wonderful breakfasts. Now the movement is towards providing lunch and dinner menus using home grown vegetables and local produce in dishes created by trained chefs: gourmet cuisine to match the superb locations.
There is a lot of competition for which pousada provides the best breakfast in Brazil with Alcino Estalagem in Lençois, Bahia winning “hors concours” for the third year running. Hot on its heels, though, are the breakfasts at Pousada Lagoa das Cores in Chapada Diamantina, Bahia and Pousada do Capão, São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras, in Minas Gerais. Here guests can enjoy the most extensive breakfast feast of tropical fruit, pastries, yogurts, cakes, cheeses, hams and even local delicacies cooked to order by the chef.
On a trip to the Amazon or Pantanal, choose an eco-lodge and you will almost certainly be buying a full-board package, with buffet-style dining at lunch and dinner. The quality of this varies widely, but one of the best places to head for is certainly Cristalino Jungle Lodge, an hour and a half’s road and boat trip from Alta Floresta in the Amazon region of Mato Grosso.
Drinks upon arrival are just a tasteful prelude to lunch or dinner, with a host of delicious traditional and international dishes to choose from and generally a barbecue alternative on at least one night of your stay. Equally so, in the Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Pousada Araras Eco Lodge and Hotel Fazenda Baia das Pedras offer lovingly home-cooked meals for guests to enjoy.
Islands are some of the best contenders for lively nightlife and good places to eat out, and many beach-side pousadas take advantage of being able to catch fresh fish and seafood for their restaurants right on their doorstep.
This is certainly the case at the Pousada Santa Clara on the exquisite island of Boipeba in Bahia. Owned by New Yorkers Charles and former chef Mark, they have developed a superb restaurant on site serving both Brazilian and international dishes.
Set amidst tropical gardens with miles of deserted beach right outside, Pousada Santa Clara offers a simplicity and uniqueness perfect for those looking for an escape totally cut off from civilization, with a great dining experience thrown in. It is as close to paradise as you can get.