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Best Spots for Drinking and Dining in Trendy Leblon



Rio de Janeiro is a city of stark contrasts, and this is particularly evident in the city's nightlife scene. While the downtown district of Lapa is known for its raucous, cachaca-fueled street parties, the well-heeled neighborhood of Leblon is renowned for its sleek and chic lounges, upmarket gastro-bars and a clientele that often prefers to be seen sipping elegantly on a long tall cocktail than knocking back bargain caipirinhas. 

But Leblon also has plenty of relaxed botecos, popular with sandy-footed locals heading back from the beach. A real Rio institution is Jobi, a relaxed boteco whose laid-back ambiance and superior bar snacks make it the hangout of choice for the neighborhoods intellectuals and bohemians, as well the post-beach crowd.

There's an international vibe to Leblon's bar scene, with Venga, offering a convincing taste of traditional Spanish tapas bars in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. There are top-notch Italian nibbles on offer at trendy hangout Stuzzi, and Mexican drinks and snacks at La Calaca.

Those looking for more local flavor will find arguably the best, and most extensive, collection of petiscos (snacks) in the city at the much-loved bar Chico & Alaide. For the city's best collection of bar-restaurants, make a beeline for Rua Dias Ferreira - this famed gastro-strip is also packed with lively nocturnal hangouts. 


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The Devassa chain brews its own beers in a range of flavors and alcohol strengths, and while their marketing is playful, they take their brewing seriously. Here you might want to try a malt beer or a --loira--(blonde) beer, which are served ice cold by draught. The food is good too - try the pizzas made with a manioc flour base - and the lively, relaxed spot makes this a great place to begin a night out in Rio. Pitchers of beer and plates of light finger food for sharing have made Devassa a byword for sociable dining in Rio.


Academia da Cachaca
Photo courtesy of Daniel Bonatto/Flickr


Brazil's famously potent national drink, cachaca, is celebrated in all its myriad forms at this lively little bar that has become a Leblon nightlife institution. The national firewater may have a reputation for being as harsh on the palate as it is on the head the following day, but Academia da Cachaca proves that the best cachacas are genuinely delicious tipples. There are some 80 versions on offer here, including barrel-aged and artisan versions, which can be enjoyed by themselves or mixed into dangerously tasty cocktails. There's a small shop here, selling bottles of cachaca as well as caipirinha-making kits.




For a night out among Rio's fashionable elite, make a beeline for Rua Dias Ferreira, at the heart of upmarket Leblon. This tree-lined street is lined with so many fashionable bars and upscale restaurants that it has become the go-to spot for foodies and socialites visiting Rio, and new eating and drinking spots seem to bloom like wildflowers along this well-maintained street. Cariocas rarely drink without eating, so many of the bars also serve as restaurants, and the culinary offerings are as sophisticated and attractively presented as the privileged location demands. Put on your glad rags, grab a cab here and just see where the evening takes you.


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This funky Mexican restaurant at the heart of Rio's trendy Leblon neighborhood serves immaculately-presented margaritas and other cocktails that taste as good as they look. The food is a major draw, too, and is a cut above the Tex Mex fare more commonly found in Rio. It's a small place with a colorful decor and an impressive attention to detail that extends from the artsy touches to the sleek presentation of the drinks and snacks. Grab a sidewalk table and watch the elegant locals glide by as you enjoy small eats and cocktails, or tuck into something more substantial - Prices are suprisingly fair for this upscale area.


Based on the Italian concept of 'Stuzzichini' - small plates of light bites for sharing over drinks, similar to Spanish Tapas or Greek Mezze - Stuzzi brings together deliciously moreish finger foods and dangerously drinkable cocktails to create one of the most enticing options along the foodie strip that is Leblon's Rua Dias Ferreira. The street has become the must-visit address for gourmands visiting Rio. and acclaimed chef Paula Prandini (formerly of top-end French restaurant Le Pre Catalan) works wonders with imported Italian deli ingredients and native Brazilian fruits and vegetables to create immaculate dishes in a laidback lounge that is as sleek and chic as its fashionable neighborhood demands.




A relatively recent addition to Rua Dias Ferreira's already-illustrious drinking and dining scene, the chic whitewashed space that is Brigite's has fast become part of the well-heeled establishment. The bistro-style dishes are as immaculately presented as the restaurant and its clientele, and light dishes such as the 'Salada Brigite's' - crisp mixed leaves topped with grilled squid, drizzled with passion fruit and garnished with a flower - are perfect for body conscious beach goers. The bar serves up a wonderful range of cocktails, too, many of which put colorful Brazilian fruits to good use.




This 2011 addition to Leblon's hip drinking and dining scene has proved a perfect fit for the elegant neighborhood. Billed as a 'gastrobar', the chic venue caters to the type of fashionable carioca about town that likes to nibbled daintily on immaculately-presented finger foods and doesn't flinch at paying upwards of R$25 for a cocktail. Equal weight has been lent to both the food menu and extensive drinks list, with popular bites including mini hamburgers with truffled mushrooms, and grilled shrimp with a white butter sauce. Among the stars of the drinks menu is the 'Rock Collins' which sees rocket adding a little extra oomph to the classic Tom Collins cocktail.


Chico & Alaide
Photo courtesy of Chico & Alaide

The Brazilian bar snack, when well made, is a beautiful thing, and those at Chico & Alaide are among the best in Rio. The pair behind the bar have created a 'petiscos' (snacks) list that is so extensive it is hard to know where to begin, but it really is hard to go wrong with any of the orders at this much-loved Leblon establishment. A good place to begin is with a couple of orders of 'bolinhos' - little fried balls of cassava or polenta, stuffed with yummy ingredients such as shrimp and catupiry - a creamy soft cheese. The empadas (little pies made with light, buttery pastry) are also delicious, and a wide choice of beers, wines and cocktils helps keep the atmosphere lively. For relaxed drinking and dining in Leblon, this is a top spot.




Widely considered to be the best Tapas bar in town, Venga serves the traditional Spanish-style small eats in a relaxed atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to socializing over a jug of sangria. Authentically recreating the ambiance of a Spanish tapas bar - right down to the cured hams hanging from the rafters - this is a top option for foodies on a night out. Spicy sausages, picante potatoes and delicious imported cheeses are among the tempting options here and are designed to be shared among the groups of fashionable young things that frequent the trendy spot. The hum of lively chatter is as intoxicating as the red wine punch, and you could easily find that 'a quick bite to eat' turns into a full-on night out .


In a neighborhood where many bars are formal and a little stuffy, Jobi is a breath of fresh air. The early-opening, late-closing Leblon institution is a fine example of the Rio boteco - botecos being informal bars serving food and good company to a relaxed crowd. Locals and out-of-towners alike flock here for perfectly-kept draught beers, well-mixed cocktails and an extensive range of bar snacks that includes moreish versions of local staples such as bolinhos de bacalhau(fried cod and potato balls). The bar opens late and closes early, so you???re sure to be able to fit in a visit - whether it be for an early morning coffee, early evening food and drinks, or an end-of-the-night cocktail.


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Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.

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