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.
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).
Venga serves the traditional Spanish-style small eats in a relaxed atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to socializing over a jug of sangria. Widely considered to be the best tapas bar in town, and the first to open in a city that was slow to succumb to the tapas trend, Venga specializes in traditional small plates such as Spicy sausages, picante potatoes and delicious imported cheeses, all of which are enjoyed with great gusto by the the groups of fashionable young locals 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 .
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is the best spot in Rio for tapas and free-flowing conversation
Lucy's expert tip: The bar encourages conversation and discourages e-communication. 'Enjoy the moment' is their mantra, so switch off your smart phone.
With a prime location on the main drinking and dining strip in leafy, artsy Santa Teresa, Bar do Mineiro is the focal point for the neighborhood's famously lively social scene. As the name suggests, the menu bears the culinary influences of the owner, a 'Mineiro' (native of Minas Gerais) who over the years has built up a loyal fanbase drawn to his hearty plates of meaty dishes. For a lighter snack, the portions of 'pasteis' (small, deepfried pastries filled with cheese, meat, beans or shrimp) are widely considered to be among the best in the city. But it's the lively atmosphere that is the real draw here, with locals and visitors gathering here to eat, drink and chat well into the night.
This popular steakhouse has branches across Brazil and has even expanded internationally. The Barra branch offers top quality grilled meats on a 'rodizio' basis - waiters flit among the tables, offering slice after freshly-cooked slice to diners. The main emphasis is on beef, but chicken and pork get a look-in too, and there's a lavish buffet laden with all manner of tempting sides. The set price of around R$120 includes limitless meat and as many trips to the buffet as you can manage, and vegetarians can opt for a 'Market Table' - trading the meat cuts for treats such as hearts of palm, quinoa salads and imported cheeses.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is the original Brazilian version of a chain that has now expanded internationally.
Lucy's expert tip: Make sure you come here with a hearty appetite - have a light lunch if you're coming for dinner - to make the most of the meaty treats
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, and this long-standing Leblon favorite has stood the test of time. 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.
Rio's culinary heritage has been notably influenced by Portuguese settlers, but there are relatively few fine dining restaurants in the city where this influence really comes to the fore. At Antiquarius, in Leblon, Portuguese and Brazilian dishes are celebrated in all their rich, hearty glory, and while the restaurant holds little appeal for vegetarians, it will tick many boxes for carnivores looking to tuck into flavorsome plates such as the restaurant's version of the traditional feijoada (meat and bean stew). Elected the best in the city by many local food and drink magazines, the version here features every meat cut you could think of - and some you might never have imagined eating. The setting, which calls to mind the belle epoque-era home of a wealthy landowner, is both sophisticed and homely - not unlike the food itself.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Venga is the original and best Rio de Janeiro tapas bar.
Lucy's expert tip: Try the cod dishes or the rice with duck - both are long-standing success stories
It doesn't look like much, but this unpretentious little spot in leafy Santa Teresa offers vast portions of delicious Northeastern Brazilian food at more than reasonable prices. The walls are hung with paintings by Chilean artist Selaron - whose masterwork, the Lapa Steps, lies just a few minutes' walk from the restaurant - and the accommodating staff always offer the warmest of welcomes and the speediest of service. T Not the best spot for dieters, the restaurant (it's a bar in name only) serves hearty dishes such as sundried beef with cassava, rice and beans, while vegetarians can opt to switch the meat for 'queijo coalho' - thick slabs of grilled white cheese. Exercise caution when spooning on the pepper sauce that is served with each dish, it's fiery stuff. Set meals for one easily serve two or even three, making this a cost-effective spot for couples, families and groups of friends with hearty appetites.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Friendly service and huge portions of delicious, fairly priced food make this one of Rio's best spots for relaxed dining.
Lucy's expert tip: There's no wine list here, but bring along your vino of choice and staff will happily uncork it for you at no cost.
Located high on a jungle-clad hillside in Santa Teresa, Aprazivel is worth a visit for the views alone. Wisely making the most of the sweeping vistas over downtown Rio, the owners have made al-fresco dining the order of the day, here, with grass-roofed gazebos sitting amid lush tropical gardens visited by toucans and monkeys. At night, the scene is lit by candles and flickering fairy lights which, when combined with the views and the delicious French-Brazilian dishes on the menu, makes this one of the best spots in Rio for a romantic meal. Chef Ana Castilho has combined Brazilian culinary influences with tricks of hte trade learned during her training in France, and the result is a menu of light dishes that add some chic French touches to the wealth of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood available locally.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The lovely candle-lit garden is a wonderfully romantic spot for an evening meal.
Lucy's expert tip: Call ahead to book tables if you want to sit outside - these seats are extremely popular on balmy evenings.
This top-end French restaurant is arguably the most celebrated eatery in Rio de Janeiro, and is manned by celebrity chef Claude Troisgros - of the multi Michelin-starred Troisgras family of France. The award-strewn restaurant offers such delicacies as raw salmon with ginger, and organic eggs with caviar, and gives French dishes a Brazilian twist with the addition of locally-sourced fruit, vegetables and seasonings. Not a spot for the budget traveler, this is a wonderful 'special occasion' restaurant, and the degustation menu, at R$260 is a real feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds thanks to Troisgros' immaculate presentation.
Brazilian celebrity Chef Felipe Bronze performs culinary alchemy at this super-trendy Jardim Botanico restaurant. The menu largely eschews main dishes in favor of a dazzling array of small plates, and Brazilian ingredients are given a contemporary spin through the use of innovative cooking methods, scientific know-how and a seemingly endless imagination. Cases in point include tiny cones made of acai 'paper' and filled with tapioca, white fish and fruits from Brazil's northeast. The culinary party tricks continue with dessert, and the dishes are as tasty as they are innovatively presented. Those who frown upon contemporary restaurants' sometimes 'out there' food presentation will wince at the lack of traditional plates here, but if you're after food as grand theater, this is the place to come.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This Michelin-starred restaurant is one of Rio's most exciting restaurants
Lucy's expert tip: Splurge on one of the taster menus - comprising five, seven or nine courses - if you want to get the best Oro experience.