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Start the Day the Brazilian Way at Rio's Top Breakfast Spots



Whether you eat at your hotel or head out to a cafe to start your day, breakfast in Rio won't disappoint. These lavish spreads are ideal for enjoying at a leisurely pace - a typical cafe de manha includes tempting platters of fresh fruit, cheeses (try the semi-soft, salty Minas, other cheeses tend to lack flavor), cold meats, breads and cakes all typically putting in an appointment at the first meal of the day. Jams, jellies and delicious fresh juices are also present and correct, or you could try a vitamina - a smoothie made with fruit and milk.

Coffee, served strong and often pre-sweetened, will shake away the cobwebs, and thoe on wheat-free diets can enjoy another Brazilian institution - Pao de Queijo. These little cheese bread balls are made with manioc flour, and are incredibly moreish when served hot out of the oven.

Should you be looking for something a little more simple, the city's innumerous juice bars offer an ideal opportunity to try a tropical fruit vitamina, a strong cafe com leite (milky coffee) and a salgado (savory snack, usually a pastry filled with meat or cheese).

Our top pick, Santa Teresa's funky hangout Cafe do Alto has emerged in the last year as the neighborhood's top destination for a hearty breakfast or brunch, and attracts hordes of locals and tourists.  For the ultimate indulgence, splash out on cafe by the pool at Pergula, Copacabana Palace's elegant restaurant, or for a taste of home, head to Ipanema's popular Gringo Cafe for pancakes, bacon and muffins.


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For the ultimate indulgent Rio experience, head to the Pergula, the elegant poolside restaurant at the enduringly elegant Copacabana Palace hotel. Less formal than the hotel's fine dining Italian restaurant, Cipriani. at Pergula you can dine in your (suitanbly stylish) swimwear and sarong. Watch beautiful people splash around in the pool as you sip Champagne cocktails and dine on seafood and light pasta dishes, or head here for the famous breakfasts and brunches, which include salmon and even caviar washed down with a spot of bubbly. The likes of the Obamas, Will Smith and Madonna have all dined here, so keep your eyes peeled for A-listers.


For a taste of Rio's Belle Epoque past, head to this historic cafe-restaurant in downtown Rio. Ornate chandeliers and jacaranda wood mirrors make an elegant setting for breakfasts, brunches and afternoon teas, and this is the ideal place to take the weight of your feet and soak up the opulence during a Centro shopping or sightseeing spree. Head here for a quick espresso and a pastry at the stand up balcony or sit down and relax with a full breakfast spread complete with breads, coffee, cakes, jams, jellies, juices and fruit. Just don't forget your camera to capture the grandeur of the place.


Aimed squarely at North Americans with a hankering for taste of their homeland, Gringo Cafe does a roaring trade in US DIner-style favorites such as hash browns, bottomless coffees, pancakes, waffles and French toast, as well as delicious cakes, milkshakes and cheese burgers made with imported American cheese. The breakfasts, served all day, are manna from heaven for many homesick ex-pats, who can indulge a craving for bacon, eggs made any way you choose, while mains such as mac & cheese and spaghetti with meatballs also help to keep homesickness pangs at bay. A couple of blocks back from the beach, Gringo Cafe is also popular with wealthy locals keen to experience a taste of North America, but the English-speaking staff mean that bedazzled visitors to the city can relax and put the phrase book away here.


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Given its abundant supply of coffee beans, Brazil has been surprisingly slow to pick up on the coffee bar trend, but Cafeina is one spot where caffeine boosts are more inventive than simply with-or-without-milk. Alongside a range of cappuccinos, lattes and espressos, there are some seriously tasty cakes, pastries and other goodies that make wonderfully indulgent companions to a creamy coffee. Sandwiches here are good lunch options, and the place also serves lavish breakfasts and afternoon teas. A good place to linger over a book with a good cup of strong coffee, Cafeina has truly earned a place in locals' hearts.




Located a few blocks from Ipanema beach and right next door to the strip of backpacker lodgings dubbed 'Hostel Alley', this health food store, buffet restaurant and snack bar offers a huge range of wholesome ingredients for self caterers as well as a range of eat-in dishes that are every bit as tasty as they are nutritious. While there is plenty of choice here for vegetarians, New Natural is not entirely meat-free, with low-fat chicken and fish putting in a few appearances on the menu. The buffet operates on a pay-by-weight system, and prices here, while on the high side, are reasonable for the neighborhood. There's an air conditioned lounge upstairs and a couple of sidewalk tables and chairs, making New Natural a favourite spot among backpackers looking for a quick, healthy lunch.




Your morning coffee comes with a refreshing sea breeze and stunning sea views at this al-fresco spot in the grounds of Copacabana Fort. Breakfast is served at several outdoor table and, while service can be a little on the slow side, who's in a rush when you've got a view over Copacabana beach and out to sea? The 'farmhouse breakfast' (R$29) features corn cake, coffee cheese, baskets of bread, fruit and the delicious Brazilian speciality that is pao de quejo - little rolls of manioc flour and cheese. Come here with time to spare and take your time just soaking up the view and enjoying the cooling breezes.


Acai (pronounced Ah-sigh-ee) is a 'power berry´ native to the Brazilian Amazon that has been credited with everything from boosting energy levels to preserving youthful looks. While there are any number of spots purporting to sell acai (usually served as a frozen pulp, sorbet-style), it generally comes served so thick with sugar that any extra energy you feel will almost certainly be a sugar rush. Here, the bowls are full of the real deal - the purple berry is crushed in all its anti-oxidant goodness, and you can add fruit and granola for extra vitamins should you want an extra energy boost. The restaurant doesn't just serve the sweet stuff though - this is the place to come for traditional Amazonian dishes, many of which feature shrimp, manioc, hot peppers and other native ingredients.


Cultivar Brazil
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


This small, unassuming, unsigned little lunch and brunch spot is a great option for anybody with an aversion to gluten or a preference for natural, organic ingredients. Alongside a range of wholemeal sweet and savory tarts and pies and some yummy sandwiches, there are gluten-free cakes, tarts (try the palm-heart and yogurt) and a mini-store stocked with a range of pastas, biscuits and other goodies to take away. In addition, Cultivar Brazil serves unarguably the best Pao de Queijo (little cheese breads made with manioc flour)in the city, here made with organic ingredients. There's no sign above the cafe, but Cultivar Brazil opens right onto Santa Teresa's main drinking and dining strip.




Da Casa da Tata frequently crops up in food and drink magazines' 'Best of' lists, with its breakfasts in particular garnering rave reviews. The range of home-made breads is in itself a reason to visit, and the fresh-out-of-the-oven smell hangs in the air as you enter, to mouthwatering effect. Breakfasts range from simple - bread, butter, jam, juice and coffee - to lavish spreads of cakes, pastries, breads, cheeses, fresh fruit and juices, and the coffee is seriously good. Bring good company or a good book, and plan to spend a good couple of hours savoring every sip and every bite.




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.


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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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