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10 Best Restaurants in and around Rio's Beautiful Jardim Botanico Neighborhood



The leafy, upper middle-class suburb of Jardim Botanico, in Rio de Janeiro's affluent Zona Sul (the scenic South Zone of the city) is something of a gastronomic hub. Two of the city's most acclaimed restaurants in the form of the much-lauded Olympe, and the ultra-modern Oro, both of which are ideal  'special occasion' restaurants. For more affordable and less formal dining, the cafe at the Botanical Gardens themselves is a lovely setting for relaxing with a light lunch and a glass of wine.

The Jardim Botanico neighborhood also benefits from being just a few minutes' walk from lovely Lagoa - Rio's vast city lake - which itself is circled with cafes and bars. Pizza lovers are well catered for in Jardim Botanico, too, with the always-lively Mamma Jamma offering authentic Italian bases topped with any combination of ingredient, from fresh vegetables and buffalo mozzerella to Italian ham and quail eggs. This well-heeled neighborhood is not awash with budget options, but the breakfast at Cafe Lage's cafe is relatively budget-friendly, while stylish buffet restaurant Couve Flor offers such a diverse range of tempting options at its vast buffet and grill that even the fussiest of eaters will be happy. Whether it's an informal lunch with friends or fine dining at a formal restaurant, Jardim Botanico has you covered. 


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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. There's a free delivery service to addresses in Jardim Botanico, Lagoa and Gavea - perfect for those rainy days when venturing outdoors doesn't appeal.




Along with the beaches, the Christ Statue and Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro's vast city lake is another of those landmark images of the city that will really take your breath away. Flanked by jungle-clad mountains, the vast stretch of water makes a pleasant spot for a romantic meal, and Bar Lagoa is the perfect place to relax over anything from a leisurely breakfast or formal dinner to cocktails and nibbles. The art deco interior of the building adds a kooky charm to the setting, while the predominant culinary influence is German cusine. Classics such as sausages and sauerkraut are popular orders, while vegetarians rave about the potato salad. Along with a decent wine list, there's a good range of imported German beers.


Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

The informal restaurant inside the leafy gardens that give Jardim Botanico its name is one of the most pleasant spots in the city to enjoy a sandwich, salad and a coffee or glass of wine. This shady botanical garden is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in the fascinating flora and fauna of Rio as well as those just looking for a shady retreat from the sticky heat of the city streets. Colorful butterflies flutter through some 6,500 species of vegetation, while chattering marmoset monkeys play overhead. The sprawling gardens are spread over some 55 acres, with trails leading from one point of interest to another. It is perfectly possible to spend an entire day in this scenic park, so head here early in the morning to make the most of all there is to see here.


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This beautiful park, located right next door to Rio de Janeiro´s famous Botanical Gardens, is largely overlooked by tourists. More fool them, as the park is home to one of the most spectacular builldings in the city, framed by the figure of Chriar the Redeemer atop his mountain perch. This building is currently home to an art school, and there are regular exhibitions, and is also the location for a coffee shop and restaurant that make great options for a leisurely brunch. Come here on a Sunday afternoon to soak up the relaxed atmosphere as you unwind over a glass of wine and a plate of fresh pasta.




WIth a kitchen led by Thomas Troisgros, son of Rio's most celebrated chef, Claude Troisgros, Bistro 66 brings fine French cuisine to those who don't have the budget to dine at Troisgros Senior's acclaimed restaurant Olympe. Buffet 66 has won a string of awards from local food and drink magazines, and its prime location in leafy, upper class Jardim Botanico guarantees a steady stream of affluent diners who appreciate the attention to detail and emphasis on fresh, organic ingredients. While there are a-la-carte dishes in the evening, it's the lunch buffet that is the real star here, with diners able to load up their plates with classic French dishes such as Duck a L'Orange at prices that won't break the bank.




The atmosphere may be lighthearted at this lively pizza restaurant in leafy Jardim Botanico, but the art of pizza-making is taken very seriously. The dough is left to rise for five days, resulting in a wonderfully light and crisp base for any number of toppings imaginable. Customers can take their pick from classic combinations such as mozzerella, fresh tomato and oregano, or experiment with more unusual ingredients such as leek, cream cheese and herb. There are plenty of meaty toppings too, such as Italian parma ham, and the Portuguesa - with quail eggs, olives, ham and Chilean oregano, is another speciality of the house.




A spot for those who take their coffee seriously, Alle Cafe offers some 50 types of blends to its discerning customers. Along with coffees made from the beans of small farms in the interior of Brazil, the cafe offers its clientele the chance to make their own blend according to personal tastes, and there are even coffee-based cocktails, including a delicious cappuccino martini. There's a truly tempting range of snacks to accompany the main event too - cakes, croissants and toasted sandwiches here all come highly recommended. Head here during a walking tour of Jardim Botanico and nearby Lagoa - you'll appreciate the caffeine boost.


Somewhat hidden away on a quiet Jardim Botanico street near the botanical gardens themselves, this Japanese restaurant prides itself of marrying simplicity with sophistication. Certainly, the art of sushi-making is taken seriously, and the sushi chefs - or 'sushimen' as they are called in Brazil - can be seen chopping away at an open kitchen. The floor-level seating, Buddha statues, outdoor tables with twinkling lights and extensive drinks list are all talking conversation-starters, but it's the food itself that makes this restaurant a standout among Rio's many sushi restaurants. The octopus, salmon and tuna sashimi is among the most popular plates.


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.


Oro
Photo courtesy of Oro/Tomas Rangel


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.


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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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