We travelled to Rio on business, and we travelled on from Rio to Paraty (pronounced PA-ra-Chee) on pleasure. The vibrant chaos of the big city was exchanged for the tranquillity of a small time-warped town.
Paraty is hidden within the thick jungle of the Mata Atlântica which bedecks the coastline leading south from Rio. It’s the end of the line of the gold trail which made it, once upon a time, the second largest town in Brazil. Now the tide regularly washes the uneven streets paved with stones once used as ballast in the Portuguese ships which exchanged them for richer booty.
It may appear sleepy, but it has a lively restaurant scene. The Saucy Dressings’ chief taster commented that there were more good quality eateries here per square metre than in Rio.
We dived into our investigations enthusiastically, and this is what we found.
This is an informal, welcoming Italian restaurant (though I tried, unsuccessfully, to use my better-than-my-Portuguese Italian). I think, perhaps, our second favourite. The octopus carpaccio, tried on a whim, was outstanding.
This is quite a smart restaurant but the food really was outstanding – this was our favourite choice in Paraty. The Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster hit the jackpot there with his starter, which was a bruschetta topped with tapenade, thin red onion slices soaked in chilli oil, and octopus carpaccio.
Also smart – no wine less than 120 Rials – the most expensive we found. However, Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster had an excellent prawn bisque topped with a brazil nut cream there.
Celeiro (R. do Comércio, 58 – Centro Histórico, Paraty, no website)
Right next door to Quintal das Letras. More informal, less adventurous food, some hamburgers.
We were recommended to go here by the puppet show organisers as it’s just round the corner from the theatre (a lovely show, incidentally). Right by the sea, it has the advantage of a magnificent view (unless it’s cold don’t eat inside. Elegant quirkiness. This is a place for steak and the seafood is also good.
This was an excellent place for lunch – I had a good pumpkin soup here and the SD Chief Taster reported that the ice cream was also good.
Outside Paraty, on the way to Trindade, there is a great beach-side cafe. Food is generous, creative, and served with enthusiasm. Live music.
Again, outside Paraty, but up in the hills in the middle of the Mata Atlântica is this restaurant which does good pasta dishes – it’s an open-air lunchtime sort of a place.
The suggestions for the guide, above, except for the Bar do Cepilho which we found for ourselves, came from Eat Rio food tours; our hotel, the Pousada do Ouro, and The Financial Times. Thank you to all.
Hotels in the historic quarter
In addition to the Pousada do Ouro, where we stayed, there is also the Casa Colonial, and the Casa Turquesa (where apparently, according to the FT, they greet you by kissing you on both cheeks and giving you a pair of flip flops before leading you away to one of their nine four-postered rooms – not sure that’s my cup of tea).
The Quintal das Letras (above) also has rooms.
Some suggestions for things to do
Wordless puppet show; elegant, delightful, thought-provoking. Not for children.
Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9.00 (also Fridays in the high season).
Visit a cachaça distillery
Hike through the Mata Atlantica to a deserted surfing village
Listen to live music as you walk along the beach to neighbouring village, Trindade, hire a windsurf
Take a jeep inland to see waterfalls and wildlife