Cobal do Leblon
Telephone (21) 2529 5300
Metrô bus Afrânio de Melo Franco
If unusual settings are your thing, then look no further than the latest arrival on Rio’s dining scene: Lagoon. In a moment of architectural inspiration, what was once the little-used grandstand and sweaty headquarters of the Lagoa Rowing Club has been remixed to create an unusual high-end eating, drinking and dancing destination comprising five restaurants, a live music venue and cinema under one roof.
First things first: don’t judge this book by its cover. The uninviting, towering bright-white façade of the structure hides one of the most gawp-inducing views imaginable. Gaze across the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas towards Corcovado from an elevated terrace on which, with the addition of a couple of caipirinhas, entire afternoons can be lost at will. Indoors, colourful sofas and bench-lined dining tables do their bit to break up the huge space and offset the generic-looking central bar.
The outdoor terrace, meanwhile, purrs whatever the weather, with its retractable roof and sides and, of course, that view. And though the restaurants should, in theory, do battle for customers’ attention, instead they seem to operate with the anything-goes harmony their location bestows upon them, so that on the shared terrace, any one of the five outlets’ waiters will cheerfully sidle over to deliver their respective menus.
The best of the pack, Quadrifoglio Caffé, does Italian in fine style, with gazpacho soup (R$22), paninis (R$31-$34) and a decent array of antipasti on which to graze unhurriedly if time is on your side. The spaghetti mare (R$49) is well endowed with tender squid and shrimp, and the meat and fish dishes come with sides ranging from polenta to fettuccine and risotto, for more substantial mains.
Also upstairs, the trademark ice-covered barrow of Giuseppe Grill Mar proudly boasts the fresh lobsters and fish that are the restaurant’s speciality, and the perennial carioca favourite Gula Gula operates a reliable, flexible menu of build-your-own grills and salads.
And though Cinépolis, a 2010 addition to Rio’s cinema scene, might lurk below as an after-dinner diversion, it’s in Lagoon’s upper reaches that food and music buffs really converge.
Since MPB royalty Gal Costa heralded the opening of the live music venue Miranda at the end of March, many of the great and the good of Brazilian music past and present have braved the strangely lopsided ceiling of the long, thin room, albeit with ticket prices (starting from R$100) that might make the average gig-goer think twice. Canny bargain-hunters, on the other hand, should find the Sunday feijoada (R$60) to their liking, since the price includes musical accompaniment from emerging samba stars like Ana Costa.