An hour's drive west of Rio, the winding roads of Guaratiba play host to a world of seafood restaurants peddling fresh crab and shrimp from the local mangroves, but one alone has drawn the weekend hoards from as far afield as Tijuca to the majesty of its moqueca stews for the last twenty years. Devoid of directions, signposts or helpful locals (they’re too busy watching the steep drops and sharp bends cause havoc for unprepared drivers), a sharp drop down off something approaching a main road brings adventurous diners to the old-world rustic surrounds of Bira.
From the large wooden terrace jutting forth into the forest, the view out towards the vast sand spit of Restinga da Marambaia does battle with the seafood for the restaurant’s star turn. Opened in 1992 by a fisherman named Bira, little has changed since, making the cheerful service even more of a pleasant surprise as food and drinks are shuttled around well short of the 40-minute waiting time you are invariably primed for.
Arrive early and bag one of the tables on the edge of the balcony to hog the wide, green view, best taken with a caipirinha (R$18) and a portion of crab and shrimp pasteis (R$4 each), the small, deep-fried parcels of stew that cry out for a squeeze of lime and just a speck of the fiery house chilli sauce.
Non-fish lovers need not apply. The simplicity of the menu is undoubtedly its strength, offering just robalo (bass) fish, octopus, crab and shrimp in several incarnations from the coconut milk, tomato and dendê oil-laden moqueca (R$135-$200) to a side of pirão (R$40), a thick fish paste best taken with a portion of plantain and fresh French bread.
Don’t let the prices put you off, either. After the essential pastel starter the moquecas serve four with ease, the rich manioc-flour farofa that can seem surplus to requirement served with steak, here soaks up the rich, saucy leftovers with new purpose. A day at nearby Prainha or Grumari beaches really is only half complete without a visit.