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Think of a city, any city, and then picture yourself in a bar there. When I moved to São Paulo two years ago, with a headful of impressions gleaned on a handful of previous, flying visits, one thing I was fairly sure about was that I’d be visiting a lot of bars that looked a lot like Noh Bar.
Peopled by attractive punters clutching sophisticated drinks, they’d be classy, dark and low-lit, with imaginatively priced cocktails and labyrinthine spaces from which we’d emerge, laughing with our fabulous new friends, into the Bladerunner metropolis outside.
It didn’t quite turn out that way. Dive bars are more my kind of place, and São Paulo had plenty of those. My vision turned out to be a mashup of several perfume ads I’d seen, and I never did find that bar of my imaginings.
But sitting at the high communal table at Noh Bar one night, working my way through a set of mini cocktails with a friend, and watching one of the owners laughing with a table full of paulistano sophisticates, waving over drinks that arrived in a flourish of smoke, the thought popped into my head: ‘This must be the place.’
Opened at the end of 2011, Noh Bar is a chic and comfortable set of well-planned spaces, from the no-frills mezzanine bar to the cosy back rooms, and from the see-and-be-seen main bar to the quiet conservatory out front – a space that would suit anyone planning to dine on the bar’s fairly comprehensive menu of snacks and light bites.
The decent, at times ambitious cocktail menu never quite hits the high notes the bar is going for – molecular flourishes like the Fresh Hot (R$23), a grape martini accompanied by a strawberry injected with chilli, are passable rather than revelatory, and the food we ordered – mini burgers (R$38) and a Spanish snack combo with crunchy calamari, batatas bravas and rice balls (R$36) – was tasty, but nothing to write home about.
But as the evening wore on and the covers band started up, the bar’s true colours came shining through – more upscale Cheers than high-flying Gordon Gecko hangout. Verdict: surprisingly cosy.