From the heights of Avenida Paulista to the gritty lower end of Rua Augusta and on into Centro, it’s a journey downhill in more ways than one. So it’s fitting that Sancho Bar y Tapas, a classier alternative to Augusta’s more low-rent watering holes, should be perched near the top, just before you plunge into the heart of SP’s most down-and-dirty strip.
A long bar, underlit with red neon, dominates one length of the Spanish-themed Sancho, opposite a wall of exposed brick and an expanse of blackboard, colourfully scribbled with menu highlights. Pick a seat at one of the wood tables or up at the bar, the latter a prime spot for scoping out the individual pintxo-style portions of bread with ambrosial toppings, such as the yema empanada con jamón y manchego (R$6) – breaded egg yolk with ham and manchego cheese. For tapas dishes to share, there’s a solid selection on the menu, but the jamón serrano (R$28) – thinly sliced, cured Spanish ham – makes a good start.
Spanish wine can be ordered by the glass (R$15-$30) and the beer menu comprises a fine selection of weiss beers, as well as São Paulo’s often elusive Paulistânia lager (R$9.90 for 600ml). We sidestepped the cryptic cocktail menu, with house concoctions like the ‘Sancho’ listed by name but devoid of any explanation, and played it safe with a pisco sour (R$18). Not so safe, as it turned out: the drink came served in a champage flute, with no foam.
Perhaps the key is to stick to the Spanish stuff. The decor does just that, with an eclecticism that takes in everything from vintage bullfighting posters to Basque flags. The music, too, blends Spanish chart tunes and rock, with the live flamenco guitar show a real treat for Mondays (8.30-10.30pm). Bienvenido to Sancho, a well-pitched launchpad for a night out with friends.