Mercearia do Conde
Telephone (11) 3061 3810
Low lighting, leather seating and a discerning hush are the usual hallmarks of a classic cocktail bar. Not here. At bar. – cue confusions of the ‘let’s meet at bar.’, ‘which bar?’, ‘it’s just called bar.’ variety – it’s lively and loud, and packed with a flashy, good-time crowd. Coiffeured girls in heels and guys sporting pressed shirts flit between the bar’s two floors, where long, standing-room-only counters, and a smoking den out front under the striking jabuticaba tree, make mingling all the easier.
The drinks menu – which you may need a torch to read, printed as it is on black card – is extensive without quite straying into eccentricity. Of the fifty-odd cocktails on the menu, we tried a few stand-outs: the refreshing Smash de Pepino (R$25), with Tanqueray Ten gin, cucumber and lemon juice; the Scarface (R$29), a perfectly balanced take on a Negroni with whisky, red vermouth, Angostura bitters and orange essence (R$27); and the Bramble de Gengibre (R$27), a sweet blend of Tanqueray gin, Chambord, lemon juice and a delicate tang of ginger syrup.
This is not the sort of place you drop in at for just one drink, however: there’s a cover charge for live jazz and groove after 8.45pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays (R$30), and a minimum spend (R$60 women, R$120 men) after 8.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, when the party vibe ramps up, the cover charge is R$30.
Start things off with a bite to eat on the bright ground floor, where timber-clad walls, wooden tables and cream canvas chairs lend a Scandinavian minimalist air. The menu is an odd mix of upmarket bar food and ambitious novelties, such as the wasabi-stuffed lychees (R$23) or the slow-cooked pork (R$43), served in a cloying sweet raspberry sauce with Chinese buns.
Stick to the bar food, which is prepared to perfection, from the moist mini hamburgers (R$33) to the moreish oriental beef sandwich (R$33) – strips of soy-marinated beef, Dijon mustard and emmental cheese on toasted onion bread – or the bite-sized, deep-fried mushroom croquetas (R$25), with a sublime savoury mushroom filling inside a crunchy golden shell.
Leave your inhibition downstairs as the night draws on, and join the party people upstairs, getting their groove on in the black-walled back room, lit only by a handful of naked lightbulbs and dazzling white teeth.