The culinary arts may not have the same cachet as other arts when it comes to pushing the limits of creativity. But to varying degrees, chefs around the world are continually inventing and reinventing ways to prepare and present food. And we’re constantly discovering new rituals for consuming it.
Here in São Paulo, there are unlimited choices for the latter, often with price tags to match, from sitting face-to-face with the city’s best sushimen, to meals eaten blindfolded, private suppers in the midst of art galleries and even an ostentatious annual ‘dinner in the sky’ (dinnerinthesky.com) with a daring few diners suspended around a table, on a platform fifty metres above the city.
On a more down to earth scale, in a corner house in Pinheiros, two paulistano habits – dining and spending – are merged together in the form of antiques shop and restaurant, Restaurateur. A crowd of regulars pile into the candle-lit basement of the charming spot every Thursday night for a culinary experience that combines food and music with shopping, should one of the antiques catch your eye.
A carefully curated mix
Curating the evening is events promoter Maria Fernanda Corona, known as ‘Nanda’. The daughter of a passionate cook (Anariá Corona), and stepdaughter of an antiques dealer (Paulo Ribeiro Pereira), Nanda brought the two passions together four years ago. Adding in live jazz from musician friends, the result has been a word-of-mouth success.
The Thursday night dinner and jazz session was packed on our visit. Walking up the steps of the old house, past a rocking chair in the small glass entry hall and through to a room full of Pereira’s restored antiques, set the tone of old-world nostalgia from the start.
Down a small stairway to the basement, we discovered candle-lit tables set around a network of small rooms with exposed brick walls and a scattering of antiques. On hot evenings, head straight for the room with a fan and crocheted curtain. One of a handful of tables in an outside courtyard, near the jazz band, make an excellent choice, too.
Seek and ye shall find
Although the experience is intentionally informal (think mid-week dinner at a friend’s place), don’t let the somewhat disorganized service sour the experience. There may be food options that aren’t on the menu, so look for the specials on the blackboard behind the counter, and ask if there are other choices available. We only realised there were other options when we spied a plate of roast beef and vegetables on a neighbouring table which wasn’t on the menu. We opted for the cuscuz à paulista – a circular seafood and corn terrine.
Booking is a must, though punctuality is optional; scheduled to start at 8pm, the jazz trio only got going at 10.30pm. The crowd is refreshingly eclectic in a city where tribes rarely mix – we dined along with groups of twentysomethings, hipsters and and couples over 35.
If you take a shine to a painting on the wall, or perhaps one of the mirrors or chandeliers, or maybe even the table and chairs you’re sitting on, why not take it home? Everything, or practically everything (they refuse to part with the candelabra with a frog base stand), is for sale. Just get Nanda or Anariá to add it to the bill.
Restaurateur is at Rua Cardeal Arcoverde 1479, Pinheiros (3032 4272, restaurateureventos.blogspot.com). Open 8pm-2am Thursdays. Main courses R$32; cover charge R$15-$20. No cards accepted. Bookings essential.