In Hong Kong, you’d slurp down a bowl of noodles. In New York, it might be a falafel wrap or a slice of pizza. In London, more often than not it’s a sandwich at your desk, crumbs gathering in the keyboard. Lunch: each city has a favourite way of doing it.
For São Paulo's hordes of office workers, lunch is all about speed, and that’s where buffets come in. Scores of these lunch-only eateries vie for customers in the city’s business hubs, which means you can find excellent, impressively varied arrays of food.
Choose between two types of buffet: all-you-can-eat preço fixo, or pay-by-weight quilo spots, where you simply grab a plate and start loading it. A word of caution: browse what’s on offer first, strategise for a moment, then help yourself. Here’s our round-up of eight of the best buffet lunches.
Rua Bela Cintra 1343, Jardim Paulista, 3062 3727, apfel.com.br
Feast on pastas, gnocchi, salads and other seasonal treats at this veggie buffet, set in a delightful ivy-covered townhouse. Read more on Apfel
Rua Pedro Humberto 9, Itaim Bibi, 3074 6363, bardesarts.com.br
The stunning setting in an old mansion, and the ample buffet, filled with Mediterranean-style dishes and salads, make this a perfect spot for a long lunch. Sit in the garden if the sun is out. Read more on Bar des Arts
Rua Pedroso Alvarenga 1061, Itaim Bibi, 3073 0354
This lunch-only buffet is something of a city institution, and popular for business lunchers. The choices may be limited, with only three or four hot mains, but each dish is hearty, served with comforting sides and game-changing salads, prepared by Beth and her team. The downside? Desserts aren't included. Read more on Beth Cozinha de Estar
Buffet R$48 (R$39 Sat).
Rua Oscar Freire 1607, Pinheiros, 3063 0533, laschicas.net.br
The duo behind the critically acclaimed restaurant Carlota have set up this diminutive, girly space. Go alone or in twos or threes to sample the buffet, with a daily changing choice of salads and four hot dishes like roast beef and tarts. Round off with a chocolate tart served in a teeny tin mug (R$9). Read more on Las Chicas Gourmet Garage
Buffet lunch R$45-$55.
Viaduto Nove de Julho 160 (upstairs), República, 3255 4263, nutrisom.com.br
Dating back to 1980, this is one of the old guard of vegetarian buffets downtown. Go for the top-quality dishes, made with a creative twist. Nutrisom also have a newer location in Vila Olímpia (Rua Ramos Batista 443, Vila Olímpia, 2639 5799, buffet R$31)
Buffet R$19.90 ( R$27 Sundays)
Rua Leopoldo Couto de Magalhães 831, Itaim Bibi, 3078 3351, rascal.com.br
Get your fill of quiches, marinated vegetables, cheeses galore, breads and salads before hitting the hot dishes, via the pizza and pasta counters, and the meat grill. Because you love a challenge. Read more on Ráscal
MASP, Avenida Paulista 1578, Bela Vista, 3253 2829
A great discovery down in the basement of the Museu de Arte São Paulo, this ample buffet serves a solid selection of savoury dishes. Be sure to leave room for the delicious desserts. Read more on Uni MASP
Avenida Ipiranga 200, República, 3120 4442
Head for the ground floor of the iconic Copan building for self-service pasta and grilled meats. Read more on Varanda
Buffet R$40.90 per kilo; fixed price R$29.90.
All prices are correct as of July 2012