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Step through a discreet entrance and through a long passageway to find a scattering of tables set under a large tree hung with lanterns, in the back yard of a beautifully converted house. This is Vila das Meninas.
Karine and Renata are the two girls (meninas) in question, both from Minas Gerais, whose delightful home dinners in São Paulo were such a hit with their friends that they decided to go pro and open this cosy, homely homage to modern comida mineira. A beautifully illustrated paperback laid on the table reveals soulful dictums and the story behind the restaurant – but that’s no paperback: it’s the menu.
Inside it, a beautiful-looking camarão no coco – prawn served in a coconut,with a ‘coating’ of rice around the rim – tempts us; but we opt finally for what turns out to be perfectly-cooked costeleta de cordeiro com aspargos (asparagus and lamb chops). The confit de frango com jiló caramelizado is another good pick – tender chicken served with the famously bitter fruit jiló, which is delightfully transformed here into thick, caramelised slices. We finish up with a fork-fight over a round of doces caseiros (homemade sweets) with queijo minas (Minas Gerais cheese).