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It’s dark, it’s late and we’re on foot, heading down a barely-lit street with the grey walls of Consolação cemetery looming on our left. Have we taken a wrong turn in our hunt for Bravin? Shall we abort and scurry back to the warmth of Higienópolis’s busier streets just a block or two away? In the nick of time, Bravin’s discreet sign appears, and we head inside.
Bravin has an air of the illicit about it, much like its surroundings, and its history. Long before bars and restaurants started springing up in the area, in the past few years, the building, along with some of its neighbours on the street, was once a house of ill-repute. Inside, its intimate size and elegant interior – picture dark wallpapered ceilings and classic ’50s furniture – make it the perfect spot for a late-night tryst.
But what it’s really all about here is the wine. You need to sit up and listen, because there’s no wine list here, just a selection of around 20 wines, opened each night, with a set price per glass of R$21 for whites and R$22 for reds. Each so-called ‘glass’ is poured first into a 250ml mini decanter, and can easily then be split between two glasses, for a decent-sized snifter to accompany each course.
It’s a bold approach and one that’s backed up by an interesting, ever-changing wine cellar – where diners in search of a bottle rather than a glass are encouraged to take a look. The owner is Daniela Bravin, who earned her chops as one of the city’s most adventurous sommeliers working with top restaurateur Benny Novak before setting up Bravin in early 2012. Alert, attentive and looking nothing like most traditional sommeliers with her cropped hair and tattoos, Bravin circulates among the tables, taking orders and explaining the night’s selection with well-practised flair.
We opted for a gravadlax starter (R$26) – only slightly swayed by the menu’s offer of a prawn cocktail, another ’80s dinner party throwback. We split a ‘glass’ of mellow Chardonnay to accompany the thick slices of cured salmon, served with herbs, cucumber and a citrus cream.
The main courses here are hearty and unpretentious. We were talked into a glass of the light, delicate Cientruenos Garnacha 2010 from Navarra to go with an unexceptional bowl of fresh pappardelle with lamb ragoût (R$38). The excellent neck of lamb, on the other hand, came in tender shreds, piled on top of a pea risotto (R$49), with sweet cherry tomatoes constrasting with the sharp and salty fennel salami. Round things off with a nightcap in the classy bar downstairs.