Bringing a bit of beach culture, not to mention wrigglingly fresh fish, to the heart of the city, is Peixaria, whose fishmonger-meets-restaurant formula is still commanding hour-long lunch queues after almost a year in business. Deck chairs, cheerful orange buoys, baskets of fresh fruit and veg and fairy lights in fishing nets adorn the quirky, colourful space, striking a note somewhere between supersized beach hut, fisherman’s shed, and rural grocery store.
Groups of diners are escorted to tables outside on the pavement, or up on one of the restaurant’s two mezzanine floors, over one of which presides a doughty old tree, left to grow up through the glass roof. In the main atrium, look up and you’ll come face to face with a giant plastic fish, suspended from the ceiling like a leftover from the set of Jaws.
The menu is expansive, covering all the Brazilian fishy favourites – that is, moqueca fish stew (R$48),camarão na moranga(shrimp-stuffed pumpkin, R$24.90) and the like – as well as foreign classics such as paella (R$48). Order some caipirinhas (R$14), which come in glass jars, ready shaken, and sit back and take your time. The food, while good, is far from five star, so this is one for a fun, laid-back lunch rather than a gourmet treat.
|The fried squid at Peixaria
Our fried starters – octopus balls (R$28) and crab pastries (R$26) – were high on the filling-to-pastry ratio, though a little on the greasy side. A coal-fired barbecue in an upturned canoe churns out grilled fish and seafood – we tried the meca (R$32), a meaty, tasty fillet, served with black-eyed peas, tomato salsa and farofa (toasted manioc flour). Meca is one of a selection of giant river fish that also include pirarucu, filhote, and tambaqui.
The Chapa Andaluzia mixed grill (R$68) came with pieces of meca plus shrimp, octopus, mussels and disappointingly undercooked lagostins (crayfish). Coffee (R$5.50) is done the old fashioned way with individual coffee filters dripping into tin mugs, served with cake and shavings of rapadura (unrefined sugar), nicely rounding off the novelty, rustic charm at Peixaria’s heart.