Rio de Janeiro takes a casual approach to fine dining – think casual chic dress codes, rather than jacket and tie, and Ipanema’s best upscale restaurants are elegant without being stifling. But while even the best restaurants here lean towards the informal, the food and service are taken very seriously indeed.
Seafood fans, in particular, do well in Ipanema, with two top seafood restaurants – Fasano Al Mare and Satyricon – located in the neighborhood, while there’s an endless supply of top quality meat at Rio institution Porcao (the name may mean ‘big pig’ but don’t let that put you off!). There’s truly fine dining to be enjoyed just a couple of minutes’ walk away, at Le Pre-Catelan, an upscale French restaurant, while taking a stroll along the beach will uncover some surprisingly upscale dining options right on the beachfront, and the stunning backdrop makes any beachfront meal feel extra special. Ipanema is also the place to try a fine version of the national dish – feijoada – at a restaurant dedicated to this meaty beanfeast.
For small plates, the super-chic bar Baretto-Londra, at Hotel Fasano Rio, is the place to come to sip perfectly-mixed cocktails and nibble light finger foods while listening to DJs spin a rock and roll soundtrack to a crowd that regularly includes actors and models.
Your leisurely brunch comes with a refreshing sea breeze and stunning sea views at this al-fresco spot in the grounds of Copacabana Fort.
Breakfast is served at several outdoor table and, while service can be a little on the slow side, who’s in a rush when you’ve got a view over Copacabana beach and out to sea?
The ‘farmhouse breakfast’ (R$29) features corn cake, coffee cheese, baskets of bread, fruit and the delicious Brazilian speciality that is pao de quejo – little rolls of manioc flour and cheese. Come here with time to spare and take your time just soaking up the view and enjoying the cooling breezes.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: This sophisticated cafe-bar is just a stone’s throw from the Eastern end of Ipanema beach, and has some of the best beach views in town.
Lucy’s expert tip: This is a great place to sip a cocktail or reviving coffee after taking a stroll along Ipanema beach to Copacabana
Feijoada – a hearty bean and meat feast – is Brazil’s national dish, and no foodie worth their salt will want to leave Rio without having tried it.
Traditionally served only on Saturdays, Casa da Feijoada is one spot where you can feast on this delicious stew every day of the week.
Served with traditional sides such as fried ‘couve’ (spring greens), farofa (toasted and seasoned manioc flour) and a slice of orange ‘to lower cholesterol’, the feijoada itself combines all manner of cuts of meat slowcooke itd with beans, and is such a feast that Brazilians will usually enjoy over the course of several hours, turning feiijoada-eating into a major social activity.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: This is the best place to try Brazil’s national dish
Lucy’s expert tip: What better way to wash down the national dish than with the national drink – the caipirinha? Here you can try it with passionfruit as well as the more traditional lime.
Garota de Ipanema (Girl From Ipanema) is the spot where the legendary bossa nova song of the same name was penned. The songwriters Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were inspired by a beautiful girl who passed by the window of the bar as they enjoyed a beer each day, and today the spot is a major tourist attraction in its own right. The food is less remarkable than the bar-restaurant’s history, but it’s a nice place to enjoy a pizza and a beer in the late afternoon, and eagle-eyed visitors may even spot the original Garota de Ipanema herself – Heloisa Pinheiro – who lives nearby and is an occasional visitor to the bar.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: Bossa Nova lovers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to have a bite to eat and a drink here
Lucy’s expert tip: Singles, grab a window seat – you may spot your very own girl or boy from Ipanema passing by.
This retro-chic bar and restaurant enjoys a prime location in front of Ipanema beach, and just a short walk from Copacabana. Props to the place for maintaining a sense of fun while taking its food and drinks seriously. Top foodie picks are the seafood and pasta dishes, while the cocktail list is staggeringly long- there is even a menu entirely dedicated to gin and tonics. Meanwhile, beer drinkers can make themselves comfortable – waitstaff stroll around the bar selling ice-cold, freshly-poured chopp (draught beer) to customers right at their tables. The sidewalk patio is a wonderful place to watch the sun make its dramatic descent over Ipanema beach.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: Superior cocktails, meaty mains and superb sea views make this worth a visit
Lucy’s expert tip: This is a top spot for gin fans – there is an engiore menu dedicated to the drink
While Copacabana wins out as the most picture-perfect city beach in Rio, Ipanema is easily the more chic of the two neighboring stretches of sand.
Less flanked by high rise hotels than its neighbor, Ipanema is the ideal place to while away the hours just working on that tan and watching the beautiful people glide by. There are scores of kiosks selling tempting food and drink, too.
The towering twin peaks of the Dois Irmaos (two brothers) mountains frames the beach scene in spectacular fashion, and visitors will find the beach informally divided into social groups. Head to Posto Nove (Lifeguard post 9) for a young, hip crowd, or look for the giant rainbow flag if you’re looking for gay-friendly sunbathing and socializing.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: There are some surprisingly sophisticated dining options to be found along Ipanema beachfront, and the gorgeous views make any meal here feel special
Lucy’s expert tip: Rio’s beaches are its social spaces – don’t be afraid to try out your Portuguese if somebody catches your eye on the beach, just make sure they’re not already accompanied before you try out your lines!
Fresh, handmade pasta and wood-fired pizzas are the stars of the menu at this authentic Italian restaurant located at the meeting point between Ipanema and Leblon.
The restaurant specialises in dishes from the Emilia Romana region of Italy, and there’s been little tampering with the traditional recipes – alongside some of the best pizzas in the city, there’s a huge range of pastas, including lasagne, tagliatelle, ravioli, garganelli, tagliolini, cappelletti, tortelli and tortellini.
The couvert offers delicious small plates to be nibbled on while enjoying something from the good – and, by Rio standards reasonably priced, wine list, and an outdoor patio allows for al-fresco dining.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: Extremely good Italian food is served with flair at this long-standing foodie favorite.
Lucy’s expert tip: Bring plenty of cash – the restaurant doesn’t accept cards and Rio’s ATMs generally close at 10pm
Thanks to an enviable location at Copacabana’s closest point to Ipanema, Atlantis offers stunning views that take in the length of Copacabana beach. An outdoor seating area makes the most of these sweeping vistas, and the food on offer is just as appetizing as the visual feast. There are some solid renderings of French and European dishes, but locals flock here for the Saturday feijoada, the perfectly grilled picanha steak, and the famous Sunday seafood buffet. With attentive service and a perfectly-crafted caipirinha, this is one of the best spots in the city to enjoy dinner with a sea breeze.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: This lofty restaurant sits right between Copacabana and Ipanema, making and has stunning views across the sands.
Lucy’s expert tip: This hotel restaurant is open to non-guests, but book ahead to secure a table.
Ranked the best hotel bar in the world by style bible Wallpaper, this hip hangout at the upmarket Fasano Rio hotel is open to non-guests – but be prepared to book well in advance and pay steep prices for your immaculately-prepared drinks.The bar mixes British punk attitude with Italian flair, and sees vintage album art hung on the walls, and luxurious leather armchairs for lounging in. The regular clientele here includes models, actors and footballers, and with A-listers such as Madonna and supermodel Gisele popping in occasionally, you’ll need to pull out all the wardrobe stops if you want to fit in. Dishes are as light and elegant as the clientele – think delicate finger food rather than hearty mains.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: This is a favorite among models, actors and others looking for light meals and cocktails in A-list company
Lucy’s expert tip: Don’t come here if you’re ravenous – but expect first rate small plates and some of the best cocktails in town
This elegant seafood-focused Italian restaurant at the super-chic Fasano Rio hotel is a favorite among business people looking to impress clients, as well as with romantic types looking to impress their dates.
The Phillipe-Starck designed interiors have a cool, minimalist style with plenty of crisp white linen, and diners can request a private table separated from the main room by linen curtains. There are views over the beach, and the food is high quality, if also highly expensive. Chef Paolo Lavezzini joined the restaurant from the triple-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, and creates wonderful pastas and seafood risottos, as well as other dishes that combine local ingredients with Mediterranean flavors.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: This is one of the most elegant restaurants in Ipanema, serving delicious seafood with lovely sea views
Lucy’s expert tip: Italian restaurants can be a minefield for gluten-free diners, but Fasano Al Mare now has an entire tasting menu dedicated to GF delights.
This fine dining seafood restaurant in Ipanema is a favorite among adventurous eaters, who can tuck into octopus in various forms, as well as several types of crab, moquecas (seafood stew made with coconut milk and palm oil). Sushi, seafood risottos and seafood pasta dishes are tamer choices, and there are a handful of vegetarian-friendly side dishes, but this is really a place for those who appreciate seafood in all its wierd and wonderful forms. The restaurant attracts celebrity diners, too – Jared Leto is among the big names to have been spotted there. There’s a branch of Satyricon in the chic beach resort of Buzios, too.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Fine Dining because: This is, quite rightly, one of Ipanema’s most famous restaurants and one of the best places to eat seafood in Rio
Lucy’s expert tip: The lobster is a delicious – if predictably pricey – house speciality