Botafogo blowing up

A strange, distantly-remembered feeling came over me on my first visit to São Paulo. I was standing outside some funky bar in Vila Madalena and there was a young couple standing next to me. As I stood there I gradually became aware that the uneasy feeling I was experiencing was somehow related to them.  I slyly looked them over – she looked like she’d cut her own hair that morning, he was wearing jeans and some super-cool t-shirt and both of them had a generous smattering of badass tattoos.  I looked down at my standard-issue Rio attire: Havianas, plain shorts, run-of-the-mill t-shirt and unadorned skin. It hit me with a jolt: for the first time since I left London back in 2009 I was feeling deeply uncool.


The Slow Bakery – notice how half the people in this picture are looking at me like “You’re not cool enough to be in here…”


Rio has many great things going for it – beautiful landscapes, fantastic places to eat and drink, a friendly, easygoing vibe – but until relatively recently I felt that it lacked the kind of intimidatingly cool subculture that is par for the course in most major cities. I’m not saying that Cariocas are nerdy – they’re generally awesome. And no doubt there were amazing parties and scenes that I never became aware of due to my own undeniable lack of cool.  But overall, the general scene seemed to be more ‘casual’ than ‘hipster’.

People here tend to dress for the beach – shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops. And on the subject of t-shirts (surely one of the greatest opportunities to show the world how awesome you are) Cariocas are the only people on earth I’ve encountered who widely choose to wear tourist t-shirts. Images of Sugarloaf Mountain and Cristo Redentor abound – slogans singing the praises of Ipanema and Copacabana are commonplace. Where else would such garb be worn, unironically, by the locals?

But in the last few years I’ve noticed a change in the air. Awesome little bars and restaurants have been popping up. I’ve been seeing menus featuring obscure international street foods, pro-biotic fermented drinks and artisanal ales. There are little cafés and bistros with locally sourced ingredients and a plethora of places regularly hosting guest chefs. This exciting wave of innovation has spread across the whole city, but one neighbourhood seems to be at the centre of it all: Botafogo.

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Finding positivity through food

Well that was a bit of a shock wasn’t it? I actually started writing this post before the US election, but what I started then seems to be getting more appropriate by the day. I hope you’re all hanging on in there – 2016 has been a real stinker hasn’t it? I can’t help wondering if this is the beginning of some larger process by which our civilisation destroys itself (there’s a cheery Friday Thought for you!). Or, who knows, maybe this painful shake-up is needed in order to fix some fundamental flaws in the system. Here’s hoping it’ll all work out for the best…


Posts on Eat Rio have been pretty sparse this year for a couple of reasons. There were two very busy periods during which I just didn’t have time to blog – I was writing a guide book in the first few months of the year and then we had the mayhem of the Olympics.

But for the rest of 2016, things have been very quiet. Business has been tough for everyone working with tourism in Rio – guesthouse owners, tour guides, restaurant managers and even taxi drivers all tell me that things are slow. It makes me wonder whether the net effect of the Olympics was really as positive as many people seem to think. Sure a lot of people came for the event itself, but the Olympic spotlight meant that every negative story related to Brazil was picked up, magnified and printed in sensationalistic headlines across the world.

So why wasn’t I bombarding you with a plethora of posts during the quiet times? Well, to be honest, current events have been so depressing that it’s been hard to know what to say. Both in Brazil and further afield, you have to wonder if some kind of previously undescribed form of insanity is taking hold of the world. Symptoms include aversion to logical reasoning, intolerance, lack of compassion for others, angry outbursts and hysterical demands to return to “the good old days” (which actually weren’t that good when you stop and think about it). One small cause for optimism is that younger generations appear to be less susceptible to this worrying condition.

Well, whether it’s a nose-diving local economy or the direction of global politics (or a spouse living in a different continent!), I guess we all have to find ways of dealing with aspects of the world that make us miserable. My main source of positivity this year has been food.


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The Olympics, Eat Rio food projects and New York

Hello Eat Rio readers! After another prolonged break I’m back. Let’s kick things off with the Olympics. What were your impressions? To me it seemed like things went pretty well – I was working non-stop so didn’t get to see any actual sporting events, but I picked up a lot of feedback from my food tour guests and generally people had very good things to say. I also managed a quick visit to the Olympic Boulevard one afternoon.


On a rare day off I got to see the Olympic Boulevard. Despite the warnings of Zika, crime and deadly pollution, everyone seemed to be having a thoroughly nice time.

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What’s been going on?


Hashtag fans: #thehuntrio


Hi readers! It’s been a little while since my last entry and there are quite a few things to talk about today, so I thought I’d do today’s post as a kind of bulletin:

After 5 years it’s official: Eat Rio is a “Popular Website”

Eat Rio will be 5 years old next Tuesday! When I wrote that first post back in 2011 I had no idea that this little vanity project would have such a transformative effect on my life. A website is only relevant if it has readers so a big thanks to all of you who’ve visited over the years.

Those of you who follow the Eat Rio Facebook page will have seen that local English-language news site, The Rio Times, featured an interview with me yesterday (here’s the link). The reporter, Chesney Hearst, was super-nice and asked me lots of questions about my book, The Hunt Rio de Janeiro (plug: now available to purchase on-line in the US, the UK and Brazil!).  I’m going to tell you lots more about the book in the next post (bet you can’t wait!), but I was rather tickled to see Eat Rio described in the article as a “popular website”. Readers, it’s been a long journey but we finally made it!

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Food tasting with the English Club

Fight Club Font

The first rule of English Club is you do not talk about English Club. The second rule of… Hang on – I’m thinking of something else. It’s actually totally fine to talk about English Club – it is comprised of 4 kids (aged 6-10) who live in Rio and like to get together from time to time to hang out and work on their English skills.

I met Alice, Lena, Nayana and Raoul last month when they invited me to join them for an afternoon of food tasting and discussion.

Before I arrived the kids had already been talking about their favourite foods and thinking of different ways to describe them. For me this is one of the great challenges of food writing – how do you get beyond “it’s delicious” or “it tastes bad” to find a more meaningful way to describe food and drink?

We all love to laugh at experts describing wine with ridiculously floral language (“I’m getting pencil shavings and a hint of cat pee”) but I started to sympathise the first time I tried to describe the flavour of Cupuaçú. One of our Eat Rio Food Tour guests once described this weird-tasting fruit as “like eating all the Skittles at once” which I thought was a pretty good effort!

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That Open Letter to Brazil


Simple truths vs. A nuanced argument

In politics and in life, people like simple truths don’t they? It’s far more satisfying to hear someone ‘tell it like it is’ than it is to endure the lily-livered vacillations of a nuanced argument. Just look at what’s going on in the US right now if you’re in any doubt about that. The problem with simple truths is that while they are always simple they are rarely true.

I’ve been thinking over the subject of today’s post for a while and I expect many of you will partly, or entirely, disagree with my thoughts and conclusions. Other opinions are available and if you disagree with mine then fair enough, I’d be interested to hear your views in the comments section (you might even succeed in changing my mind).

The object of my pondering is “An Open Letter to Brazil” that did the rounds a few weeks back. The author is a “writer, thinker and life-enthusiast [who] writes personal development advice that doesn’t suck” (his words). He writes articles with titles like “How to attract women” and “Shut up and kiss her”. Quite the intellectual then…

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Eating Rio Again


Look who’s back! It’s a cheery Shimu from Toz.


There’s something rather depressing about visiting a blog for the first time in ages and finding it hasn’t been updated since your last visit. All those plans and aspirations of the author seem to be lying in a heap like some abandoned, unfinished construction project…

Well that ain’t happening to Eat Rio! Although this has been by far the longest I’ve gone without posting, my excuses are pretty solid.

First off, I’ve been writing a book! Facebook and Instagram followers will have seen the odd mention of this project – it completely took over my life from last October until about a week ago. Before you get any ideas of book launches and a glittering career as a novelist, it’s not that kind of book. It’s a guide book to Rio for an existing series of city guides. All the material is now in the hands of the editor/publisher so I finally have my life back and you can expect more information (and for me to plug it madly) once it’s published later this year.

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Back from Mexico


Detail from a huge mural by brilliant Mexican artist Diego Rivera.


Yesterday something quite extraordinary happened to me: I had a day off.

Of course it wasn’t a real day off – I answered about 25 work-related emails in the morning and did a few house-keeping jobs on the website in the afternoon – but, as you can see, I also found enough free time to finally write a new blog post.

Life has been pretty hectic recently. This time last week I was in Mexico with my colleagues from FoodieHub (formerly ‘Chowzter’).

FoodieHub have been making massive improvements recently so the trip to Mexico was a great chance to catch up with old friends and discuss how everything is going. For those unfamiliar, FoodieHub is a network of independent food writers located in cities all over the world. Each expert recommends the essential places to eat in their city, from street stalls and traditional family-run establishments right the way up to luxury fine dining. As the FoodieHub expert for Rio I guess I am duty-bound to recommend the service, but as it happens I’ve been using the site for all of my travels over the last 18 months and I’ve found it to be a brilliant way to track down the essential eats in unfamiliar cities (check out my list for Rio here).

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Rio de Janeiro

A Brand New Eat Rio


Feijoada. Because by the time you read this it will probably be Saturday Sunday.


Hello readers! Remember me? I’m not sure whether a 7 week break can really be called a hiatus, but that’s what I’m going with. I’ve probably gone on about this too much recently, but things have been really busy over the last few months! There have been all kinds of adventures – lots and lots of food tours, recruiting new staff, dabbling in a little catering, changing accountants and getting boring businessey stuff organised, working with a major US broadcaster, preparing for an upcoming trip to Mexico and also working on the brand new Eat Rio website. Oh yeah, and it looks like an actual physical book with my name on it could possibly be appearing next year!

The book thing has not been confirmed yet so we’ll have to see how that goes, but the new website is almost upon us. Now then, long-term readers will read the last part of that last sentence with a certain amount of (justified) scepticism. Over the last 18 months I’ve mentioned this ‘new website’ many times but until now it has been all talk. But the time has finally come! With the help of Tamara at Just Add Glitter, the new site is finally done!

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Dangerous fun in the skies over Niterói


Long exposure of a plane taking off into the night sky over Guanabara Bay with Niterói in the background.


Have you ever had one of those moments when you saw something so weird that you just couldn’t explain it? A few years ago I had such a moment when I was looking out over Guanabara Bay towards Rio’s near neighbour, Niterói. The night sky above the bay is often pretty busy – passenger jets taking off and landing at Santos Dumont airport, helicopters buzzing around, perhaps the odd fireworks display or some beams of light coming up from a concert somewhere. However, on this occasion I spotted something quite different.

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