Curry Clube and Favela Brass



A couple of years ago I was introduced to a friend of a friend of a friend in a bar in Rio. When I told her I lived in Santa Teresa and had a food blog, her face changed and she went “Ah! You must be the guy that does the Curry Club thing, right?”. Well, that was confusing! After further chat we established that there was another English guy called Tom who lived in Santa Teresa and he ran something called Curry Clube, a regular get together that involved curry and music.

Well, after I’d got over the fact that I was not the only English bloke called Tom in Santa Teresa, my mind turned to food. In fact it turned to curry! I know many foreigners living in Rio who pine for a decent curry – it really is one of those dishes so packed with flavour that when you get a hankering, nothing else will do. I decided I would have to meet this Tom fellow and go along to his Curry Clube. And do you know what? Approximately 2 years later, I finally made it!

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Favela Spirit


Sure local government should do these things, but when they don’t, we do it ourselves.

-Favela resident


Favelas are a touchy subject here in Brazil. I think I covered this subject in my previous post (What’s wrong with favelas?), so I’ll just add a minimal pre-emptive clarification: I don’t think favelas are fun or cool, but I do think they are legitimately interesting.

Back in Britain it is common to hear people lament the decline of “community spirit”. Of course there are plenty of great community projects and kind, helpful people, but as a general trend, people have become less sociable with their neighbours over the last 50 or so years.

Many people in London (and other large cities I’m sure) hardly speak to the people who live next door or across the hallway. It’s not uncommon to hear of people dying alone in their apartments and only being discovered days (or more) later when neighbours notice the smell.

I used to think that this phenomenon of people closing themselves off from their neighbours was caused by the population movement from small towns and villages into large cities and conurbations. It seems a logical reaction to a reduction in living space: people put up metaphorical walls to counter the fact that they are living in such close proximity to each other. But if that were true, how could you explain favelas?



Just a small section of Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela.

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Should I say Favela or Comunidade?

In a recent post I looked at the sensitive subject of favelas and described some of the ways that you can get into trouble when talking about them. But did you know that even the name can stir controversy?

The term favela has an interesting history. Back in the 1890s, various Brazilian forces fought a series of escalating battles with a group of 30,000 settlers in Canudos, a remote town in Bahia. The settlers were led by a charismatic mystic named Antônio Conselheiro who had spent much of his earlier life wandering the north-east of Brazil and picking up followers along the way.

Time and again, government forces underestimated the strength of the Conselheiro’s followers, suffering a series of humiliating defeats. Eventually the Minister of War got involved and sent a huge, well-armed force which utterly destroyed Canudos. It is said that more than 15,000 inhabitants were killed (many civilians were slaughtered after the initial resistance was stamped out).


the favela plant Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus

This is the Favela Plant (Cnidoscolus quercifolius), common in Bahia and other semi-arid areas of Brazil. It has long spines, it is a skin irritant and has similar effects to cyanide when eaten! An appropriate namesake for such a prickly, difficult, even poisonous topic.


When the massacre was complete (1897), the soldiers made their way to Rio. When they were recruited they had been promised housing in return for victory, but when they arrived in the capital they got a shock.

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What’s wrong with favelas?

I first became aware of the word “favela” when I was 12 or 13 – we watched a video in geography class about São Paulo. I don’t remember much about the video itself, but the word stuck in my head and 20 (ish) years later I find myself living right next to one.

Favelas are one of the most prickly subjects in Brazil. Get into a conversation about favelas with a middle class Brazilian and there is a good chance that you will find yourself in trouble before long. I once mentioned to a friend of a friend that Vidigal looked beautiful at night. He responded “Favelas are ugly. You think it is romantic to live without proper sanitation?”.

Vidigal favela at sunset

Vidigal (a favela next to wealthy Leblon) lights up as darkness falls.


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The challenging sound of Funk Carioca

I can’t speak for the whole of Rio, but if you live in or around my neighbourhood, you can’t have missed a distinctive new sound during the last month or two. The sound I’m talking about is a Funk Carioca (AKA Baile Funk) track called Fala Mal De Mim. I guess the literal translation would be “Speak badly of me”, but probably a better translation would be “Talk sh*t about me”. The artist responsible for this is MC Beyonce.



This is MC Beyonce. She’s seems very nice, just don’t talk sh*t about her hair or make up. And definitely don’t attempt to steal her boyfriend…


Wanna hear the track? OK, here it is:

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Big changes take time

I’ve been working hard on some big changes for the Eat Rio site over the last couple of weeks. Because of that I haven’t had so much time to write blog posts (though I’ve been trying not to leave it too long!). The changes are ongoing, but I hope to introduce the first of them to you in the next few days!

In the meantime I’d like to leave you with this photo of the gnarled face of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) that I took yesterday evening. From a distance it might seem like a nice smooth stone face, but when you take a closer look you can see that this ancient rock (600 million years old apparently) has a fair bit of wear and tear.


Sugarloaf close-up

The ancient rock of Pão de Açúcar in the background with more recent structures of Santo Amaro favela in the foreground. Notice the pipa (kite) swirling away over the rooftops.



Filming in Vidigal

One of the nice things about blogging is that once in a while some interesting spin-off opportunity comes along. A little while back I was contacted by a British television company who were looking for information about the restaurants and food scene in Rio. They were preparing to make programme in which a celebrity chef would travel through a selection of countries, learning about the local food and taking part in various cooking challenges. We had a couple of meetings, went for some drinks, I offered some suggestions and a few months later we were filming!

Vidigal from Leblon at sunset

Filming took place in the neighbourhood of Lapa and also in Vidigal, a favela next to Leblon. This is a shot of Vidigal taken from the beach in Leblon at sunset.


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Great food in a favela: Bar do David

Remember I was talking about Comida di Buteco recently? Well today I thought I’d tell you about one of the participants that I visited recently. Bar do David is located in Chapeu Mangueira, a favela in the neighbourhood of Leme, right next to Copacabana. It has been on the ‘favela food map’ for a while now, renowned for its excellent food, in particular a seafood feijoada.

So, last weekend we decided to go and see what all the fuss was about. The idea of seafood feijoada had already piqued my curiosity and when I realised it was involved in the Comida di Buteco competition I had one more reason to go!


One of the best favela restaurants in Rio, Bar do David is situated in Chapéu Mangueira, not a million miles from Copacabana.


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Wark This Way!

As regular readers of Eat Rio will know, I have a small obsession with graffiti. I love spotting new pieces as they appear and getting to recognise the work of particular artists or crews. Soon after I arrived here, one character caught my attention and the more I travelled within the city, the more I saw his rather unseemly face.

Not a particularly friendly or happy character is he?


I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of this series of often sneering characters. But they were striking and something about them really  jumped out at me. In my head I dubbed them ‘Ballmen’ and the more I looked around, the more I realised that there were many different variations dotted around the streets of Rio.

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