07 February 2011
Rio After Dark: Gimme the Night
Hot haunts in Rio for night owls out on the town.
Start your evening on top of the world. Take an open top Jeep to the Santa Teresa district, an artists' quarter nicknamed Montmartre Carioca. Its winding lanes set in subtropical forests are flanked with historic buildings and artists' workshops. A classic trolley car clatters its way through the narrow streets, infusing the atmosphere with antiquity and charm. Here, Restaurante Aprazivel sits high on a hill with tables set on a series of tumbling terraces offering fabulous views of the city. It serves wonderful local dishes - especially freshly caught fish. Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs hid out in a nearby house when he was on the run - the perfect hideaway. Rua Aprazivel 62-Santa Teresa, tel 2507.7334/2508.9174.
Alternatively, relax at the water's edge. Celebrated for its traditional Brazilian cooking, including feijoada and delicious fish, Bar e Restaurante Urca has a local, laid-back feel. The restaurant is upstairs, the bar on the street right beside the sea. Situated close to Sugar Loaf Mountain, it has a spectacular, tranquil setting overlooking the boats at anchor in Guanabara Bay. Rua Candido Gaffree, 205, tel 2295 8744.
But the real Rio action comes long after the sun goes down. Now's the time to hit the aces among the clubs. Tucked just behind Ipanema beach, 00 (Zero Zero) is the favoured haunt of Brazilian supermodel Gisele. Mick Jagger also appears when he is in town.
Don't ask for a caipirinha here. That will mark you down as a tourist. Instead go for a caipiroska de caju: cashews, fruit, vodka and ice. 00 has a tiny, intimate dance floor and another, cooler, one outside. It prides itself on its exclusivity and does not publish its contact details so consult the man who knows everything and everyone in Rio: Cassiano Vitorino at the Copacabana Palace.
After chatting with Vitorino you'll certainly want to drop by the hotel's Bar do Copa - a poolside heaven for hedonists. Recently opened after a R$4m makeover, its ceiling sparkles with 10,000 fibre optic lights that shine on black velvet like the diamond-bright stars in the night sky.
Wonderful cocktails pay tribute to the hotel's Hollywood past, especially the Astaire-Rogers movie Flying Down to Rio. The Fred Astaire martini is made with bourbon and blackberry cream; the Ginger Rogers a mix of gin apricot, brandy and lime. This is the place to see the most beautiful Brazilian women: the cariocas are a fabulous mix of European, Indian and African ancestry and at the weekend, when they glam up...wow.
Next stop is Rio Scenarium (pictured top), a three storey warehouse packed with crazy artefacts where the samba bands don't come on stage until midnight and only lay down their sweat-soaked maracas when daylight breaks. Fabulous young cariocas put on sexy salsa dancing here that would get them arrested in London or New York. Check out hot local band Joao Sabia - a kind of samba funk like nothing you've ever heard. Visitors - who have recently included Madonna and Sting - can't help but get up onto the floor. Rua do Lavradio, tel: 3147 9005.
Beware of long queues at the weekend. As an alternative, try the slightly less frantic Carioca da Gema, 79 Avenida Mem de Sa, tel: 2221 0043.
After years of neglect, samba is blasting out everywhere. Its revival is all part of Rio's growing self-confidence, spurred on by its increasing prominence on the world stage. So if you decide that this is the world's hottest, hippest city right now - just watch this space.
By Roderick Gilchrist, writer for UK publications including The Daily Mail and The Spectator
Where do you head to when the stars - of all kinds - come out?