For some reason I’m rapidly gaining an unfounded reputation as a coffee snob, and café-hopping in Brazil is not helping.
I am surrounded by labels: Louis Vuitton, Alexandre Herchcovitch, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs, Reinaldo Lourenço. The only one I recognise and can afford is Havaianas, but somehow I suspect wearing a pair of flip-flops, even branded ones, isn’t the right apparel for coffee here.
Our friend Paowen tells us that Rua Oscar Freire is the Orchard Road of São Paulo. Thankfully there are far fewer cars and even fewer rabid shoppers out for the latest bargains. Instead this tree-lined street feels like an idealised Parisian boulevard where the locals are dressed immaculately and go about their day in an unhurried fashion. After all, where else would they rush off to? They are already here, and they are definitely waiting to be seen.
Neil, Paowen’s husband, passes his car keys to the valet after we tumble out of his Alfa Romeo. Parking can be a nightmare in the city and the Paulistanos are thus skilled almost from birth to manoeuvre their vehicles into the last square centimetre of available space. Better to let the professionals handle it.
There is usually a long line of customers waiting to get a table at Santo Grão, Paowen tells us, but today our lucky stars must be shining on us: we are seated within minutes. There is a light chill in the air and none of us smoke, yet it’s an outside table we all want.
One of the traditional activities of Rua Oscar Freire is people-watching and we weren’t about to miss out on the eye candy. Oscar Freire strikes me as not entirely beautiful in the classic sense (too man-made), but everyone sure is very pretty.
The coffee here at Santo Grão isn’t especially memorable. Perhaps the coffee itself is faultless, for how could it compete for attention against conversation amongst friends who have not seen each other in years?
While coffee isn’t everything, it certainly is in service of building memories, good ones that last a good long time.
Neil looks at my empty cup and asks, “More coffee?”
Definitely, I nod. Definitely.
Santo Grão Café
Rua Oscar Freire 413, Jardim Paulista, São Paulo 01426-001, Brazil
Mon 9am-1am / Tue-Thu 7:30am-1am / Fri-Sat 7:30am-2am / Sun 7:30am-12am