São Paulo – off the beaten track

The first impression of this magnificent architectural front that rises on the road to Santa Ines, in the heart of the Serra da Cantareira on the outskirts of São Paulo is impressive grandiosity. The place is enormous and spellbinding. Surrounded by greenery, the buildings are in a style almost reminiscent of citadels. There is always an unusual and rustic detail on show. O Velhao is a reclamation and salvage yard often commissioned to restore some of the city’s most prominent sites.

Moacyr Archanjo Santos built a dream in the 80s and his dream lives on, allowing us to travel back in time. Apart from the restoration, O Velhao holds surprises like As Veia, the main restaurant of this complex, which occupies a large space on the premises surrounded by other small businesses. The complex houses an off-license selling the national tipple cachaça only, a small cafe, small artefacts shops, a photography shop, pizza place, and a snooker hall among other businesses.

All furniture comes from the reclamation yard, the guests change tables from course to course, as you feel you must take in all details while you are there. The building has dimensions of a strange fantasy, in the wood stove, a profusion of clay vessels, stairs and vaults. You want to look, drink and eat everything. All food on display is fresh and exciting. It is the perfect and most relaxing place to meet and celebrate with family and friends. This place makes you feel at home. The kitchens are open to visit and it’s a pure pleasure to meet the staff.

Under the command of Iracema, aided by Eliane Birinha, the restaurant operates from Monday to Monday noon. During the week, I was told it’s pretty quiet, when you will have a chance to talk with Iracema, who even at the most hectic moments, takes care of everything. On Saturdays is dinner at candle light. Divine! Sometimes they have live music. The entertainment on the day we went was a Italian singer celebrating Italian Christmas. We have a large Italian community in Brazil mostly based in São Paulo.

There is no menu, it’s set price and you eat as much as you can from two buffets set over two different rooms. The cold food and salads is by the entrance and the other is a hot buffet on top of a enormous wooden stove set in the big dining room. The food is diverse and vast and there is something for everyone.

Caipirinha costs R$ 10 (equivalent to £5), bottled water RS$ 2 (less the £1) , desert 5 pieces for R$ 7 (about £2.5). Once you get there you are given a numbered piece of paper called comanda, where the staff write all extras like drinks and deserts and you pay all at the end of your stay. What a feast! Amazing atmosphere, intriguing place, delightful guests and staff.

As Veia was a great find about 40 minutes from city centre of São Paulo. I look forward to going back to taste more of their food over a long lunch. We arrived at mid-day and left at 8pm. Now that’s a long lunch!

Here is the lovely Maria Edna’s special recipe for Bolinho de Arroz:

cooked rice
green pepper diced
onion diced
minced garlic
small pieces of diced chicken
small pieces of white fish
Flour, splash of milk and one egg

Mix all ingredients till creamy, not runny consistency.
Deep fry and serve immediately.

O Velhao
Estrada de Sta. Inês, 3000
Sao Paulo
tel: 4485-1964 | 4485-4195 | 4485-2084
email: velhao@velhao.com.br


Words by Rosana McPhee. You can read more of Rosana’s writing on Brazilian food at Hot and Chili.

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