One of the restaurants that popped up my research about Belo Horizonte was Glouton – a highly recommended restaurant applying French style cooking techniques to Brazilian ingredients and food. One of the recommendations came from the new discovery trail from the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants website. Since I’ve been lucky enough to experience a few on their lists over the past year, I thought it was a good chance to visit this restaurant when I was in town. Before leaving, I reached out via their contact form, using Google Translate to put in a request for a table on the day that I arrived in Belo Horizonte. I figured I’d be a little bit tried after the 13 hour London-São Paulo + 5-hour layover + another flight but I thought having something to look forward to would help me stay awake. I asked for a table at 19:30 on a Thursday, when the restaurant actually opens.
After arriving at the hotel, relaxing and trying to get connected with a Brazilian sim (it’s almost quite impossible if you can’t speak Portuguese!) I left for the restaurant by foot to see the sights. I arrived only about two minutes before the restaurant opened but since the front door was open, I went inside. A waiter greeted me, only to realise I couldn’t speak Portuguese and he wasn’t comfortable in English. He fetched the Head Chef (Leo Paixão) who spoke English very well and greeted me, and communicated how everything would work as I made my way to the table.
An English menu arrived alongside the Portuguese one, although I was able to understand enough of the Portuguese to be able to decide on what I wanted to have. When the waiter saw that I was ready, he signed to say he was going to get the chef, but I pointed, nodding, indicating I could order by pointing. One of the recommended dishes as a crispy pork belly, however I was thrown off whilst ordering when I realised there were two pork dishes and I didn’t know which one was which. I pointed to one, and the pointed at my belly – hoping the waiter would understand what I was trying to say. He did, although he responded by pointing to his neck, which helped me choose the right dish after all. A little bit complicated, but happy I could still accomplish what I needed to do.
I ended up ordering a few small bites, a main and a dessert and contemplated the wine menu. They had sections for wines by the glass (mostly from South America – yay!), wines in a carafe (mostly European wines) and then a large selection of bottles. I was fascinated to see a significant section of the sparkling wines came from Brazil and I was almost tempted to order a full bottle, but decided it was a bad idea because I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I ended up ordering a glass of a Chilean red, that still arrived in a small carafe! The restaurant is split into two areas, an indoor, air-conditioned one, and an outdoor space which I didn’t get to have a close look at. Relaxing music, what I imagine fits to the more-relaxed Brazilian culture, piped through the restaurant and the tables all around slowly filled up.
I expected the two bite-sized snacks to actually be a little bit smaller than what they ended up as. First up was the Beef Carpaccio and shortly followed up with the more traditional Cheese dumplings served with honey.
The Carpaccio was wonderful, with delicate citrus notes from lemon zest freshening the entire dish, contrasted with the peppery rocket and texture contrast provided by the toast bread.
The cheese parcels are quite a typical dish, and this was very well executed. What could have been a sloppy, oily mess with cheese oozing out of one side and an empty bite of fried pastry on the other showcased a perfect bite. The cheese had slightly melted, but each mouthful had the crisp pastry accompanied by its meaty, salty cheese and then with a touch of honey, providing the ideal sweet, salty contrast like a Canadian stack. Both of these “snacks” would have worked fine as a single appetiser, so it took me a while to get to the next course and was glad for the pause in between.
The main event was the Pressed pork belly served with crunchy farofa (tapioca flour), pineapple chutney and kale. I was very impressed by the portion size, and just as impressed by all the flavours. The pork was fall-apart soft topped with a perfectly thin but crisp crackling. The farofa was much better than anything I had experienced in Brazil with a multitude of textures and flavours formed from its golden brown toasting and slivers of flaked almonds generously added. The pineapple chutney brought the much needed acidity to the classic pork dish without being overwhelmingly sweet and I was glad to see greens on the plate to make me not feel too guilty about the meal.
Out of the dessert menu, I was very tempted to try the guava pie. It is something that my colleagues later informed me was very typical of the area but as I sat in the restaurant, the recommendations from reviews were to try the mango pie, which I ended up ordering. Out of all the dishes, this one was my least favourite – namely because I though that a pie would have some flaky, or crunchy element. Instead, this was a bit more like a light sponge decked in a sticky sweet mango puree, mounted on some fruit and finished off with a beautiful scoop of raspberry sorbet. The sorbet did provide a good contrast from the mango’s sweetness, but I found it slightly too sharp against all the flavours. A good dessert, but I should have tried the guava pie.
By the time I left, I guess it was a bit more normal entertaining time for the Brazilians as the restaurant was pretty much full – just as my stomach was after the decadent meal. This is a great place for a particularly special occasion as their prices as significantly more than what you’d pay in your average restaurant.
Found at: Rue Bárbara Heliodora, 59 – Lourdes, Belo Horizonte – MG, 30180-130, Brazil