As soon as my friend Maxine heard I was going to Brazil, she kindly sent me a wealth of info and advice from her own travels. She was especially adamant that I should experience one thing in particular – the legendary breakfasts at Alcino’s pousada in Lencois, the gateway to Chapada Diamantina national park.
Maxine’s recommendation wasn’t just because she knows me, my voracious appetite and willingness to travel far for exceptional food. Alcino and his breakfasts are renowned in Brazil and beyond. People travel for hours to stay at his small, chic yet welcoming pousada, and claim the breakfast is better than any other in the world, scorning famous names like the Ritz. Friends we met in Rio and Salvador were instantly jealous that we would be staying there. One proclaimed that the 7 hour bus journey from Salvador to Lencois would be worthwhile for breakfast at Alcino’s alone, even if we didn’t bother with the region’s main attractions of magnificent waterfalls, jungles and hills.
Upon arrival, knowing we would be feasting on the Breakfast of Breakfasts in a few hours, Mark and I went to bed as giddy as children on Christmas Eve. We had purposefully planned little else; Alcino’s website asks his guests to forget about two things – dieting and haste. My kind of guy…
As well as cooking and ceramics, another of Alcino’s talents is horticulture. At the back of the pousada is a large orchard where all sorts of tropical fruits grow, which invariably end up on the breakfast table.
An assortment of home-made jams, jellies and chutneys were offered to accompany fresh, hot rolls, cakes and breads. We also had a few different flavoured salts, home-made herb butters, ricotta, mozzarella, and yoghurt to play with.
Soon a steady procession of little plates started filling every spare bit of tablecloth. Many dishes seemed surprising choices for breakfast, but worked well.
Plus much more we were too busy enjoying to photograph: perfect scrambled eggs, curls of ham, sticky banana and chocolate squares, spiced poached apples, toasted granola, manioc pizza, etc etc.
All this was washed down with plenty of fresh juice (forget boring orange – at Alcino’s you get things like acerola or umbu juice), fine loose leaf teas and high quality coffee.
Not your typical backpacking fodder at all but Mark and I justified the extravagance because we were about to head into the jungle for a three day trek, where meals would be simply fuel and only what we could carry. This was definitely the right decision – the trek was incredible and allowed us to see some absolutely tear-jerkingly beautiful sights, but tough. Our guide told me I was “very strong” but the combination of the heat, steep climbs, heavy backpack, sleeping on rocks and drinking river water nearly broke me!
If you’re going to Lencois (or anywhere vaguely close) I highly recommend you visit Alcino – it’s a well deserved treat to offset the bootcamp-like bits of trekking in the stunning Chapada Diamantina.
(We paid 200 Brazilian reals for a double room at Alcino’s, which includes his legendary breakfast).