What is it about Mount Maunganui that’s luring Brazilians – to open new eateries and stores? We don’t really qualify as a sun-drenched Brazil of the South Pacific. But at least one new immigrant calls it paradise here, which goes some way to explaining a South American influx estimated at more than 3,500 people.
The new settlers are full of praise for the friendliness and ‘accepting’ nature of the locals, but we reap the benefits. We get an invigorating blast of South American diversity and colour - in tasty foods like Churrascaria – traditional Brazilian barbecue. And the tropical style and panache of Brazilian designers behind products like Havaianas – otherwise known as ‘the world’s best flip flops.’
The Mount has become the heart of this South American sub-culture that already includes restaurants, takeaways, clothing and footwear, and tattoos...with more on the way. Here’s our quick take on who’s who, and where to find them.
Brazilian partners Alex Aragao and Lucas Fleury opened this wood-clad tapas restaurant on Maunganui Road (near Mt Mellick pub) just before Christmas. Alex speaks of the Mount as paradise and says its word of mouth attracting so many South Americans. Lucas agrees, adding ‘it’s not Disneyland,’ you have to work hard but you reap the rewards. He’s at pains to emphasise the support they’ve received from the locals, and thank them for being so ‘accepting.’
Armazem is the Portugese word for an old fashioned grocery store of the kind usually owned by one family. The large restaurant and bar with plenty of outside courtyard seating, has 12 appetisers (tira gusto) priced from $6 to $14. Freshly baked Brazilian cheese bread is popular, but the choices run to Brazilian sausages, fried polenta fingers and marinated chicken hearts.
Mains are priced from only $15 to $23, and include the popular Brazilian staple dish ‘PF’ – seasoned rice, Brazilian beans, farofa (toasted and seasoned cassava flour), salad and beef, chicken or fish. For diehard Kiwi diners, the restaurant serves dishes labelled ‘the New Zealand side of Brazil,’ lamb shanks and fish and chips.
Happy Hour (s) runs from 2pm to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, with tapas and other finger food promoted with the drinks. Brazilian beers Skol and Bhrama will soon be available. A Brazilian duo plays their music on Thursday nights. Tel 574 - 7773 .
Along Maunganui Road in downtown the Mount, opposite Latitude, the focus is on the traditional Brazilian barbecued meats known as churrascaria, and dine in or takeaway meals priced from a mere $5. Owner Shaun Robb is a Kiwi builder turned restaurateur, who’s lived in L.A. and spent time in South America with his Argentinean former partner. He imported the specialised griller and hired a Brazilian barbecue chef, along with other Brazilian staff.
They are cheap, healthy meals with a selection of pork, chicken, picanha (rump) or homemade sausages, and a range of salads. The meals are priced Brazilian-style with the diner choosing the quantity; the food is weighed on electronic scales and priced accordingly. It means you can have a healthy meal for as little as $5 or $6 and diners have largely taken happily to the unusual ‘sold by the kilo’ payment method. Brazilian BBQ sells certified organic Icoco coffee. Tel 574 3501.
Also in downtown Mount Maunganui, in the former Line 7 shop, the colourful store is run by Fernanda Braga (the wife of Amarzem’s Alex Aragao), Debora Paz and Claudine Paiva. The idea for the store came about because there were no Brazilian shops or anything similar to cater for the growing number of South Americans living locally.
All the merchandise B stocks is imported from Brazil, including clothing and swimwear from big name designers like Morena Rosa, Totem and Bossa Nova. The footwear ranges from popular Haviaiana jandals in a mind blowing choice of different styles and colours, to handmade leather sandals and handbags.
Uno magazine reports that B original expect to sell a whopping 250,000 pairs of Havaianas this summer, in the store which ‘lets locals experience a bit of Brazil.’ A spacious, cool and friendly place, the store features a huge mural of Corcovado, the mountain that towers over Rio Di Janeiro, with a remarkable resemblance to Mauao (the Mount). Tel 572 5973.
Tattoo You, Too!
Parked next to the Armazem restaurant is the spectacularly sign-written Hammerhead Tatu Bus. You guessed it...run by Brazilian Rodrigo ‘Nasa’, who’s studied tattooing in countries including Brazil, Samoa and Tahiti.
Rodrigo moved to Tauranga in 2005 and launched his 11 metre mobile tattooing studio last year. He’s planning to open a tattoo parlour where his bus is now parked. His favourite style is ‘a fusion of Maori and Pacific Islands designs and the beautiful colourful Japanese body suits.’
On the other side of Amarzem another South American outlet will open soon, a sushi bar called Satori Lounge run by a Chilean. More on that later, and of course, Mundo Mexicano, a Mexican restaurant which opened last winter.
The way things are heading, the Mount will soon be the country’s most notable South American melting pot – a hub of Brazilian food and culture. Lindo maravilhoso (marvellous)!