Sao Bento Church Monthly Brunch

By Total Sao Paulo staff on 9 February 2011 –

Those seeking a heavenly experience may already find it in Sao Bento church’s regular Sunday mass, which is accompanied by monks bellowing out Gregorian chants. But come the last Sunday of each month, the spiritual satiation comes with a slightly different slant and arouses the other senses: gastronomical, in the form of a high-brow brunch where indulgence is no sin.

 While attending mass isn’t a pre-requisite for the brunch, it’s worth it to see everyone dressed in their Sunday’s best and packed into the pews. But the singing’s the main draw for non-religious types. As people quiet down, you can’t help but imagine the roaring throngs outside when Pope Benedict XVI made his appearance and addressed them from a balcony in 2007.
Though the mass begins at 10 a.m., we could hardly find a seat even at 9:30 a.m. Pretty much exactly on the hour, a group of monks dressed in black robes slowly filed into the church and began their chanting over a hushed crowd as an organ played. The sermon followed, with the monks singing a handful of Gregorian chants in between.

Around 11:30 a.m., brunch-goers make their way down a long hall decorated with sculptures made from cedro-rosa wood by important Brazilian religious artist Helio Petrus and various paintings, past a small theater to the center of the building and into a dining room that looks out into an inner courtyard. The day we went, we passed by two young Chinese-Brazilian girls practicing the zheng in one of the rooms, whose music echoed throughout the building. In the eating area, a saxophonist and guitarist performed classical music.

 But that immaculate dining room is exactly where foodies will find their Heaven: Laid out across the tables are dozens of entrees and desserts, from cod and purees to quiches and cheeses, plus different varieties of cakes like lemon pie and chocolate cake. If the spread seems decadent, it is: At R$99 a head, this very well could be a Last Supper that Jesus may of wished he had. A variety of bread and baked goods are available as well—some of which are made by Sao Bento monks and available inside the on-site store inside the church. Everything can be washed down with champagne or coffee and spirits, and waiters walk around refilling diners’ glasses with berry juice and water.

 This bacchanalia is for serious eaters only, and the attitude is as such. Maybe it’s why patrons are pre-assigned seats, to keep the small talk down to the important stuff—we chatted with a lawyer and a couple, who all declared they were non-practicing Catholics.
The feast actually dates back to 2007, but the monastery pulled it from the event calendar and only reinstated it later last year. Consistently sold out (as of this publication, tickets for the brunch in March are no longer available), you’ll need to pray for an open seat at the next one, if you can get them early enough. The brunch runs R$130 per person and includes a tour of the grounds at the end. Call Multipla Eventos at 11-2440-7837 to reserve; once they’ve confirmed, you’ll then need to make a bank deposit for the tickets in order to totally secure your place.