Mane Mercado Virgula
Restaurant review by Milan Sime Martinic in the B4D Magazin
Beer was flowing as heavily as on an October day in Frankfurt. The vibrant ambiance took in the Friday lunchtime crowd under the giant open space of Mané Mercado Virgula, a striking architectural addition meshed into the grandeur of Brasilia’s Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha and the striking high rises around the city’s Monumental Axis for a commanding view of the whole cityscape.
You are in a bustling food hall with a generous number of food choices, a veritable gastronomic Circus Maximus or at least a version of Pontão under one roof. The place is cool and vaguely exciting with a modern energy that is as much Brasilia as a piece of the kind of food markets that took over the streets in New York’s Soho, Barcelona, and countless German and Italian cities.
But Mané Virgula Market is much more than that. It is a carefully curated selection of restaurant offerings that range from Argentinian to Arab to Japanese, to churrascos, burgers, roasted birds, Brazilian specialties, pastries, beers, wines, and several culinary offerings that each specialize in various aspects sure to please foodies and dabblers alike. It is a paean to Brasilian cuisine; most of the food kiosks there are restaurants that already exist and have been successful in pleasing the public in Brasilia for years.
Commanding a corner of the vast covered area and very busy is Lima, Cocina Peruana by Chef Marco Espinoza of Taypá, one of Brasilia’s best innovative, elegant restaurants. Though there is some table service, most clients seem to be content standing in line and placing their orders, mixing and matching various tastes. If it is pork you crave, you can find a helping of Le Birosque’s porceta, long famous with Quituart diners
Virgula is the word for comma, the punctuation mark that signals short interval or difference in pitch in a sentence, Mane Mercado Virgula is an R$8 million, 43,000-sq.ft., 800-seat, 21-restaurant epicurean pageant in the middle of Brasilia's Plano Piloto, designed to give that comma-like inte4rval to your day.
It is a far more organized operation than the typical mess of community seating and standing around found at the markets its developers say that inspired it, but that is not to say that you will find the long lines, large crowds, and long waits inviting. It is the sort of Catch-22 that attracts more people and at the same time serves to repel others. For those with wanting more immediate rewards, there are displays with ready empanadas, pastries, sandwiches and more.
It is the realization of projects that were designed during the pandemic by the dynamic and innovative entrepreneurial Grupo R2, itself reinvented from its former iteration as R2 Productions, into what it says is a new moment to impact developing segments of entertainment from grand shows to this type of marketplace platform that offers new and distinct kinds of experiences to the public.
“It is meant to be dynamic, varied, without strings,” says its parent group, R2, in its YouTube ‘manifesto.’ “A market with the experience of an event, perennial and plural.” It is a sort of immersive love letter to the local community, a place for memorable experiences with plenty of food and drink experiences. “Mané is a unique mixture that will include the traditional restaurants of its “Brasilian roots” next to premium brands recognized by the most demanding clients,” it says.
Following Sustainable Development Goals set out by the UN global Agenda Toward a Better World, the Mané Virgula Market promises a wide structure and services for people with disabilities -- ramps, menus in Braille, lower service counters, and the like. The operation aims to showcase small local producers and to bring them closer to the public, highlighting the origin and value of items produced in the Cerrado.
Part beer hall, part wine bar, part multi-options eatery, all a feast for Brasilians’ eyes, stomachs, and minds, the self-described “pause” (comma) market promises a two-story children’s playground, a store of “beautiful things,” and it welcomes visitors with a wall-length wine cellar.
The name of the project itself is a blend that incorporates the name of the stadium and the symbolism of having a comma, virgula, to break the daily race, Mané Mercado Virgula.
“We need breaks from the busy day and the comma symbolizes that for us. Being a comma market is, above all, giving up the period,” said R2 partner in charge of the project Bruno Sartório, famed Brasilia producer, entrepreneur and winner of the 2021 Brasilia Prize, Prêmio Brasília: o novo Olhar do Turismo.