This Restaurant Is Constructed Entirely from Recycled Material

The hulking megacity of São Paulo is Brazil’s capital of industry and business and, unsurprisingly, as result creates a significant part of the country’s waste. Due to the city’s sub-standard recycling policies, most of this trash ends up on the side of the road or at the bottom of São Paulo’s three main rivers. Without any effective projects from the government, environmentally-conscious locals are forced to take matters into their own hands. Enter O Velhão, an inspiring and fascinating project in a town to the north of the city.

In Mairiporã, a small town around 25 miles from the imposing state capital, the complex known as O Velhão—and the As Veia restaurant within—have become among the region’s most interesting tourist attractions. And as the life’s work of Moacyr Archanjo dos Santos, it serves as an inspiring example for the reuse of waste materials.

O Velhão Image courtesy of O Velhão

O Velhão is a large complex containing a restaurant, bar, antiques shop, a carpentry workshop and a metalworking shop, where everything is built from recycled material. Its story begins in the 1960s, when Seu Moacyr moved to the center of São Paulo for work, away from the peaceful countryside atmosphere. In the big city, Seu Moacyr was astonished by the amount of scrap materials he would see on the street and began collecting those which he deemed to have “artistic value.”

Over time, his collection expanded, until he and his wife, Iracema Rodrigues, bought a plot of disused land in Mairiporã. His idea was to build a workshop that was totally self-sufficient, constructing it out of discarded materials and making furniture and artistic pieces from this recycled waste.

Antiques shop, O Velhão Image courtesy of O Velhão

O Velhão continued to grow, attracting young people from the surrounding region to learn about metalworking and carpentry. When Seu Moacyr died in 2001, his wife Iracema took the reins and continued the work of her late husband. With more and more people working at O Velhão, Iracema constructed a kitchen—also from recycled material—to feed her employees. It steadily began to attract a clientele from outside of O Velhão, until Iracema decided to completely open it up to the public, inaugurating the As Véia restaurant.

As Véia restaurant, O Velhão Image courtesy of O Velhão

Today, As Véia serves a constantly-changing menu of incredible homemade Brazilian food in eight different dining rooms, each with a different visual character. The service works on an all-you-can-eat basis, with patrons paying between R$33 and R$58 (cheaper during the week, more expensive on weekends and public holidays) to feast on a seemingly endless variety of delicious traditional dishes.

All-you-can-eat lunch at As Véia restaurant Image courtesy of O Velhão

Besides serving up a wonderful lunch, O Velhão is also a great place to spend a day browsing its grounds and stores, which make you feel as if you have stepped back in time. The metalwork and carpentry workshops are well worth a visit, especially if you need something restored. Objects from the workshops are often put on sale in the antiques shop, where you can also find a variety of fascinating pieces you will be desperate to take home with you.

The second-hand store is also well worth a look. Housed in a charming shop made from, you guessed it, recycled construction material, it has an excellent collection of books, magazines, and vinyl records, with some rare items that are even hard to find in the city of São Paulo.

Second-hand store, O Velhão Image courtesy of O Velhão

As it is outside of the city of São Paulo, getting to Mairiporã and O Velhão is not the easiest task by public transport. From the large Tietê bus terminal, there are a handful of metropolitan (EMTU) lines which go to the center of Mairiporã, but none pass directly by O Velhão. By car, things are much easier, requiring a short drive to the north zone of the city, before taking the Santa Inês highway through the Cantareira State Park.

O Velhão opens every day from 9 a.m., closing at 8 p.m. on weekends and 4:30 p.m. during the week. Note that the As Veia restaurant only accepts cash.