On Twitter recently, there was a call out for 50 food-loving people to taste-test the new menu at Cabana Brasil at the new Westfield Stratford. I quickly managed to get myself on the list and a few weeks ago, I brought along one of my favourite food friends to sample Brazilian barbecue meats.
A couple of cocktails to start us off, my memory fails me in the finer details of ingredients but I remember my cocktail on the right had freshly squeezed apple juice. Both were refreshing.
The menu is divided up into ‘Street Food’, ‘Skewers’, ‘Sides’ and ‘Frozen Yoghurt’. We started off on the street food as starters. I have very little knowledge in the way of Brazilian food, and this section of the menu excited me greatly.
First off was parmesan and wild honey. A generous serving for 2.95, this was great. An unusual combination, the crumbly parmesan was offset by the sweetness of the honey. My only complaint was I kept dripping honey everywhere. More my problem than theirs.
Next was the Crunchy Rice Bolinhos, pretty much arrancini balls. These were lovely, crunchy and unlike a few I’ve eaten in the past, had actual flavour! Seasoned well, topped with a light sprinkling of cheese, I could easily knock back a bowl of these. Curiously the menu said these were served with a chilli mayonaise, but the bowl arrived on next to another dish, which confused me a little but the mayo was also very good. So good everything on the table subsequently had a swim in it before making its way to our mouths. Classy stuff, I know.
You had me at ‘Brasilian Cheesy Dough Balls’. See what I mean about getting confused about the chilli mayo? Oh well. These grew on me. At first they were a little stodgy, but I grew to like the chewiness of them. A dough that swings in favour of cheese to dough ratio will always win favour with me.
Sweetcorn Pamonhas were grated corn, coconut milk with cinnamon wrapped in a corn husk. On the sweet side, the cinnamon wasn’t discernable. I quite liked the flavour, but as a started it didn’t work; perhaps lacking a little in texture. Had we ordered this as the skewers of meat were arriving I think I would have like this more, the sweetness of the corn, against the charcoaled flavour of skewers.
A bunch of sides were ordered; cassava chips, sweet potato fries, biro-biro rice and a green salad. For vegetables-sake, I guess. I preface this by saying at this point, we had ordered far, far too much. But N and I do love to eat. In hindsight, probably only 2 sides were needed. Not 4. The cassava chips were crunchy, the texture inside slightly waxy and soft, similar to sweet potato. The sweet potato fries were great. More places need to have them on the menu. The rice was ok. I’m partial to Asian style steamed rice, so this was always going to have a tough time. And everyone’s seen a green salad before so just imagine one of those, kay?
Cabana Brasil’s main selling point is it’s skewers. Brazillian BBQ works in that you are handed a coaster; green on one side, red on the other. Turn it to green, and servers will ply you with BQ’ed meats till your heart explodes. At that point you turn it over to red. Generally places will charge for an ‘All you can eat’ situation. Cabana works a little differently where you are charged per skewer. Nifty idea from a business point of view, however as a customer it can be very easy to run up a large bill if you’re not careful.
The range of meats on offer were quite varied and there should be plenty depending on what your tastes are. We samples the tiger prawns, which were bursty and had a hint of chilli on them. The Chimichurri rump steak was cooked perfectly cooked pink at the thickest parts but was cooked well at the thinner ends. Chicken also had a nice spice to it, but was a little dry. On every table is a bottle of chilli sauce. As I am currently undertaking a life-skill endurance test at the moment to increase my chilli tolerance this was splashed about quite liberally. Bad idea. That stuff is actually really spicy. I found myself wishing I wasn’t so heavy-handed with it all over my food.
Too full for dessert, we waddled off home.
Cabana Brasil is an interesting addition to London’s restaurant scene. The interior was bright and colourful; a given considering the country source. Brazilian food is not something largely represented in London. My favourite meals are the one’s that make you think and give you new experiences, and definitely the street food part of the menu fulfilled that part for me. The skewers were all cooked well, and the ingredients clearly were of a quality higher than you would think to find at a restaurant chain (albeit a new chain eager to establish itself), however they weren’t anything new or outstanding. As a new chain, I think Cabana Brasil will definitely find it’s audience within the Nando’s crowd, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nando’s brought Portuguese food into the mainstream and they are successful at what they do. Cabana restaurants are bright, clean; there is friendly service who are willing to explain the food to you. It’s an environment that is easy to digest (pardon the pun), that I think will do well.
Once the Covent Garden branch opens, I think I will venture back, but I will stick to the Street Food and the cocktails – much more interesting, especially when they involve cheese!
I dined as a menu taste-tester, part of the