Clearly if there is any opportunity to be a burger-taste-tester for an afternoon, there is no way I will say no. Keen to test out their new burger on willing subjects, I waddled along one Saturday afternoon to Cabana Brasil, sadly forgetting to wear my stretchy pants to pre-empt the food about the be consumed.
Talking about the ideas behind the burger, Jamie Barbar explained that Picanha, the particular cut of beef used in the burger is the most popular cut in Brazil. The idea was not to create a simple copy of an already existing burger in London, but to create one that was unique to Cabana and to create one that represented Brazilian flavours. The most interesting part of the introduction was the fact that Cabana have chosen to serve the burger cooked medium as a direct result of Westminster councils’ crackdown on ‘undercooked’ beef. As someone who relishes a medium-rare cooked burger, I think it can be easy to ‘tsk’ and shake your head that some restaurants are ‘giving in’ despite sourcing beef from reputable meat suppliers and knowing that your beef is safe to cook and serve at medium-rare point and knowing that your customers want it that way too, but if that choice comes with the risk of being on the off-side of the local council, what do you do? I don’t necessarily agree with the choice Cabana have made to serve the burger at medium, but I do respect that as business owners, it is not an easy choice to make and they need to do what is best for them.
A complete sucker for anything containing pineapple and coconut, there was no way I wasn’t going to order the Cool Colada. Sweet and creamy, and just a little bit tangy, it was like Summer in a glass.
Crispy, golden fries mixed with garlic and rosemary were fragrant and salty and pretty brilliant all round. Cassava chips were more starchy and chunky, it felt like I was eating roast potatoes with my hands, something I’m not at all opposed to.
The actual burger itself was mini-tower of beef. Admittedly partial to a brioche burger bun, I was happy to see its golden buttery hue wrapped around the burger. Potato matchsticks added a lovely layer of texture and the mayo added a subtle creamy hint of spice. The patty itself was cooked a bit further than the medium mentioned during the introduction, but over-cooking couldn’t hide the fragrant spices added to the mix. The chilli and cumin filled the brief of creating a Brazillian take on the burger, but I do feel that the burger would have been better served medium rare, and I can only curse Westminster council for their burger spitefulness. Plates of chimichuri sauce were brought out for fry dipping, but swiping the burger through the plate added a burst of freshness that you would normally get from lettuce on a burger. For extra extravagance, the burger was topped with pulled pork, but to be honest, I think I wouldn’t have missed it if it wasn’t there; same goes for the tomato.
If beef and pork weren’t enough animals for you, plates of Cabana’s signature best seller, Malagueta chicken were brought out. Almost too full to appreciate it fully, I persevered and it was as good as I remember.
Fit to almost burst, I managed to squeeze in a peanut butter frozen yoghurt that made me forget that I normally shun frozen yoghurt for its richer cousin, ice cream. Lacking the sourness I remember of frozen yoghurts of my youth, I nearly tricked my brain into thinking it really was ice cream.
All up, it was lovely afternoon hearing about the hows and why of a dish came to be and then getting to taste it and subsequently having your ideas and opinions be listened to. Cabana have managed to create a distinctly Brazilian burger, that I did enjoy. As soon as Westminster council get their noses out of how I, as a paying customer choose to have my meat, it could be a burger I could love.
Full disclosure: As it was a part of a taste-testing afternoon, food and drinks were complimentary; opinions and poor photos are all mine.