According to Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard last year, “The biggest London food trend… has already started. Cabana, the Brazilian grill…has stolen a march on the wave of Brazilian and Peruvian restaurants due to hit the capital.”
In summer 2014 World Cup madness is due in Brazil, and then there’ll be the Rio 2016 Olympics. Gourmet Live say they’re betting on Brazil as the next great cuisine to conquer our palates – not just because of the focus from the sport, but because acai, Caipirinhas and world-class steaks are just the beginning…
I went to Cabana’s third restaurant, in Westfield White City, (they also have restaurants at Westfield Stratford and Central St Giles in the West End and are planning more…) The first thing you notice is a fantastic buzz. There are Brazilian-made posters plastered all over the walls, funky lighting and a bright, warm interior design that all make the place feel truly vibrant, yet relaxed.
The food revolves around barbecueing – you can tuck into succulent, marinated barbecue skewers such as Spicy Malagueta Chicken (their bestseller which I tried and really was delicious), tender, juicy steaks, spicy burgers, sticky ribs or even a pulled pork and sausage stew called Feijoada. But that’s not all there is. We also tried some street foods between us to start – the Toasted Corn Nuts and Four Corn Salad (sweet, blackened, giant and toasted corn with palm hearts) and the Salmon Ceviche (chilli and lime cured salmon), and then had Sweet Potato Fries sprinkled with paprika and an Avocado & Mango Salad with the chicken. I loved it all! The crunchy nuts, clean tastes of the salad and zingy ceviche were a great warm-up to the main. The chicken was tender and the flavours were great – hot and punchy but not too fiery, with deliciously fresh ingredients. (And I even took a bottle of their Malagueta sauce home with me.) The fries and mango salad were really good, too. There was real attention to detail with all the dishes, and I came away thinking that there are lots more I’m sure I would enjoy just as much.
They were very good, too, about the gluten-free, dairy-free thing. There’s lots that you can eat if you’re gluten-free and/or dairy-free and they took my request seriously and made sure everything was fine. (And they also do a kid’s menu.)
Of course, you’re meant to wash it all down with the ubiquitous drink, especially the national drink of choice, Caipirinha. Apparently there are many stories of how the Caipirinha was invented but they say that their favourite is this. In old times people would press a cloth dampened with alcohol to their forehead to reduce fever, and suck a lime to improve immunity. One day, a feverish man found the alcohol from his forehead dripping into his mouth as he sucked a lime. Because it was bitter, he ate a spoonful of sugar. He got better, and the Caipirinha was born…
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