Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sipping caipirinhas at London's new Brazilian restaurant Cabana

The pão de queijo had just the right level of squidgyness and the caipirinha washed it down a treat. Ok, I was wrapped up in a scarf in central London rather than sunbathing in Ipanema, but Cabana’s attempt to bring a slice of Brazilian food culture to the UK is a pretty good one.

At the launch party this week, co-owner David Ponte told me that he’d bought the serving bowls from a street vendor in Rio and the seats are made out of recycled jeans by residents of Sao Paulo’s Paraisopolis favela. There are plenty of traditional Brazilian treats on the menu, too, including cassava fries and bolinhos de arroz (rice cakes). Some of my personal favourites.
But it’s the barbecued meat that Cabana is most proud of. In front of a backdrop of beautiful floor-to-ceiling posters stands the grill – or churrasco – serving an impressive selection of skewers. My friends enjoyed the lamb, but thought the beef was a little too sweet (we think it might have been served with papaya). The prawns were perfectly sticky and juicy.
The idea behind Cabana is that of street food, where customers pick and mix from the menu, and it’s a concept that’s proving popular among new restaurants opening in London.

Cabana is a million miles away from David’s first restaurant venture in London, Mocotó, which has now closed. I liked the food in Mocotó but thought the style and service was too fussy, and not in keeping with the Brazilian lifestyle. I met David for the first time on Tuesday evening, but his passion for Brazil (where he was born) was palpable.
It will be interesting to see how Londoners take to Cabana. I love Brazilian food but my experience is that it takes a bit of time for the English to warm to it. Once they do, they also tend to love it. Try for yourselves – there are currently two restaurants in Central St Giles Plazza and Westfield Stratford – and let me know which are your favourite nibbles.

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