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As a vegetarian I didn't think I would ever have occasion to eat at a Brazilian barbeque restaurant as they are famous for their meat. However when out in the Stratford Westfield shopping centre, my friend and I checked the menu, and whilst alternative options were limited, we were intrigued enough to give it a try. As we went in, we were acknowledged straight away and seated within two minutes. The restaurant is on two levels, and we were on the ground floor. There is an outside eating area, which would be popular in this weather. We were taken to our table which was a simple wooden table on metal legs and the staff member pointed out where there were clips for your bags. A nice touch, but my chunky handled Radley couldn't fit, so nestled between my feet. The tables were not so large that your bag would not have got in your way if you had managed to get it on anyway. The restaurant was quite dark, but open with the 'metal pipes in the ceiling' look that seems to be popular everywhere. There was music playing and it was busily noisy. The kitchens were open plan and could be viewed from the restaurant (I had my back to them) they appeared clean from what I can tell, and the staff members seemed to have good hygiene. I was relieved that I couldn't pick up greasy, meaty smells; I think they must have had efficient extractor fans.
The menu we were presented with differed from the one on the website (at the time of writing) and was more extensive. At the top they had the starters which our server explained were like tapas and came up as soon as they were ready. Options included chunks of parmesan that could be dipped in honey (sadly unavailable as my friend really wanted to try this). These dishes started at £2.95. We decided to skip this and go straight to mains which were served more conventionally.
The menu we ordered from had a different list of items per type of meat: chicken, beef or pork. My friend went for pork tenderloin with French fries and a side of chilli mayo. When served, the single joint of pork came up on a skewer and was taken off onto her plate in front of her by a member of the kitchen team. The service was quite dramatic for one piece of pork, but for people ordering other dishes with more meat on them it was a bit more worthwhile. My friend loved her pork, and said it was very well cooked. The fries were classic skinny fries and served in a little metal bucket (seemingly obligatory if you are going for the metal pipes in the ceiling theme) and were perfect. They certainly tasted nice (she kindly let me have one). We also shared a side of Brazilian coleslaw which was billed as carrot and mango with grated cashew. It was not dissimilar from regular coleslaw but was slightly sweeter and occasionally you got the cashew flavour. I found the onion in it quiet strong. When we sat down the table was ready laid with sauces/condiments and cutlery including, what I thought was, a steak knife. The knife is fairly blunt, but my friend said her meat was so tender it wasn't a problem.
Of the non meat options there were two prawn dishes and three portobello mushroom dishes, so veggies need to like mushrooms. I went for Portobello Beirut (£7.45), served with cassava chips at £3.45 (the Brazilian French Fry apparently). Here the mushrooms were served with Syrian flatbread (I would have thought it should have been Lebanese bread if they called the dish 'Beirut' but maybe I am over-thinking this), served with spinach, tomato and chilli mayo as I recall. The mayo was inside the bread, so I also asked for some on the side for my chips. It looked like a pancake sandwich - it was round and flat - cut into quarters, served on paper on a wooden board. I found it tasty and a bit filling, being unable to finish it. The cassava chips were a bit like plantain; they didn't taste dissimilar to potato, but were chunky yet fluffy chunks. They were served in a little plastic basket (presentation skills were forgotten with this dish). The portion was generous, and no doubt contributed to my inability to finish the meal. The chilli mayo was very mild and tasted more like a smooth 'thousand island' dressing to me.
Drinks wise, I don't recall seeing any wine or beer on the menu, but I am sure they must do some. We stuck to cocktails, starting with El Draque (£6.25) billed as the Brazilian mojito. I think I prefer a conventional mojito, this was a tad sweeter, but still very drinkable. We then ordered a jug of Brazilian Pimms (£19.50) which wasn't actually much like Pimms at all, but we drank it anyway - again it was a bit sweeter than we expected, and it didn't seem to be that strong.
We weren't going to have a dessert as we were quite full but found the desserts a bit unusual. After dithering over the banana and Nutella pastel, my friend went with a peanut butter frozen yoghurt with chocolate sauce (£3.95). Intrigued I went for the caramel version, also with chocolate sauce. Whilst only two flavours of frozen yoghurt were available, there were about eight toppings, and you could also have them as sundaes. Our regular frozen yoghurts came in a small glass with a plastic spoon.
The lavatories were upstairs, but they did have disabled loos on the ground floor. To get to the Ladies' you go through a metal chain curtain and the loos (pink flip flops for girls, blue for boys) are done out like a cabana/beach hut. The ladies' were pink and wooden and each cubicle was a good size, with its own sink and soap dispenser. It also seemed to have a useless shelf that was too far back to use and no hand-drier (there was a speedy drier in the communal bit). My friend informed me that the hand-drier was above the useless shelf (which was where you stick your hands), although she did mention hers didn't work.
Service in the restaurant was very friendly and there was always someone milling about, so if you needed something, you had no trouble catching their eye. Most staff members were not native English speakers (I like to think they were Brazilian or Portuguese), and I did struggle with their accent in the noisy environment sometimes. They all wear bright logo T-shirts and jeans, except managers who wear shirts with their jeans, so it is all very informal. One minor down side was at the end, as the card-reader was having connection problems you had to go up to the till with your card, and it got a bit cramped and hemmed in with staff members and customers milling about in a confined space.
Our bill for two courses and cocktails came to £67 excluding tip. We enjoyed our meal, and would both be happy to eat here again at some point. They also have a branch at Westfield White City and Covent Garden.
Westfield Stratford 5 Chestnut Plaza, Montfitchet Way E20 1GL T: 0208 536 2650 O:12.00pm - 11pm, Mon - Sat 12.00pm - 10pm, Sun http://www.cabana-brasil.com/