The international image of Brazil is a source of pride for all of us who were born there. Brazil's colourful nature, abundant natural resources and the very friendly nature of its inhabitants seems to attract great affection all around the world. Much like the very popular Havaianas flip-flops (tip: the H is silent), Brazil has become a bright and breezy colourful brand. So despite the many positive points of Cabana - Brazilian Barbecue (Cabana Brasil), it's quite impossible for a true Brazilian to forgive their use of Brazil as an artificial flavouring. Both founding partners - Jamie Barber and David Ponte - are competent restauranteurs with a passion for online social media (you can bet they'll be tweeting about this) and access to serious amounts of investor cash, so would it kill them to simply create a place where you eat good honest Brazilian food? Their website is covered in gimmicky 'Cool Braziliana' PR-friendly talking points explaining where they got their decor from or the projects they support. I'd change all of that for a properly cooked hunk of beef, a decent feijoada or a good moqueca. Cabana is all style and very little substance.
Don't get me wrong: like other 'concept' restaurants such as Giraffe, Hard Rock Café, Yo! Sushi or Rainforest Café, it's a well designed, comfortable and clean place to eat at. I'm sure plenty of locals visit their two houses in London and leave feeling they had a pretty decent time with their mates, but if they think this is what Brazil is like they will get a big surprise if they actually visit the country.
Cabana's system is different from the famous all-you-can-eat scheme operated by most Churrascarias (Brazilian BBQ houses). Here you pay for every skewer, piece or portion that is brought to the table. A great majority of these morsels were overpriced and the resulting bill was unjustifiably high.
Some dishes were well prepared and tasty and some were downright criminal, either for their lack of authenticity or for their misguided attempt to invent something Brazilian'ish - like the Papaya Sausage. The Cheese Pastel was a block of cheese timidly embraced by some pastry. It oozed so much fat that when I first bit into it I had to go wash my face. We asked why it was not light and flaky like they usually are in Brazil. Apparently customers complained it had very little substance so they decided to just add more filling. (for a good pastel try this place) That would be like turning your Crêpe Suzette into waffles because customers complained it was too thin. Their pathetic attempt to make a Limonada Suiça made me wish we could line the barmen against the wall and stone them to death with their impenetrably hard Pães de Queijo.
Our video review (click on main picture above to load the clip) was shot in December 2011 but judging from reports I keep getting from friends, not much has changed. My special guest reviewer is another pillar of Brazilian culture in London, Juliano Zappia, who was co-publisher and editor of JungleDrums Magazine during his 7 year tour-of-duty in London and is now running special projects in Brazil. The plan, as always, was to do an incognito review. We wanted to be treated as normal customers. But unfortunately Jamie and David clocked Juliano the moment he came in and David also recognised me from my videos. So we detected a little bit of preferencial treatment. However, rest assured we paid our bill in full and would not dream of pulling any punches.
CABANA BRASIL WESTFIELD STRATFORD CITY 5 Chestnut Plaza, Montfitchet Way Westfield Stratford City, E20 1GL E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 0208 536 2650 Open: 12.00pm - 11pm, Mon - Sat 12.00pm - 10pm, Sun
CABANA BRASIL COVENT GARDEN (Nearer Tottenham Court Road really!) 7 Central St Giles Piazza London, WC2H 8AD E: email@example.com T: 020 7632 9630 Open: 12.00pm - 11pm, Mon - Sat 12.00pm - 10pm, Sun