One of my first 'Places To Eat In London' reviews back in 2012 was of Cabana, the new Brazilian barbecue joint that had opened up at Westfield Stratford, just a tube stop away from my student halls. Bizarrely (with my all around love for food from hotter climates), I had not been back since. Well, that was until they invited me back the other week to see how they've grown up since. As this summer with the Rio olympics is going to be all about Brazilian food (I have a bottle of Cachaca ready on my bar table!), and as Cabana have just launched their new #RoadToRio menu, I thought now would be the perfect time for a return visit.
We started, as all good Brazilian meals must, with a Caipirinha. Brazil's national cocktail of muddled sugar, mint, lime and Cachaca (already bloody delicious) is given a tropical twist with the addition of lots and lots of fresh passion fruit. Honestly, these are pretty amazing, and the perfect thing to sip with a few corn tortilla chips and some guacamole. So bright, fresh and more-ish. On my 'to recreate' list, for sure!
So, the starters. The guacamole was good (with the bonus of unlimited chips), and I had serious order envy of Ed's Crispy Lula Squid (crisp and crunchy, served with a stupidly wonderful Malagueta Mayo), but I must say off of the new menu my Salt Cod Fritters served with a pretty epic lime mayo were rather wonderful too.
I was driving when I got back to Kent later that day, and Ed wanted to go back to the library after lunch (law exams sound pretty brutal) so for our second round we decided to order from their Refresco menu instead. On the advice of our server, I opted for the Amazon Iced Tea (homemade tea, mint, wild leaf cordial and apple juice) which was bright, refreshing, and one of those great mocktails where you don't miss the booze. Ed's drink, however, had us both amazed. The 'Skittles Suissa' (bearing just the description 'OK, we like the sweets so much, we made a drink') quite literally tastes like Skittles. I have no idea what is in it (perhaps a syrup made from the white insides?), but if you're a Skittles fan, this drink will blow your mind.
We felt we'd be amiss going to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant without ordering skewers. I opted for Cabana's all time most popular dish, their Spicy Malagueta Chicken and red pepper skewers, made up with their secret sauce. Rich, tangy, slightly spicy and full of flavour. Please tell me there is a version in their cookbook?
Ed had the Chilli Chilli Lamb Lamb, with grilled palm hearts. I don't really eat lamb so I did not get in trouble for stealing a bite (this time!), but it does look rather good, doesn't it?
Now we must talk about our sides. To go with my chicken I went for the recommended side of (perfect) sweet potato fries. The Mango and Cashew Slaw took Ed's fancy, but we both found it a little disappointing. It was a wonderful light (by way of the cashew cream), crunchy, and flavour filled slaw, but the name made you think it would come with pieces of fresh juicy mango, instead of a coulis.
Dessert was the cherry on top of a rather fantastic meal. Meet the rather epic Brazilian Overload Sundae, made with caramel chocolate chip ice cream, white chocolate cupuacu ice cream, (to die for) chocolate truffles and doce de lite caramel sauce. All the flavours were both unusual and familiar at the same time (if that makes any sense at all?), and the whole thing was pure decadence. My only complaint was that because we were sharing, I only got one truffle (please say these are in the cookbook, too!)
Another dessert that knocked it out of the park were their Nutella stuffed (served also with warmed Nutella on the side) mini doughnuts. Okay, so you need to be careful biting into them at first as the filling is practically molten, but they are stupidly addictive. So addictive.
We both really enjoyed our lunch at Cabana, and also both noted that it would make a great place to meet friends after work for a cocktail (or three) with either a table full of nibbles (followed by lots of Nutella doughnuts, of course) or a proper meal. Thanks so much to the wonderful and attentive staff at Cabana Covent Garden for hosting us!