Temptation will prevail, tells Samuel Pigott
I’ll be the first to admit that I am by no means a die-hard meat eater. I’m not someone who refuses to eat a meal unless there is a pile of meat, so a Brazilian restaurant ‘with continuous service of 7 cuts’ didn’t initially tickle my fancy. How wrong I was. The opulent setting of Fazenda, in the heart of Spinningfields was perfect for a Sunday lunch with a twist.
It is by no means your standard restaurant to pop into after a busy couple of hours in town — booking is essential. There was only one free table for the two hours we were there. Immediate table-service and an explanation of how the system worked was very helpful.
Every diner has their own green and red card, to signal to the waiter if you would like more food or not. You start off by visiting the fanciest salad bar I’ve ever come across. Numerous vegetarian side dishes, salads, a traditional Brazilian bean and meat stew ‘Feijoada’, continental cheeses and cold meats, as well as some slightly out-of-place sushi all graced an elegant bar at the back of the restaurant.
It feels odd to describe it as an ‘all-you-can-eat buffet’ as it is all very measured and restrained. Part of that is probably because it is nothing compared to the main event.
Once re-seated, attention begins to fall on the ‘Passadores’ or meat chefs crossing the restaurant, skewers of incredible meat in hand. They approach your table, offer what they have, and you will inevitably say yes. They cut you a piece, while you salivate in anticipation.
All of the meats are cooked medium-rare, but you are more than welcome to ask for more or less cooking as you wish, although I’d suggest you just dive in! With such an extensive menu, the only way to break it down is to look at the meats individually.
First to arrive was the ‘signature cut’ of beef: Picanha. This cut is the cap of the rump and is just how they describe it, juicy and full of flavour. The incredible taste of barbeque on the outer edges is so delicious and a perfect juxtaposition to the tender centre.
Just as you get into the first piece of meat, the next Passadore walks past and offers you something else that you just can’t refuse. This time it was the ‘Frango’; extremely tender chicken thighs with deliciously crisp skin. Although the taste was wonderful, it didn’t have the wow factor to go with the novelty of the restaurant.
Next came ‘LinguiÇa’ — little Brazilian sausages. Like the chicken, they were delicious, extremely meaty, and hit the spot. At this point, with a plate piled high from the salad bar and passing skewers, you are liable not to fancy the next one that passes by. Temptation will prevail.
‘Bife de Presunto’, which is gammon (with optional pineapple) arrived. I had been looking forward to this ever since seeing it on the menu, but I must say that it was slightly underwhelming. It was incredibly succulent but it didn’t match up to the other meats flavour-wise. Same problem with the ‘Tritip’, or sirloin. It was, dare I say, slightly bland. The great thing about a place like Fazenda is that if you don’t love one of the cuts, you’re not stuck with it.
Another cut of beef arrived, ‘Alcatra’, rump. Like the ‘Picanha’ it had an excellent barbecued outer layer and was tender inside. As I said, I’m not the biggest fan of meat, especially not when it’s overly rare. One cut it was essentially blue, which wasn’t to my taste, so I simply asked for it to be cooked more.
Also on the menu: ’Barriga de porc’ (belly pork) served with honey and cinnamon. It had an unusual flavour, and was completely different to everything else on the menu. Christmas was my first thought and by no means a bad one, and the meat was delicious.
The ‘Cordeiro’, the only cut of lamb, was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and a brushing of mint sauce. This lamb was an unexpected highlight to the meal.
Without doubt, Fazenda is incredible. Accompanied by a glass of rosé, the setting was wonderful, and definitely something different. At £20.50 for lunch and £31 for dinner, it doesn’t really appeal to a student budget, but the food is worth it.