Welcome to a series of articles rounding-up the very best restaurants in London for specific cuisines. We’re not necessarily talking authenticity here, rather the kind of food we really love to eat. Value is kept firmly in mind, and most of our picks represent this. On the flip side, of course, some places are so good that they are worth saving up for. As ever, please do let us know your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below.
Butecos are social hangouts in Brazil where people go to drink, eat and catch-up with friends: the equivalent of our pubs. What we like so much about Barraco in Kilburn is that it isn’t just styled like a buteco, it actually is one. It’s in an area with one of the highest Brazilian populations in London and this is where many of them choose to spend time. Being so authentic, you’ll find some meaty stews and tough, fatty cuts of meat that can prove hard work, but in most cases dishes are richly flavoured and generous, and the meat succulent. Steaks are a highlight, but ‘al dente’ chicken hearts and a chorizo-esque sautéed sausage are definitely worth a try.
A small but fast-growing chain, there are now branches of Cabana in Covent Garden, Islington, Wembley and both Westfields. It hasn’t lost its touch, though. Bright colours fill the feel-good venues, while a menu built around spiced skewered meat is just as easy to enjoy. Variously colour-coded skewers are packed with steak, chicken, pork, seafood or veggies, while starters and sides feature cheesy dough balls, croquettas and ceviche. If you’re hungry and on a budget, then Cabana is a safe bet.
It’s all about Brazilian pizzas at shabby but friendly Café Brazil. The concept was brought to São Paulo by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s and the locals haven’t looked back since. As in Brazil, the selection here includes some toppings that would get purist Italians hot under the collar, but we have nothing against a bit of cajun spice, a boiled egg or some pineapple. Traditional bean stews and steaks are also present and correct, but it’s the pizzas you come for.
A charmingly friendly neighbourhood spot, Kensal Green’s Galpão is an easy place to fall in love with. Tapas-sized dishes (ideal as either starters or nibbles with drinks) show off an array of Brazil’s street food-led specialities, from meat-filled dumplings to salt-cod fishcakes and cassava fries, while bean stews, baked meats and steaks dominate the main courses. It’s worth noting that while the flesh might flow more freely at London’s eat-as-much-as-you-want churrascarias (such as Rodizio Rico below), the meat you’re getting here is notably superior. Just save enough room for dessert: warm mini-doughnuts served with dulce de leche.
This restaurant close to Fulham Broadway does exactly what it says on the tin, combining traditional Brazilian carved meat with Lebanese mezze dishes. The concept isn’t as absurd as it sounds, though. There are almost 10m people from Lebanon currently living in Brazil, so it’s only natural that in big cities such as São Paulo or Rio, their cultures start to cross over. Lamb shawarma and other Lebanese kebabs accompany the more traditional meat offerings which are carried around the restaurant to be carved at your table, and it’s one of the few places where you can enjoy a caipirinha alongside some shisha.
There are branches of Rodizio Rico in Islington, Notting Hill and the O2, as well as Birmingham. Replicating an authentic Brazilian churrascaria, it’s a case of eat-as-much-as-you-can, with £25 getting you unlimited access to a salad bar as well as a card that’s green on one side, red on the other. For as long as you display the green side, the waiters will continue to come round and carve meat from large skewers straight onto your plate. It’s every bit as brash and as greedy as it sounds, but it’s also great fun. The skillfully-grilled meat is also a succulent treat, though it does unashamedly lean towards the fattier cuts.
Set in a former boozer on South Lambeth Road, Tia Maria serves a range of stews, steaks and salads, but its selling point is its tapiocas: traditional Brazilian pancakes made from tapioca starch and filled with the likes of cheese, salt-cured beef and coconut, or palm heart and cheese. It’s these that Brazilian expats pop-in for, and many will also stay around for regular live Brazilian music when a party atmosphere takes over. If you’re keen to give it a go, there’s 50% off the whole menu every Tuesday.
X Burger House
The concept is simple at Kilburn’s X Burger House: Brazilian burgers. Toppings include palm heart, Brazilian sausage and ham, while you can also swap your more typical beef patty for steak, shredded chicken, lamb mince or chicken hearts, should you feel so inclined. Cheese comes as standard. In fact, we’re told that the X in the name comes from the way in which some Brazilians commonly mispronounce ‘X’ in English to sound like ‘xis’ which sounds like ‘cheese’.
Floripa: Elaborately decorated cocktails and cheesy music are good for a giggle, but the Brazilian food can easily be bettered.
Guanabara: In the same vein, Gunabara is top of the pile for Brazilian music, dancing and feel-good vibes, but the traditional-sounding food here feels a bit half-hearted.
Raizes: An independent restaurant in Hackney that operates in much the same style as Rodizio Rico.
Yoobi: Sushi gets a Brazilian twist at this lunchtime hotspot in Soho.