A most enjoyable Brasilian…Posted: December 6, 2011
“Five go embarrassing themselves; The Quest for Mitesh…”
The necessary pre-cursor to this ramble about a great new restaurant is this; http://storify.com/katbrown82/the-most-embarrassing-thing-i-ve-done-to-friends – you can tell from the address that it is going to be an intriguing read. Have a little look and then I will tell you about some food…
Fortunately, Mitesh did not press any harassment charges following that encounter.
NOW, Cabana – To launch his new Brazilian barbeque concept, Jamie Barber [of Hush and Villandry fame] and his team created
#cabana50foodies, a genius Twitter hashtag which resulted in 4 friends and I having one of the most memorable meals of our lives thus far. 50 foodies invited guests to Westfield Stratford to experience the new restaurant and its menu. As soon as this popped up on Twitter we immediately pounced and began harassing (this is becoming somewhat of a theme for the evening…) poor Lizzie about how we were the hungriest people on earth and simply must be allowed to sample the delights on offer. She, thankfully, relented and we were booked in to give the place a good going over.
To kick things off with a POP we started at the new Searcys Champagne Bar with a couple of delicious bottles of fizz; Gosset Brut Excellence and Bruno Paillard Rosé. More on this later in the week… Fueled by BUBBLES we headed determinedly towards Cabana. Little did they know the flurry of chaos and cocktails about to hit them. Surrounded by shrubbery we entered into a cornucopia of colours, smells and people with lights strewn around the place. The atmosphere was convivial and welcoming us on the table was a menu entitled ‘SOMETHING TO DRINK’. Critically with no question mark. How could we disobey a direct order? As we were 5, everyone picked one cocktail and one Tiros Shot (shooters inspired by classic Brasilian flavours). The drinks are split into a selection of Cachaca shots, ‘Soul of Brasil’ (all using Cachaca), ‘Da Casa’ (classics with a twist) and ‘Tiros Shots’. We tried the following to (further) warm up for the feast ahead;
El Draque – Fresh mint pressed with cachaca and citrus. Purportedly invented for Sir Francis Drake.
Brasilian Mule – cachaca, fresh lime, angostura bitters, ginger beer.
Quentao – hot cachaca, fruits and spices. Traitionally served during Festas Juninas. A sort of Brasilian mulled wine.
Garota de Ipanema – horseradish cachaca, spices and tomato juice. The house Bloody Mary.
Canopy Crush – cachaca, dry sherry, green tea, rosemary, sugar, citrus, cucumber & fresh herb garnish.
All were very well made with excellent use of cachaca – I think an under-appreciated spirit in the UK – with intriguing flavour combinations. A particular favourite was the canopy crush. Rosemary is a clever ingredient in drinks that I have seen in South America before so glad it is catching on here.
Time for grub. Our friendly, iPhone wielding (all mod cons here) waiter suggested some Street Food to start with some sides and then explained the main quirk of Cabana; skewers, endless skewers of grilled delicious things on a STOP/GO basis. Each table has a mat with a green and red side. You want more skewers? Show the green side. Sliding into a food coma? Flash the red. Each skewer has a different colour to signify what is on it and also the price. This is a simple but effective idea that saves the awkwardness of having to order for a second or third time a la Mr. Creosote… At this juncture we were in need of wine and chose one of the Brasilian house selection; Rio Sol Chenin Viognier Blanc – crisp and pleasant to drink, it was a good introduction to Brasilian wine. Despite one false start and receiving someone else’s order (soft launch, these things happen) which we very nearly inhaled, plates begin to clatter down with pleasing regularity. We sated our hunger with;
Parmesan and wild honey – such a decadent combination!
Brasilian cheesy dough balls – cheese. Dough. What’s not to like? Ideally with more cheese please!
Sweetcorn pamonhas – grated sweetcorn steamed in coconut milk, cinnamon and wrapped in a corn husk. Positively addictive.
Chopped salmon ceviche – coconut, chilli, lime cured salmon with baby gem lettuce. Delicate, citrusy, delicious.
Chicken Coxinhas – shredded chicken and spice croquettes. Zingy, crunchy, fab.
Cassava chips – the Brasilian answer to potato chips. A tad dry, but such is their nature.
Roasted pumpkin, feta and avocado salad – great ingredients, could eat it all day, slightly stingy on the avocado.
Skewers (god bless the poor patient server who bought us these, she must have returned about 325 times)
Charred corn on the cob – succulent and perfect with the house malagueta sauce.
Pork and papaya sausages – fruity in the best way.
Portobello mushroom topped with halloumi cheese – HALLOUMI!
Butterflied pork tenderloin with parmesan crust – this raised a collective, firework-esque ‘OHH, AAH’ from the group.
Spicy malagueta tiger prawns – a real kick to some seriously meaty shellfish, a winner.
Desserts are delightfully simple at Cabana, I am not a huge fan anyway so relished the FroYo and toppings choice; guava with peanut brittle. It was about this point that we became aware of Mitesh, the aforementioned poor soul we harangued for being a fellow fifty foodie (which i cant even say fast when sober). The first expedition to find him saw our fearless leader demand we charge our puddings and decamp en-masse to Mitesh’s table. Find him we did not. Embarrassed we severely were. Some fervent tweeting later and we had confirmed he was still in the restaurant so on the cusp of launching our second campaign, one of our party appeared to say he had met Mitesh in the bathroom! [Interesting detail aside here; the mens bathroom has blue Havaianas on the door, the ladies has pink] WELL, you can imagine how happy we were. You could even say it made us clap like excited seals. There was of course more wine.
In summation, I like Cabana. Friendly, affordable, light-hearted, tasty and crucially ahead of the wave of forthcoming Brasilian/Peruvian/South American restaurants set to open in London. Just a shame it is so ruddy far from the centre of town! What’s that? There is another branch in Covent Garden? Hell, I’m going to be eating a lot more Brasilian food.
Cabana Westfield Stratford
5 Chestnut Plaza, Montfitchet Way
Westfield Stratford City, E20 1GL
Photography courtesy of John Carey
*Extra special thanks to Lizzie Barber for allowing this insane bunch of gannets into the restaurant in the first place!*