Friday, 29 June 2012

Fazenda, Leeds

Meat. More meat! More meat! The battle cry remains the same, the venues change. From time to time the lifelong (well they haven't ditched me yet anyway) friends I met at University and I like to meet up to drink, make merry and eat a lot of something large and meaty.

It might be in curried form, it could be Chinese or perhaps a barbecue. In days of yore the cry originated in the kebab shops of Hyde Park, the meat of dubious quality, foot long strips of it stuffed in budget pitta and doused in hot sauce.

Nowadays I wouldn't touch that stuff. Honest. Well alright I might if you plied me with enough booze first. But it's a very rare occurence. I like to think our palates have developed, become refined over the years, learned to appreciate subtle tastes and quality. In practice it's probably just that we can afford to spend more than £3.50 on dinner.

Last Saturday we tried something a little different, a visit to Leeds' one and only Churrascaria, a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. Fazenda is a Rodizio, a Churrascaria where the meat is grilled in huge chunks on giant skewers which are then fetched to your table where the flesh is sliced directly onto your plate. This continues indefinitely using a beer mat traffic light system. Leave your mat on green, and hey presto. Meat! More meat! Flip to red and they'll stop.

If you like meat this seems like a very good idea. If you don't I wouldn't bother.

In practice it's not always such a good idea. I've got history with the Rodizio. Some years ago I spent a few weeks in Brazil (and its equally meat-tastic southern neighbour Argentina), the final week of which was in Rio where I did literally nothing but eat meat at a Rodizio and drink Caipirinhas. Alright not quite literally, but that's the abiding memory. Presumably I was lying on the beach with the meat and booze sweats inbetween times.

After the excesses of Brazil I didn't go near another Rodizio for another few years until a couple of very underwhelming experiences in a London restaurant. Meat that was mostly overcooked and poor quality, the best cuts showing up far too infrequently. Compared to the generosity and quality we'd experienced in Brazil it was a waste of time.

Fast forward another couple of years to Fazenda. Would it be like a true Brazilian Rodizio, or would it follow the annoyingly common British approach to this sort of thing (i.e. offer all you can eat, hide behind a gimmick, then don't worry about the quality because they'll be queuing out the door anyway)?

Thankfully it was much more like the true Brazilian experience. Meat! More meat!

Did I mention the salad bar? While the meat and various other sundry items (chips, beef empanadas, pao de queijo) are fetched to you, the salad bar is self service. I was quite impressed with the salad bar at Fazenda. Plentifully stocked, good quality, a selection of cold cuts available as well as green stuff in case unlimited hot sliced meat just isn't enough.

The bread from the salad bar was good but the pao de queijo (little cheesy rolls) were a bit chewy and rubbish. I liked the beef empanadas though. Good and meaty. Always makes sense to commence an all you can eat meat barbecue meal with some little meat pies.

And then the meat began to arrive. Beefsteak in a multitude of ways. Rump and tail of rump and picanha, or cap of rump, the King of the Rodizio.

Even a bit of fillet, and then some ribs. None of it was overcooked, everything ranged from medium through to rare, no well done steak in sight. Not the best beef I've tasted, but decent stuff and handled well.

There were sausages, Brazilian style chorico and black pudding, both delicious these. The black pudding was a soft squidgy delight, more like a French boudin than a British pud.

Lamb was over marinaded in a slightly artificial tasting minty sauce, but was beautifully cooked within, pink and tender.

There was chicken, no breasts I'm pleased to say, but crispy skinned thighs and also hearts. I had high hopes for these after enjoying them on holiday last year, but sadly they were like rubber balls.

Meat! More meat! It continued until closing time, we dined late, the beef getting ever rarer as time progressed. The final skewer was blue, virtually raw, I think they'd doused the flames but brought it to us anyway.

Finally spent, my faith in the Rodizio restored, we headed off, fortified for the rest of the night.

It's a fun evening a meal at Fazenda, but not a cheap one. On a weekend night the all you can eat Rodizio will set you back £28 (weeknights and lunchtimes are cheaper). By the time we'd quaffed a load of drinkable but unspectacular Malbec our bill topped out at £44 per head including well earned service (we worked those meat waiters hard). The meat was good but not excellent, so if you want to stuff your face I'd go here, but if you want a genuinely fine piece of meat I'd go elsewhere.


Waterman’s Place
3 Wharf Approach
Granary Wharf

Fazenda Rodizio Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon


Matt said...

I went as a vegetarian to appease my meat eating friends. They actually cater quite capably - the 'salad bar' is great and they made me a great ricotta ravioli as well as a dessert!

I'd love to see this idea copied by a pub, with endless samples of beer.

Dave said...

Matt - thanks for commenting. Yeah the salad bar really is quite good isn't it. Assume it must be a fair bit cheaper if you're just having that though??

Loving the pub rodizio idea.. could get messy though.

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