Rio de Janeiro has always been on my travel bucket list but until the day I actually see the place, I’m happy to live the dream through capoeira and Brazilian food in London whenever I can. Luckily, I was invited to try some Brazilian fare last week.
Cabana opened last quarter in Brixton, in the now defunct Bon Marche building. The new branch is spacious and seemingly buzzing. It’s bigger than expected and immediately I was drawn to its beautifully decorated relaxed interior. You get a feel it’s a place you would want to chill out with friends – and it’s large enough to accommodate a lot of group bookings for pre-tanking friends.
During weekends, the Caipirinha Bar downstairs transforms into a bar-cum-lounge-cum-club space with DJs spinning contemporary tunes.
Here’s me giving myself a hug. Because, why not.
To kick-off the meal, cocktails! Both at £7.95, it almost felt like we went for happy hour. Carmen Miranda is an exotic minx boasting of chilli, mango, spiced rum and a hint of vanilla. She’s a hot sweet minx. Carlos the Godfather on the other hand is a refreshing mix of gin, elderflower, lemon and lime. He’s the sensible one, for sure.
We had 1/4 ribs to start (£6.95) which is a taster of their sticky guava BBQ ribs. I liked the marinade as it was well-balanced. The ribs are not as sticky as Roka’s, not as tender as Señor Ceviche’s, nor as juicy as Red Dog Saloon’s, but for the price you pay, it was okay.
I have massive love for coxinha so when I saw these on the menu, I had to have them (£4.95). Cabana’s offering come in three mini versions. I like that the coating was not too overbearing and that the stuffing wasn’t too starchy with potato. It’s not the best I’ve had (and trust me I’ve had plenty of coxinha) but paired with their homemade Malagueta hot sauce, this was ace.
This stuff is seriously made of pumped-up kicks.
On recommendation, we ordered the spicy Malagueta chicken (£12.95) which came with sweet potato fries and homeslaw. I didn’t think it was spicy enough, to be frank but it was tender. Oh, and I inhaled the sweet potato fries long before I remembered to take a photo.
It ain’t a Brazilian fare without meat so I ordered the 8oz Cabana steak (£15.95) which came with fries and small Rio beans.
I ordered mine rare, but after a few forkfuls, I realised the cut was meant to be cooked more. A few minutes later, the steak came back a bit more cooked and it was definitely much better than when it came rare.
Beans and slaw on the side.
The chef sent us desserts, too. First up was a bowl of chocolate raindrop doughnuts (£5.95), Cabana’s version of bolinhos de chuva which are essentially the Portuguese version of dough-plings. A small bowl goes a long way, as the dough balls are stuffed with Nutella PLUS you get chocolate sauce. It can get a bit too sickly sweet if you have too much. Better share, unless you can handle your sugar.
The Cabana cheesecake (£5.95) fared better. It’s banana and caramel topped with roasted almonds. The banana flavour actually came through and the caramel wasn’t so bad. I’m not too sure about the texture of the almonds, but overall I liked it enough.
Cabana is a Brazilian quick fix and unlike most places that hail from chains, it’s not trying to be something it’s not. The ambience is absolutely chilled out and I can’t tell you how much I adore the Brazilian touches to the decor. I’ve yet to see the Caipirinha Bar buzzing if I were to judge it with the amount of group bookings there were when I visited (on a school night), I’d say it’s definitely a welcome addition to the Brixton buzz.
Bon Marche Centre, 201 – 207 Ferndale Rd, London SW9
My meal was complimentary but ave spend pp is £25