Sunday, 13 September 2009

Latin meat sweat

My Dad was in town over the weekend to speak at a conference and we finally hit up one of London's many rodizio restaurants: Rodizio Preto, which is in Pimlico.

A rodizio or a churrascaria is a kind of Brazilian restaurant where various cuts of various meats are grilled on a barbecue, then brought to your table by a waiter who cuts you a portion off and puts it on your plate. Being quarter Brazilian and my Dad being half, we thought we would get back to our roots and discover our Latin spirit. Or something equally contrived.

I hadn't really known what to expect. Pimlico, I'd dismissed as a nothing area: Victoria Station Borders, but was quite surprised to walk down Wilton Street to find a bustling, broad high street lined with restaurants, shops and bars with a well-heeled but not exclusive feel. Preto itself looked bustling, 20 and 30-somethings in their Saturday night finest filled the sprawling outside tables as smartly dressed waiters tender to their meat and alcohol needs. As we approached, my heart sunk very briefly - was this my worst nightmare? A gimmicky good times restaurant?!

You help yourself to an extensive salad bar, which includes various rices, typical Brazilian bean stews, salsas, various potato salads, battered bananas/plantains, croquettes, cabbage stuffed with cream cheese, pork scratchings, onion rings, more cabbage...phew. I filled my plate to the max - I wanted to try everything. With just one piece of meat on it, it looked a little something like this:

Waiters cheerfully walked around with huge cuts of meat on skewers, fresh off the barbecue. They came around at a pace that just allowed you to do one portion justice before saying yes to the next. Different cuts included beef steak, beef ribs, pork shoulder, chicken hearts, chicken wings, turkey breast, lamb , spicy sausage. Etc. I paced myself and tried just about every different cut that was on offer. Each cut was succulent, melt-in-yr-mouth good and you could tell it was good quality stuff.

The diners there were a really diverse bunch: from big tables of birthdaying Brazilians to young families enjoying a rare meal out, over 60s couples to mid-twenties couples, everyone was having a good time, sipping big cocktails, chatting to the waiting staff. It was nice to see so many different people designating a big meal out as a Saturday night's entertainment and being so happy for it. The ceremony and ritual of the rodizio really makes the experience.

If you are thinking of going for a rodizio, you might want to look at this Time Out article which looks at a few of the main one. I've heard Rodizio Rico, a small chain, is a bit more expensive than the others. I would definitely recommend Preto, but there might be better bargains to be had in NW10, which has a big Brazilian population. And wear stretchy trousers (aka buffet pants) - you'll need them.

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