Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum had: Nibbles: Pão de queijo and beef empanadas, Main meats: Steaks including picanha, alcatra. filet mignon, bife ancho, and contra file; other meats including frango, coracão de frango, linguica and morcela
It’s summer, which means that temptation foodwise is always going to be directed towards barbecued meat. Fortunately, this is one area in which Leeds delivers with an impressive array of options. The one that sounded easily the most exciting, though, was Brazilian steakhouse Fazenda, based almost entirely on its novel ordering system. Essentially an ‘all you can eat’ kind of deal, you pay a fixed price and then waiters bring round huge skewers of meat and carve you off a bit at the table, with a handy red/green card to flip when you or don’t want more.
Professor Plum has been to Brazil once, many years ago, and has eaten at a place like this in the country of its origin. For me, though, this was my first encounter with such a style of serving, albeit not my first go at Brazilian food. You may remember during last summer’s World Cup we had a week of eating the cuisine of the host nation and that it constituted a whole lot more than just lots of red meat, which most of us would consider more Argentinian anyway. As I said then, though, Brazil’s food is deeply regional and this type of barbecued meat, churrasco, belongs to the grassy southern states where there are a lot of cows and cowboys, all of which means that they know how to cook a steak. (Although that’s not to say that feijoada, the national dish of black beans that I made last summer, wasn’t available at the salad bar).
All kinds of meats are available, but obviously the specialism is steak, which comes in as many different cuts as you could want. The alcatra, rump steak, cooked with garlic and sliced thinly, and the house signature cut, picanha or cap of rump, were the standouts, juicy, succulent and pink. We also had sausages, black pudding and, most interestingly, coracão de frango or chicken heart. These were good, but not quite so perfectly grilled and deeply flavoursome as the steaks, which are well worth coming back for.
Naturally with all those appetising skewers of meat making the rounds of the dining room, it’s hard not to have eyes bigger than your stomach. Of course we wanted to try everything on offer, but it was important to learn how to pace ourselves and sometimes flip the card to red at least for long enough to finish what we had in front of us before trying to get a bit of something else.
On the one hand, Fazenda is not a cheap dining experience, but on the other you don’t often get the opportunity to have this much steak in one go! Definitely a recommended dining experience for lovers of red meat. (The presence of vegetarian and pescetarian options on the menu seems pretty unconvincing).
Professor Plum in the Dining Room: Quite a few years ago my aunt and uncle lived in Rio de Janeiro, and everyone in the family took it in turns to visit them. I must have been about fourteen at the time, and I have a lot of great memories of that trip (and a lot of being too hot: it was 34C when we left Brazil and snowing when we got back to the UK). I only really remember what we ate a couple of times: buying coconut water from stall holders who pulled coconuts from the trees and hacked them open with machetes and gave them to you with a straw, and a brazilian barbecue place.
Fazenda is very much as I remember that place in Rio. A red/green card, waiters wandering around with meat, and a too tempting salad bar. Fazenda doesn’t have american ex pats treating their south pacific wives (who made up a large proportion of the clientele in the place in Rio), which is probably for the best. The food is excellent, and you say yes to everything and then struggle to keep up, and you decide you’re full but then you see something you haven’t had yet and maybe, just maybe you can fit it in so you flip the card and then you don’t want to steak guy to feel rejected so you say yes to that as well and it turns out meat fatigue is a real thing.
The house special was probably the best thing on offer at Fazenda, though I happily kept saying yes to the various bits of cow. The chicken was good, the hearts were tasty, the sausages were okay, the black pudding was yummy, and we didn’t get around to the gammon. Oh, and the wine was good too – so good it tricked us into going to a pub after and having another couple of drinks on the way home. You know, the way good wine often tricks you.