As the number of restaurants in Newcastle continues to grow, in turn does the variety of flavours and cultures on offer. Cabana is set to show their passion for authentic Brasilian food, following success in London, Manchester and Leeds. And yes, as stated in Cabana: The Cookbook, “it’s Brasil with an ’s’, just like they spell it over there”.
Founded by Jamie Barber and David Ponte in 2011, Cabana Brasilian Barbecue will open their tenth restaurant in the Cooperative Building at the heart of the city centre.
I Love Newcastle was invited to Cabana’s St Giles location in London, for a preview of what we can expect from the new restaurant. In attendance were Cabana’s co-Founder David Ponte and Marketing Manager Lizzy Barber, as well as Carys Barker and Kyla Flynn of MCG PR.
Before even glancing at their menu, the interiors transport you to South America with vibrant colours, hardwood floors and authentic reclaimed furnishings. Poster patterns on their back wall are based on lambe lambe, a popular artform in São Paulo outlawed to keep the streets tidy. However, Cabana’s co-founders Jamie and David met with artists within the Brasilian favelas, commissioning them to design the posters used in their restaurants today.
David explained that many of the decorations are converted from everyday objects. Spherical light shades are crafted from copper pipe, small dishes containing your bill are made from telephone wire, even the seats are fashioned from jeans. Whilst proudly displaying an ornate pillowcase made from hundred of ring pulls stitched together, David dubbed the practice “upcycling and recycling on steroids”.
Creativity is at the forefront of their mission statement and echoes their message of representing an authentic Brasil. Cabana is keen to show customers “the Brasil they don’t know”, with information about the dishes, decorations and culture visible throughout the restaurant. David stated a noticeable trend in younger generations, saying they want to know the story behind their food. Lizzy added that at their Manchester location, locals enjoy “eating around the world” with other world restaurants nearby. She also said that with easier travel, people get more adventurous with their meals which is reflected in Cabana’s dishes.
Once they arrive in Newcastle, the team have promised to stay connected with its culture by keeping their building’s front the same and designing interiors with the city in mind. Newcastle will also be one of the first to sample the “Road to Rio” menu, a revamped selection to celebrate the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.
As part of our meeting, we were invited to sample a range of Cabana’s menu items for ourselves. David encouraged us to dive in, emphasising that eating in Brasil is “more about being with friends and family and less about haute cuisine”. This strong sense of community is key within Cabana, with large groups commonly ordering a variety of dishes to share.
On arrival, we were given a taste of the drinks menu. In addition to Cabana’s wine list, soft drinks and bottled beers, Brasil’s national cocktail of choice, the Caipirinha, is offered. Served with Velho Barrerio cachaça (sugarcane rum), lime and sugar, they are rooted in the restaurant’s identity. I opted for two variations: the classic, and the blueberry and açai caipirinha. Both were incredibly refreshing and packed with fruit, making for a pleasant beverage with the meal.
The “Starters and Street Food” section of the menu is self-explanatory. We were served an impressive selection: pão de queijo (cheesy dough balls), bolinhos (fried rice balls), coxinhas (spiced chicken croquettes), crispy shrimp rings, spicy malagueta prawns, and cassava chips.
A medley of textures and flavours made for an exciting first impression of Cabana’s food. The bolinhos’ crunchy coating gave way to fluffed white rice, whereas the spiced chicken and crisp coat of the coxihnas gave a curious combination. Cabana’s signature sauce is used in their Spicy Malagueta prawns, giving them a tangy kick. The pão de queijo are the national snack of Brasil and may well have made me lose respect for regular dough balls forever, with their fluffy texture proving a welcome variant alongside the deep fried options.
Following the starters was the main event: the skewers. Cabana’s mains are centred around this dish, with beef, chicken, pork and lamb available. Prepared and cooked on their open plan grill, they are served by waiting staff straight from the skewer. I opted for their best seller of Spicy Malagueta Chicken, with sides of sweet potato fries and homeslaw (Cabana’s take on coleslaw).
It’s clear why the chicken is one of their best sellers: the meat was tender and well coated in the malagueta sauce, a medium spiced component with suitable kick. The charred chicken compliments the sweet burst of red peppers layered over it, giving excellent balance to the dish. Cabana’s sides work with their mains well, with the sweet potato fries evenly cooked and citrus notes in the homeslaw acting as an effective palette cleanser.
Finally, we were treated to several dessert items: caramel frozen yoghurt, chocolate Brigaderio truffles, and chocolate raindrop doughnuts or Bolinhos de Chuva in Brasil (fried dough balls stuffed with Nutella). Saving room for dessert after starters and mains is highly advisable: the frozen yoghurt was creamy and sweet, whereas the Brigaderios and doughnuts were simply decadent.
All in all, Cabana Brasilian Barbecue brings an ambitious new restaurant to Newcastle, with a refreshing menu and a strong desire to become a fixture in the city’s dining scene. Foodies, families and those partial to a fiesta will want to check this one out.
Cabana Brasilian Barbecue will open on April 21st 2016.
Address: The Cooperative Building, 117 Newgate St, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5RZ
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