One of the pleasures of food blogging are invitations to intersting restaurant. Earlier this week I attended a press and blogger dinner at Fazenda, a Brazilian-style restaurant on George Street. I had many servings of delicious meat and interesting conversations with my fellow food writers.
‘We’re not a theme restaurant,’ Tomas Maunier, founder of Fazenda, said, ‘we want to transport you to a high-end restaurant as it would be in Sao Paolo. You wouldn’t see Brazilian dancers or flags there.’ Fazenda has form in this department: Edinburgh is not their first location. They’ve honed the concept in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
We met in the bar for some prosecco before taking our seats at a long table where we had a great view of the salad bar. The room is vast yet each table feels private thanks to discrete lighting. The black and white floor and back-lit agate panels at the bar add glamour, mirrors on the walls make the room feel even busier than it is. I’d heard about South American ‘rodizio’ (same root as rotisery) dining but never experienced it.
The concept is deceptively simple: eat like a gaucho.
South American cowboys spend the day in the saddle and at night they put a slab of meat on a skewer and cook it slowly over a fire while chatting, singing, and drinking wine. When the meat is ready, the waiting gauchos carve pieces of it and eat it with bread, or beans and rice.
In a restaurant setting it works a little differently. There’s a salad bar where you pick your favourite greens or cold meats. (Agrentinians eat rice with feijoada, a lovely black bean stew. I went for sweet potatoes, beetroot, asparagus, different types of chillies and chutneys. Also beans and rice. The beans are fab.)
The ‘withs’ sorted you’re ready for the meat. You have a cardboard disc, red on one side, green on the other. Green means bring me meat. We flipped the disc and waited in anticipation.
Because here’s the twist. The meat is brought to you and carved at the table. It’s a wonder. You eat until you can eat no more. (And if you’re food obsessed, you then have another sliver of your favourite meat.) Tomas told us that the average individual meat consumption over an evening at Fazenda is 30 ounces. In other restaurants its around 8.
What did you try?
We started with the house special, picanha – cap of rump. It was full of flavour, juicy, cooked hugged by fat for extra flavour. It was great on it’s own and I enjoyed it with the rice and beans. A great way to whet your appetite.
Then I had:
- Argentinian sirloin. It was tender, flavoursome and juicy. I paired it with onion and balsamic chutney.
- Lamb. The lamb is glazed with mint sauce and is absolutely wonderful. I love lamb so could have eaten this all night. It was really fab – a afavourite of mine.
- Grilled fillet. Fillet is always lovely. It was properly blue in the middle, tender as butter and deliciously brown on the outside.
- Butcher’s choice. This is always Scottish, as is the chicken. We had a very good rump steak which I paired with a piece of Parmesan. It worked.
- Slow-coooked pork belly with honey glaze. Soft, sweet and unctious.
- Chicken hearts. One of my favourite meats of the night. They’re surprisingly tender, have a lovely smokey flavour and are such a delight. They made me happy.
- Spicy chorizo. Plump little sausages which looks as if they’ll explode in your mouth. And they did. In a good, flavour-ful way.
- Skirt steak. Full of flavour! It takes alittle more chewing but it’s worth it for the flavour. One of my favourites.
- Second butchers choice. This time individually cooked pork cutlets sprinkled with parmegiano. They would have benefited from me not taking photos and notes before I ate them. (To be honest, most food does.)
- Spanish gammon and pineappple. Gammon’s not one of my favourite things but I did enjoy it with the charred pineapple.
- Pork sausage. As plump as the chorizo and almost and spicy, this was not your ordinary sausage. It had lovely texture.
I passed on chicken thighs and chicken wrapped in bacon.
Tomas had the fish and veggie options to show that Fazenda cares about everyone. From these I tried:
- Beetroot gnocchi stuffed with cheese. I loved them! The outside was fairly firm but had a great beetroot taste, and the inside was softly cheesy. They looked almost like sweets, they were so brightly coloured.
- Baccalao in squid ink sauce. A match made in heaven. A good portion of cod looked beaultiful under a bed of black, inky sauce.
- Feijoada and rice. The beans come as a dish in their own right. I couldn’t help but have some more because I enjoyed them a lot. They’re delicious, especially with a few tiny hot peppers mixed in.
- Fish and sweet potato stew cooked with coconut (can also be served without the fish). Sweetly spicy and attractively turmeric yellow it looked positively healthy.
I passed on the salmon which looked good but didn’t excite me as much as the other dishes did.
Yes. I tried 12 meats and four dishes. And then I had pudding.
A note on sourcing
You have a table of food writers, be they journalists or bloggers: sourcing and provenance is going to come up. At the moment, Fazenda sources its beef internationally and its chicken and butcher’s choice locally. They’d like to buy more locally but the way they buy it’s not possible. They do buy huge quantities of meat. There’s no direct equivalence to what Fazenda does but if you want Scottish beef,
Minding your manners
Now it looks as if I pigged out completely but honestly, I didn’t. I had a week’s worth of protein in one night, yes, but servings are sensibly dainty. You can always ask for more. You can always ask for the meat done the way you want it: like a bloody cut? Ask for it. Want something a bit more done? Ask for it. Particularly fancy one of the meats? Ask for it. Want more? It’ll come to you. (Fish and veggie dishes you have to order.)
When a skewer is presented, indicate your interest and, if the meat is sliced, wait until a piece folds over then grab it with your tong and hold it firmly while the server cuts it free. Move it to your plate (or side plate, then plate). Some dishes, like the pork belly, is served from a plate. It’s all very civilised and friendly.
There are eight meats available for lunch; 13 for dinner. Lunch during the week is £19.50, dinner is £32.50. (Check the website for weekend and holiday prices. Kids eat for less.)
Fazenda was great fun and I really enjoyed the food. The salad bar was great and I could easily have filled up on veg alone. I’m glad I reined myself in and left room for the Fazenda’s unique selling point. This is meat done beautifully.
102 George St, Edinburgh EH2 3DF
Telephone: 0131 215 1234