BRAZIL was the country on everybody’s lips this summer as Yorkshire’s sporting best helped Team GB carry all before them at the Rio Olympic Games.
After finishing second on the medal table, the legacy of Brazil will remain etched on Britain’s mind.
Thanks to Cabana Brasalian Barbecue, the flavours of the South American nation are also available in Leeds. As part of a growing and thriving chain of Cabana restaurants throughout England, the Leeds venue is one of only three in the North.
Founders Jamie and David purposely attempt to mirror the unmistakably Brazilian ethos of ‘tudo bem’, meaning ‘everything’s good.’ They say it is a spirit that is in everyone’s heart, whatever cards you’ve been dealt.
From the moment guests are dealt their cards in Cabana Leeds - customers will note the large selection of starters and street food.
Highlights include snacks such as a ‘boteco sharing board’ - parmesan and honey, malagueta pork scratchings and fiery roasted nuts, a dish which is served in bars all over Brazil.
Chargrilled halloumi with guava dip, crispy lula squid, and salt cod fritters akin to those in Sao Paulo’s Municipal Market are among a handful of ‘Rio Classics’ on offer.
Then there’s a wide selection under the ‘spicy malagueta’ section. This is, after all, the home of the mighty Brazilian malagueta chilli.
Spicy prawns, chicken lettuce wraps, pulled pork sliders and chicken wings are all available under this banner, as is the spicy malagueta chicken doughnut which is rather confusing conceptually but surprisingly delicious at the same time.
Allow yourself plenty of time to decide between a huge array of main courses, headed by 10 different varieties of flame grilled skewers, all served with any two Cabana sides.
The pork and papaya sausage wheel was particularly tempting here but a decision is made to opt for the £19.95 Rio rib-eye, one of the most expensive dishes on what is a reasonably priced menu (the spicy malagueta ribs cost the same).
Rio ribeye is described as a ‘total feast’ and at 8oz, the delicious meat, marinated in chilli and cumin, is spot on.
There was also the option to stack your skewer with either ribs, spicy malagueta prawns or spicy malagueta wings.
Sticky barbecue guava ribs are available in their own right, as is the sizzling picanha steak or picanha beefburger, made from the ultimate Brazilian cut - cap of rump - with malagueta mayo, chimichurri, tomato, Rio beans and matchsticks.
And then there’s Cabana’s own version of the feijoada - Brazil’s national dish of beef, pork and beans, slow cooked overnight - with the vegetarian ‘vegoada’ option a clever alternative.
There’s so much choice here, so that even deciding on a ‘premio side’ is a tough call, be it sweet potato, cassava or feijoada versions of fries. The latter is particularly good - covered with melted cheese and beef, pork and bean feijoada.
It goes without saying that a restaurant featuring a menu brimming with choice and colour also features an extensive list of drinks, with a Cabana Pimm’s, with Amazon plant guaraná, guaranteed to please.
Or there’s popsicle caipirinhas, cocktails with frozen ice lollies which are all the rage in Rio but are also bound to very popular here. Versions include classic banana and coconut, honey and ginger, or watermelon and basil.
There is naturally also a good selection of wines and beers including the easy drinking Sagres beer by the bottle and be sure not to overlook the prospect of superb coffees with Cabana using Santos beans from the south which are smooth and elegant with a rich caramel flavour.
Cabana Leeds also offers a £9.95 two course set lunch menu Monday to Friday until 5pm, as well as a Latin fast-food lunchbox.
There is also an early bird special every day from 5pm until 6.30pm, consisting of a main course, two sides and a drink for £9.95.
Be it food or drink, there is quite simply a multitude of options on offer at Cabana, all of which can be enjoyed in surroundings that are akin to the menu - bright, fun, vibrant and colourful, if a little hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city’s footfall given its location.
Just be sure to leave room for desert, be it chocolate raindrop doughnuts, a nega maluca which translates as Brazilian chocolate cake or even peanut butter and oreos.
The eye, though, is naturally drawn to the Brasalian overload (£5.95) - caramel choc chip and white chocolate ‘cupuacu’ ice creams with ‘brigadeiro’ chocolate truffles and doce de leite caramel sauce.
After a few cocktails, you can be forgiven for not being able to remember the exact descriptions of these dishes, be it picanha, feijoada or nega maluca. However, a visit here will doubtless leave a lasting impression.
In terms of what Cabana could do better, it’s extremely hard to be critical.
But there’s a feeling that the Leeds restaurant is rather hidden away in the corner of the top floor of Trinity and there are doubtless plenty who do not even know of its existence.
Perhaps a taster stall elsewhere might be a good idea. The addition of lager on draught would also be welcomed, as beers are only available by the bottle.
But it’s hard to quibble with the restaurant’s value with two starters, two mains, two sides and a big desert to share plus a bottle of wine, cocktail pitcher and a bottle of beer coming to £101.
Name: Cabana Brasilian Barbecue
Address: 4, Albion St, Leeds LS1 5AT
Tel: 0113 3917500
Opening times: Mon-Thurs 11am-9:30pm, Fri & Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11.30am-9pm