Chamas in Beverley is not only a meat feast, but it’s also doing its bit to revive the salad bar, says Dave Lee.
Now and again, it’s good to try something you think you won’t like. At least, that’s what I tell my kids when they turn their noses up at some unexotic foodstuff I’ve secreted onto their dinner plates as part of my eternal quest to get them to widen their diets. Taking my own advice, I decided to try a restaurant everyone was telling me was ace but which, on the face of it, I would never expect to enjoy.
Chamas is a new Brazilian restaurant in Beverley. The things I didn’t fancy about it were that it’s all-you-can-eat (which suggests the ingredients are cheaply sourced); that you are allotted a strict time limit in which to dine (the enemy of relaxed dining); and that it has a salad bar, which usually means loads of metal bowls containing food that may have been a good idea when they were prepared but are going rapidly off – and being sneezed on – with every passing minute they’re sitting in the public domain.
A recent hour to kill in Beverley, though, led me into the just-off Wednesday Market establishment with a determination to try to keep an open mind.
The rules are simple; get your table, fill your plate with salad bar accompaniments, turn your card (you get a red/ green traffic-light style card to display whether you want meat or not) to green and wait for the handful of servers to arrive at your table with one of the dozen or so meats to be carved in front of you.
If you’ve eaten at Fazendo in Leeds or Manchester, all this will be suspiciously familiar to you.
The card bestows a little bit of Man v Food power and at first you think you’ll eat the place into bankruptcy. Trust me, you won’t.
First, the salad bar. I couldn’t face most of it. There were a few slices of tomato and mozzarella on a shelf high enough to defeat all but the most athletic sneezer and some red cabbage that I thought would go well with the meats but, apart from that, it was all very off-putting. Soggy stuffed vine leaves, claggy pasta, the inevitable boiled egg. There are a few hot options being kept warm in catering tubs. The only one I had a look at was Brazilian sausage and black bean stew but the skin was so thick on it I demurred after a single cursory prod with a ladle.
Back at my table, with an Amazon forest beer (brewed in the UK), my first meat arrived. The carver/server fellas slice on your table from a big, meaty skewer and you can have as much as you like. I had a slice of pork and honey and it was, to my surprise, very good. Soft, juicy and tasting of honey. Maybe this will be OK after all.
Garlic beef followed (a bit dry and not very garlicky) and then steak and cheese, which was rump with mozzarella poked or pumped into it somehow. It was medium rare and not bad. Not good, but not bad. Three meats in and I noticed that the slices get cold very quickly – presumably because you’re eating off a cold plate – so it’s best to eat quickly.
Next was roast leg of lamb, which I have to say was absolutely lovely. The meat was succulent and pink and the skin had mint (I think) rubbed into it and was crispy like chicken skin and utterly delicious. Pork “hips” were weird. Not sure if they were actually hips or if the server was saying ribs oddly. Either way there was no rib apparent and the cut tasted like undercooked belly pork. The fat hadn’t properly rendered out and the meat was springy and not particularly tasty.
I had the meat sweats. I turned my card to red and took a break. A quick chat with a delightful waitress revealed that all of the kitchen staff and servers were 100 per cent genuine Brazilian. Mainly sourced from Leeds, apparently, but it seems there is also a surprisingly healthy Brazilian community in Beverley. Who knew?
Once the meat sweats had dissipated slightly I sampled chicken thighs (crispy skin and well cooked), some spicy little chorizo-like sausages and I finally decided to call it a day when the chicken hearts arrived. It felt, by this point, that enough animals had died for my dinner.
I did (just to be thorough and to end on a non-meat note) have a dessert – a crème caramel that was entirely lovely. I’d been at my table under an hour and spent just £35. You pay £15.95 at lunch and £27.95 on an evening. Drinks and desserts are extra. There is a larger selection of meats of an evening, hence the price hike but children and veggies eat for less. Although why a veggie would eat here is beyond me.
So did I like Chamas? Well, I can see why it’s popular. It’s unpretentious and fun for a first visit. I won’t be back, though. I’d like more information on the provenance of the meat, I’d like the meat to be cooked in more varied ways, I’d like better accompaniment options and I’d like them contained in something much better than an open salad bar. Not that it matters, Chamas is doing a roaring trade and so the concerns of one restaurant reviewer doesn’t amount to a hill of Brazilian beans.
Chamas, 9-10 Wednesday Market, Beverley, HU17 0DG. 01482 867897, chamasbeverley.co.uk. Open daily, 12-3pm & 5-10pm.