With this guest post by Ricky Marshall from World Travel Toucan, get tempted to try Brazillian food, whether you’re in London or not. More detail about World Travel Toucan and social media links are at the end of the post.
Reading Ricky’s post reminded me of a fabulous lunch I had at a Brazillian restaurant in Lima, Peru which featured more new-to-me fruits and vegetables than I could keep track of. I’ve only spent a few days in Brazil myself (São Paulo and Iguaçu Falls) but do remember eating deliciousness. I’m sure you’ll be hungry by the time you’re at the end of Ricky’s post.
Falling in love with Brazilian food in London
Almost everywhere in the world you visit, it’s pretty easy to find Italian, Indian, French, American, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. However, there’s one cuisine that comes to mind that doesn’t seem to have yet made the find-it-everywhere cut – Brazilian or Brasileiro.
Brazil has the fifth largest population in the world. It’s known for its colourful carnivals, beaches and rainforests, and for its multicultural mix of people. Brazil is recognised worldwide, but not necessarily for its food.
In Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series, a local chef in the Minas Gerais state of Brazil states that the main reason Brazilian food doesn’t get the worldwide recognition it deserves is the availability of its unique ingredients, which would need to be imported from Brazil. It’s also a very homey cuisine that simply hasn’t been as commercialised as other cuisines.
In this post, we share our story of Brazilian food in London and how it opened our eyes to how great the cuisine really is.
The rise of the rodizio
The most popular type of Brazilian restaurant to have escaped Brazil is the rodizio, and you may have even been to one. Many cities have at least one of these eateries, sometimes they’re part of a chain. Here’s how a rodizio works:
- You take a seat in an open, buffet-style restaurant.
- Passadors roam the restaurant, offering different cuts of steak on a skewer, chorizo,
chicken and other meats.
- You eat all you want and supplement your meat with sides from the buffet.
The best Brazilian meals and foods to try – our favourites
- Churrasco BBQ: Brazil’s go-to barbeque dish of grilled steak in a variety of different cuts. It’s commonly served with a side of farofa (a toasted cassava mixture), rice and Brazilian beans. Other accompaniments can include a fried banana, cassava chips and fries.
- Feijao tropeiro: A tasty side dish of Brazilian beans, bacon, sausage, greens and manioc flour. It’s slightly chewy and super tasty.
- Moqueca: A rich fish stew that’s usually served in a clay pot. It’s tasty, filling and full of ingredients inspired by Brazil’s eastern Bahia region.
- Coxinhas: These small bundles of fried fun are served at parties in Brazil and make a great bar snack. Coxinhas are pear-shaped balls of potato and shredded chicken with spices, with a crispy breadcrumb surrounding – delicia!
- Brazilian desserts: Super sweet and arguably the best in the world (why they’re lesser known than many other desserts confuses us like no other). Brigadeiros (a kind of truffle made from condensed milk, cocoa, and butter), dulce de leche, beijihos (a coconut treat traditionally served at birthday parties), and acai fruit are all worth trying.
Exploring Brazilian restaurants in London
Although rodizios are usually good and are authentic to Brazil, they lack the home-cooked style and delicious flavours of smaller, family-run Brazilian restaurants.
We first fell in love with Brazilian food in London of all places. Small Brazilian communities exist in areas such as Kensal Green, Bayswater, Vauxhall and Camden, and this is where you’ll find the hidden gems of restaurants.
Traditional Brazilian food is renowned for being hearty, meaty and a little unhealthy. We agree with this in a way, as you really do feel full after a Brasileiro meal. However, it’s excellent comfort food that will keep you going for a full day and the mix of flavours is unique.
Here are our favourite Brazilian restaurants in London that helped fuel our passion for Brazilian cuisine:
- Galpão: A family-run restaurant located in Kensal Green, West London. This upbeat restaurant has an excellent environment for a weekend meal. Feast on steak with all the Brazilian sides we’ve mentioned and be entertained by live music – all Brazilian of course. This was our first taste of true Brazilian food and it’s surprisingly cheap for London.
- Frigideira: A relatively new restaurant that has quickly become one of the best is Frigideira, also located in Kensal Green. The decor is ranch-style and there’s plenty of ambiance for a romantic evening with your partner. The best meal to try here is the churrasco skillet platter to share.
- Tia Maria: The go-to place for Brazilians who want to party like they’re in Rio, Tia Maria is a no-frills restaurant with excellent food and with a conjoined bar. They have frequent evening events like live music, samba dancing and a lively party atmosphere on a weekend. Arrive for dinner and stay for the welcoming nightlife.
- A special shout out to Preto Putney: If rodizio is more your style, there are a lot of options to choose from in London. Most are from the Touro and Preto chains. In our opinion, the best is definitely Preto Putney. It’s spacious, open and the buffet choices are excellent, especially compared to the smaller, cramped style of other rodizios.
Why we love Brazilian food (and why you should try it)
- Portions are plentiful, meaty and filling and perfect for satisfying a hungry appetite.
- Meals consist of lots of different sides and flavours – your palate will never be bored.
- Brazillian food is straightforward and bold. There’s nothing fancy about it, making it affordable yet delicious.
- It embodies Brazilian culture. The food is best enjoyed in a relaxed restaurant with friends or under the sunshine. Chilled and welcoming is what it’s all about.
A special note on drinks
It’s traditional in Brazil to drink a beer with your churrasco, but caipirinha cocktails and other fruity beverages and fresh juices also pair very well. Weather in Brazil is very hot so it’s always recommended to go for a cool drink. After all, churrasco is best enjoyed on the beach!
How does Brazilian food in London compare to Brazil?
It’s a common consensus that food away from the original country never tastes as good as at home. That may be true in many cases, but there’s no denying that some excellent exported home cooking can be found in Brazilian communities throughout the world. Many Brazilians love to travel and have emigrated worldwide, taking the comforts of Brazilian home cooking with them.
The main difference between Brazilian food in London compared to the likes of São Paulo is the price. You’ll pay a lot more for the same thing in London, just as you would for most cuisines.
If you haven’t tried Brazilian food or maybe you did try it and weren’t a fan, we urge you to give it another chance. Check out our recommended restaurants above and judge London Brazilian food for yourself. It’s a rich cuisine with flavour inspiration from all of Brazil’s states, from beach paradises to the Amazon rainforest.
This guest post was by Ricky Marshall from World Travel Toucan, a website run by a couple that loves to travel whilst maintaining full-time jobs. They travel the world, one holiday at a time, and share experiences and advice so that you can do the same. Follow them on Instagram @WorldTravelToucan and on Facebook at World Travel Toucan.