Arranging events for large groups of people can be a tricky conundrum, especially if you do it on a regular basis. As Club Captain for my local badminton club, it falls to me to cook up the social events each month, and I am therefore always on the lookout for venues and restaurants that are a little bit different, and will provide a fun session out without being too repetitive. With a dreary wind and rain battered February, I decided our social should be light-hearted, casual yet full of delicious food and drink inspired by the missing sunshine. What better place to fit the bill than Brazilian barbeque hotspot Braza, situated in Romford near The Brewery.
As soon as you enter Braza, you are literally smacked in the face by the wonderful wafting scents of sizzling and spit roasting meats. Diagonally opposite the main entrance and right next to the bottle stacked bar area is a magnificent feast for the eyes – a stack of metal skewers spearing an array of crackling and juicy meat portions is stacked up in a spit roasting tower above a wildly flickering fire in a very natural barbeque style. The gently rotating meat is a sight for sore eyes when you are a group of hungry diners ready for an impressive lunch.
Braza has a very elegant yet relaxed atmosphere about it, which is a great juxtaposition. The tables may be a high gloss black, decorated with shaped salt and pepper shakers and poised plastic flowers, yet when my Tequila Sunrise arrives, it is decked out in loud paper umbrellas, large wedges of fresh orange and a creatively twisted straw, which adds that essential element of fun which I adore in cocktails. The restaurant itself is not a massive size, but I do feel they have made the most of the space, the bar and barbeque along the back wall, various sized rectangular tables filling the main floor area, and a cold buffet section tucked around the corner out of the way almost.
What makes Braza different is that there is no menu as such. As you are seated at your table, each diner is given a small coaster size card with one green ‘yes’ side and one red ‘no’ side. Once you have got a plate and filled it at the buffet section, you return to your table and await the arrival of one of the servers. The servers literally pluck one of the metal skewers straight off the spit roast and bring the meat directly to your table, armed with tongs or knives, where they then carve the chosen meat directly on to your plate. If your card stays green, they will keep bringing meat after meat after meat to constantly fill your plate with a carnivorous cascade of tender cuts. If you turn your card to the red ‘no’ side, the server will know to skip you, because you are full and do not wish any more meat. It’s a fantastic way of throwing the menu out of the window for a change and your mouth waters in anticipation and you watch the carver slice the meat expertly. It also means that you can monitor your portion size which is really handy, so it has the aspect of an all you can eat buffet but with an extra dash of class and culture which is nice.
This style of eating originated back in the 1800’s with European immigrants in Brazil who became adept cattle herders. These gauchos, as they were called, developed the churrasco style of cooking where large joints of meat were skewered and then cooked slowly over a fire, before being sliced directly onto the recipient’s plate. Braza has taken this cultural history and brought it bang up to date for a modern dining experience, where you can still enjoy the taste and texture of natural, roasted meat but in a dressed up restaurant environment rather than the road side.
If you think a menu mainly composed of meat joints may be restrictive in any way, then you are very wrong, as the succession of succulent meat delivered to our plates held a fantastic variety. We kicked things off with frankfurter style sausages, but we were also offered chicken, firstly wrapped in bacon and secondly just tender chicken thighs. Slabs of pork belly melted in the mouth, as did the lightly smoked and wafer thin gammon. The steak – both sirloin and rump – was superb and flavoured simply with rock salt as that was all that was needed. It was also medium rare which is exactly how I like it so that was ideal. We even got to sample some baby ribs as well. Each morsel of meat was absolutely divine and you can tell that Braza take their meat quality extremely seriously. The meat is not drenched in marinades, sauces or rubs for the pure and simple reason that the joints speak for themselves, and any adornment of this kind would be unnecessary and detract from the natural flavourful tastes. They really hit the nail on the head here.
The buffet selection is just as rich when it comes to choices. It is divided into a hot buffet bench and a cold buffet area. The cold options include an array of salads, whether you fancy traditional lettuce, a pasta combination or chilled mixed veg such as peppers, beans and tomatoes. The hot section has slightly more to pick from, with a couple of rice dishes, roasted baby new potatoes, dauphinoise potatoes and my personal favourite, mixed vegetables including carrots and cauliflower served in a creamy white-cheese sauce. You can also graze on lasagne, black beans, lamb curry, cheesy bread bites, breaded mushrooms and classic roasted vegetables. To be honest, it’s difficult not to pile your plate too high at the buffet, so it’s probably a good thing that the meat comes in drips and drabs! There are also a choice of dips and sauces available for us ketchup lovers out there. The buffet is unlimited, so you can go up as many times as you like so it’s a good way to top up your accompaniments when you begin getting the meat come around.
The drinks menu is also rather impressive, as I instantly honed in on the cocktail options, generally priced at approximately £7 each which is really reasonable. If wine or beer is more your bag, there was also plenty of that on offer, although appearance wise my grenadine gradiented fruity number excelled and packed a tequila based punch.
Despite eating enough to feed a small family, dessert is never bypassed where I am involved, and again there is no need for a menu as the waiter brings out a white tray, stacked with small bowls of all of the dessert options, so you can see for yourself what it will look like, and also get a hint of the texture. All you have to do is point at the one you fancy. I chose the crème caramel, topped with desiccated coconut and a glace cherry, with a generous all over swirl of caramel sauce. The dessert was quite tall and was a very thick custard like consistency, which I really enjoyed. I split my dessert with a fellow sweet lover Nick, who shared his chocolate pudding with me equally. The pudding was thicker than the crème caramel but it also had that jelly / custard like texture which I rather like. The chocolate flavour was rich and full on, which in my book is why you have a chocolate afters, although I appreciate it may have been too intense for some people.
Braza offers a unique dining experience that is great for people of all ages and for groups of all sizes, from couples through to rowdy badminton clubs. There are the dashes of showmanship from the servers as they wield the skewers and knives with a practiced elegance at the table, aware that all eyes are on them carving the delicious meat. You don’t have to worry about restricting yourself to one meat as you can have your pick of them all, and the buffet options are just as yummy to help pile your plate to the max. The staff are all incredibly warm and welcoming and were polite during the course of our meal, although we were kept waiting for some drinks at one point. Casual, comfortable and well executed, this patch of Brazilian sunshine easily brightens any meal time.