Homeward Bound: Beefeater Liberty Bell, Romford, Essex

The Liberty Bell has always been a reliable source of British pub grub, a mere 15 minute walk from my flat, making it an ideal date night location where both my husband and I can enjoy a few drinks yet still get home with ease. Partnered with Romford’s Premier Inn, the gastro pub used to be part of the Table Table chain, yet a recent renovation has seen it transform into a Beefeater. Although I know the differences are probably quite subtle and more nuanced – after all, it still serves British pub fodder – I was still keen to see what they had done to the place.

As you walk in, the most striking difference is the new décor. Beefeater have really overhauled and updated the interior to give the restaurant a really open feel, featuring plenty of large rectangular and circular tables, large mustard or coffee coloured leather sofa style seating, and quirky red or brown upholstered dining chairs. Wood panelling provides a barn-like vibe. Fun cow-related sayings perch on the walls, as well as other themed art, such as a multi-coloured cow cut out labelling the relevant joints of meat. It’s a light, bright space, and it has a really fun and casual atmosphere; perfect for kicking back after a long week at work. The nooks and grannies that previously hid seating when Table Table was in management have all disappeared, and Beefeater has embraced a much more homely yet classy vibe.

My husband and I were sat on an end table by the wall, providing an element of privacy. I nabbed the dining chair as Dan slid onto the mustard sofa opposite me, behind our wooden, square table. As he ordered a berry flavoured cider, I checked out the wine menu. I decided to try something a little different – my usual favourites are also naturally the most expensive on most menus, so I was trying to be savvy too! One of the cheaper white wines, it was pale in colour and vaguely fruity. It didn’t pack the fruity punch I was expecting and while it was delicate and light, it wasn’t the best wine in the world. Kudos for trying something new though, right?

As Dan enjoys a starter, I was cohered into sharing some garlic flatbread strips. This came up a lot bigger than either of us expected, despite it being on the sharer menu. So many starters are designed to share yet they come up minuscule, so this was incredibly refreshing. The large flatbread was cut into three vertical strips and served with a little ramekin of melted garlic butter for us to dunk the bread in. It was an ideal thickness, with a soft and plump edge, yet a crisp and crunchy garlic infused centre with a thin base. We dove in with a rip and pull tactic to divide the bread as we chatted.

For my main course, I looked to the seasonal menu. I wanted to try the beef rib wellington, however this happened to be the one and only dish that the restaurant had run out of! Cursing my bad luck, I scanned the menu and ordered my second choice, also on the seasonal menu. I ordered the beef fillet stack, naturally medium rare. The 8oz steak would be topped with a slice of streaky bacon, a slice of Somerset brie and a slow roasted tomato. Sides wise, the dish came with creamed spinach and crispy potato slices. I love a good steak, and at a venue called Beefeater, you kind of expect the beef to be pretty top notch.

I wasn’t wrong. The steak was perfectly cooked, and although I have had more tender steaks in fancier restaurants, there was nothing wrong with this piece of meat. It was just the right level of pinkness and it cut very easily, with a great, slightly chargrilled flavour. Lovely and thick, it was a tasty chunk of meat. I also liked the fact that the toppings provided me with enough juicy options to eat with my steak, so Dan watched in horror as my tomato ketchup dish remained largely untouched. Granted, the brie came up as a rather shrivelled and small slice, although it was nicely melted over the meat. The bacon was the smallest and skinniest slice I have ever had the misfortune to glance upon, however as a component of the whole dish, it was still ok. The tomato was nice and big, the roasting process really drawing out the flavour and giving it a lovely soft texture too. Each element worked really nicely together. If the dish had had less components, then I would have been disappointed, however all together, it was very nice indeed. The crispy potato slices were thin and rather nice. The creamed spinach was more like a sauce than a vegetable in my opinion as it was so liquid. I’m not sure that is entirely a good thing, however it tasted nice and I was able to use it to dunk my potatoes in so it wasn’t too shabby. Although the dish wasn’t entirely perfect, or as I expected, weirdly, it still worked, and I still enjoyed it.

Dan ordered a mixed grill and then promptly got the meat sweats. Each piece of meat on his plate was very generously sized and of good quality, leading him to say it was one of the best mixed grills that he had ever had. He struggled to finish, yet he still delivered a clean plate to earn a thumbs up.

For dessert, I went back to the seasonal menu to order a gin and tonic lemon trifle. I love trifle and I love gin and tonic, so this was very much a must-try for me. Served in glass straight-sided dessert bowl, the base of the trifle was very much like a sponge pudding with the gin and tonic soaked sponge fingers at the bottom. The gin was a main flavour which was great, as so often the alcohol can get hidden among other ingredients. The lemon curd that was meant to top the sponge was rather non-existent, however there was more than enough of the light and silky whipped cream on top to compensate, so pairing this with the moreish sponge was really lovely. It was a nice sized dessert and not too heavy after my main meal, so I’m really glad I got to try this one.

I couldn’t leave without ordering a Bailey’s milkshake too. Served in a traditional tall glass and garnished with chocolate shavings, it was basically a vanilla based ice cream, blended with Bailey’s. As with the gin, the Bailey’s was certainly present and correct, although not dominant throughout the whole drink so I’m not sure what the balance of the blend was exactly. It was creamy, cool and very nice indeed. An extra treat!

The Beefeater menu has a great choice and range to pick from, and we both enjoyed our meal there. Oddly enough, although I had little niggles about a couple of the dishes, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the food, and I’m still pleased with the food choices I made. I’ve even picked out a few dishes I’d like to try from the seasonal menu for next time! The portion sizes are really good, which is definitely something I value, and the waiting staff were chatty and polite. We spent just over £60 on our meal which is pretty much par for the course, so I’m happy with the price range too. All in all, we had a lovely date night, and I’m looking forward to going to my new Beefeater again soon!

Homeward Bound: Ginger Spice, Romford, Essex

IMG_3290It’s not often I get to enjoy one of my favourite cuisines – Indian food – as my husband dislikes it, but when one of my besties came to stay the night recently, I saw it as the ideal excuse to test out a new Indian restaurant that had opened down the road from me. Granted, it’s been around for nearly a year now, but that still counts as relatively new to me! Ginger Spice, situated on Brentwood Road, looked decadent and inviting, and I couldn’t wait to test out the food.

Upon entering, it was like going into an opulent and expensive city lounge. Decorated in tones of caramel like gold, cream and a dark, glossy brown, the restaurant was much larger than I anticipated, reaching quite far back to house numerous tables and booths. At the front of the restaurant was a bar area with squidgy sofa seating – no doubt for the takeaway side of the business – however this led into the main seating area. With dripping chandeliers cascading scenic and atmospheric lighting, each table had a great amount of privacy. The ones situated in the centre of the room were housed in large, circular booths, the seats richly furnished in gold cushioning. The tables near the edges had one side utilising soft sofa seating, the other usual dining chairs. What I liked however was that the tables were separated by a curtains of hanging clear beads. This not only allowed you to still enjoy the buzz of the restaurant, but it meant you still felt like you had plenty of space and light without any of it being invaded by nearby diners. I was pleasantly surprised by how lovely and lush the interior was, and I instantly felt like I had stepped into the lap of luxury.IMG_3291

No Indian dining experience is complete without crunching your way through numerous papadums before you place your order. Although papadums are much of a muchness, I was rather impressed with the selection of dips that accompanied them, some of which I hadn’t tried before. There was the usual raw onion mix and everyone’s favourite the mango chutney. There was also the spicy lime pickle, the fresh zing of lime a complete juxtaposition to the fiery heat in the after burn. As well as the soothing, creamy mint sauce, there was also a new flavour that seemed to be based on desiccated coconut and was a vibrant red colour. With a grainy texture and a sweet flavour, I enjoyed it despite not being a coconut fan.

IMG_3294Selecting a bottle of Granfort Chardonnay to enjoy with our meal, we began by picking our starters. Being the indecisive bean that I am, I chose the Three Way Starter for £3.65, which consisted of a chicken kebab, meat samosa and a paneer bite, garnished with salad and a wedge of zingy lemon. The chicken kebab was like a mini sheek kebab, the flavour peppered with the gentle hue of spices, while the meat samosa was a small, flaky pastry triangle that was filled with minced lamb, flavoured with vegetables and spices. The paneer bite was a new one on me – this was a fresh chilli stuffed with the classic Indian cheese, covered in breadcrumbs and then fried. The different textures of each bite were lovely and the flavour combo really worked too. I really liked the pick and mix style of this starter, that allowed me to sample a few different bits off the menu without filling me up too much. It was an ideal size and great to whet the appetite.

IMG_3296Main course was definitely a tough choice. Not having Indian food often means I get in to greedy mode whenever I am confronted by an Indian menu! I decided that since I was somewhere new, I would also try something rather than my usual chicken tikka masala, so I instead opted for the Ginger Special, from their Signature Dishes selection. Exclusive to the restaurant, this was basically chicken breast, stuffed with minced meat and then charcoal grilled. The meat was then topped with a thick sauce made from garlic, ginger, cumin, green chilli peppers and onions, as well as almond and coconut. One of my favourite parts of Indian food is the abundant sauce to dunk my naan bread in, so I made sure to ask the waiter how much sauce came with the dish – he said I could order it ‘extra saucy’ so I did, and it turned out to be the perfect amount of sauce. I really loved this dish – the flavours married together beautifully. I would say the onion is a prominent texture of the sauce, as it was sliced into IMG_3299strips, however the taste the onion blended nicely in the sauce. It did taste quite similar to a tikka masala sauce and was the same vivid orange in colour, but I confess I loved the originality of stuffing the chicken with mince – this meant my meat was served in thick, cylindrical cigars and drenched in sauce, just how I like it. The chicken was nicely looked so it was juicy and tender, while the mince had a great flavour to it that worked so well with the chicken.

To go with my main dish, we shared a saag paneer, as who can resist cheesy spinach? I also selected pilau rice and a garlic naan. I have to say, this naan bread was probably the best naan I have every eaten – it was so doughy and soft, yet also light to eat and with a usefully crisp bottom to help scoop up your sauce. The portion sizes also get a thumbs up from me. Indian meals never usually defeat me, yet this is probably the only occasion where I couldn’t eat all my naan. Next time, it won’t be so lucky I assure you!

After our meal, we were offered complimentary drinks on the house as an added extra – a pleasant IMG_3297surprise, I ordered a Baileys to finish my meal with something sweet and creamy. Coming to just under £70 for two courses and a bottle of wine for two people, I would most definitely eat there again – the food is just too fantastic not to. We had one waiter at first who had the personality of a rock – he actually came across incredibly rude with sullen silences, performing his duties as a formality – however the other staff who waited on us were chatty, talkative and friendly, so I can only assume there is one dud in the bunch.

I enjoyed Ginger Spice so much I have actually booked one of my birthday celebratory meals there, so I am looking forward to tackling the delicious menu again soon!

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Homeward Bound: Ciao Bella, Romford, Essex

Inside Ciao Bella

Inside Ciao Bella

Nothing perks up a working week like a treat lunch out, so when my Grandma invited me for a spot of midday munchies on Tuesday, I jumped at the chance to stretch my legs and escape the office for an hour. It also seemed the ideal opportunity to check out family run Italian venture Ciao Bella, situated on South Street in Romford; a restaurant I had wondered past many times but never actually had the chance to visit. Meeting at 1.30pm, the venue was surprisingly empty, so we had our pick of the dark wooden, rectangular tables.

Penne Paradiso

Penne Paradiso

Approaching Ciao Bella, it has a simplistic yet appealing nature, with a sleek black sign, swished with sweeping and swirling letters in the Italian’s flag trademark colours of red, white and green.  Cheap metallic silver tables glinted under the awning in the afternoon sunshine, the door set open to attract passing custom. When we entered, the venue was surprisingly roomy, stretching out quite far backwards, with plenty of space. Considering it was lunch time, it was very quiet, so we were seated at a table for four people, the table dressed with white paper napkins, cutlery and wine glasses. The décor was muted and calming, the walls painted over in mint green and white, giving a really refreshing impression yet still in keeping with the Italian theme. Circular wall art decorated one wall, whilst stylised, glossy cinematic images added some va va voom to the plain white sections of wall.

Fun decor

Fun decor

Once we were seated, and sipping the deliciously fruity and soft house white wine, we began to take a look at the extensive menu. Being a classic Italian, they offered limited sections, consisting of mainly pizza, pasta, salads and some meat dishes as well as starters and desserts. Despite restricted menu sections, they offered a ton of dishes in each category with an absolute array of choice that mixed traditional Italian flavours of tomatoes, cream and olives in many of the options. It was brilliant to have so much to pick from, even if it did make the decision more difficult! They also had a tall rectangular special’s board that was packed with small chalk writing, listing reels of extras for each course, providing yet even more choice for us to enjoy. There definitely wasn’t a lack of options.

Special's Board

Special’s Board

I fancied a pasta dish, so I opted for the Penne Paradiso, which featured chunks of juicy chicken, cubes of courgettes and carrots, with wilted leaves of spinach elegantly swamping the top tubes of penne. The entire dish was swathed in a fantastic garlic and cream sauce – it had a thin yet silky consistency so it wasn’t too heavy or rich yet coated the pasta perfectly. The cream aspect of the sauce was really rather buttery giving a lovely smoothness, whilst the garlic added a wonderful warmth that inundated the liquid with a gentle pungent heat that I adored. Every aspect of the dish combined beautifully to make a really tasty, light and filling meal, with lots of yummy components. The portion size was also good as it had plenty to fill me up, without being too bloating, which can be a danger with pasta.

Italian favourite

Italian favourite

With just enough time to sneak in dessert, I couldn’t resist the temptation of the Italian trademark dish tiramisu. It didn’t have an overly handmade appearance, however it was simplistically tasty, with thin yet strong coffee flavoured sponge fingers, encased in thick layers of creamy mascarpone. It tasted more of light and fluffy cream than mascarpone, with the coco powder adding an extra boost of chocolate flavour to the creamy consistency. The dessert was finished with friendly squirts of cream down one side. It didn’t really have any wow factor and the tastes didn’t blow me away at all, but it was yummy and hit the sweet spot nicely.

Outside Ciao Bella

Outside Ciao Bella

For our two main courses, two desserts and two glasses of house white wine, we paid £38, so it would have worked out about £20 per person for a two course meal with wine, making it really reasonable. I would love to go again, as I believe Ciao Bella is somewhere that would have something for everyone, covering the basics of foods that most people will enjoy and devour happily. The quality of the food was also lovely, although the presentation of the desserts could have been jazzed up some more for some added class. A really decent yet overlooked restaurant that I will be dragging friends and family to soon I hope – I still need to sample the starters!

My Grandma's creme brulee dessert

My Grandma’s creme brulee dessert

Homeward Bound: The Brickyard, Romford, Essex

Outside The Brickyard

Outside The Brickyard

I take my birthday as seriously as Christmas. No word of a lie, I absolutely love my birthday – mainly because it gives me a brilliant excuse to meet up with friends whilst sampling all of the bars and restaurants that I have been dying to try out. One that has been on my agenda for a while now is bar and grill restaurant The Brickyard, situated in the heart of Romford, a mere five minute walk from the station. Featuring on The Only Way is Essex had given it a slight air of notoriety and the imposing exterior of flame lantern guarded main entrance and muted grey railings just made me even more curious. Knowing it was a tad on the pricey side for you average dinner out, it made perfect sense to check out this modern venue as a birthday treat with my fiancé Dan.

Duck and Pork Rilettes

Duck and Pork Rilettes

The darkly exciting exterior excludes an air of mystery and class that is almost impossible to pass, large advertising sheets on the railing show casing their variety with offers for Sunday roasts juxtaposed with nights in the bar with popular DJ’s and classical piano evenings. Covering all bases with their three floors and two bars you can’t help but think what a tantalisingly irresistible venue this is. We had booked a table for the night of my birthday, which happened to be a Tuesday at 7.30pm for dinner. As it turns out, we didn’t really need to book as the restaurant was pretty much empty, with a scattering of guest on one half of the restaurant, but not clustered in at all. It felt very roomy, and we were seated at a table of four after being given some options about where we wanted to sit. Settling down into a trendy mottled fabric covered chair, I was in awe of the general exclusive atmosphere – as if you were part of an elite club privileged to be enjoying The Brickyard.

Venison in Blueberry and Chocolate Sauce

Venison in Blueberry and Chocolate Sauce

There is only one word to describe The Brickyard really – glamorous. Yes, it has elegance with the mint-cream, leather button studded couches, crystal chandeliers splintering rainbow light across the room and upmarket heavy white linen tableware; however it doesn’t have the opulent frills often associated with elegance. It also has a trendy, grunge kind of cool, with its mottled exposed brick work, heavy steel ceiling beams and light-bulb lit logo dangling above the bar. Despite this, it still oozes armfuls of class and upmarket panache, so the most complete and fitting description is glamorous. The Brickyard is quite simply as glamorous and show stopping as a classic red lipstick. Luxuriously thick mint-sage green curtains framed the ceiling to floor windows edging the restaurant, giving a fabulously exclusive and secluded aurora. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it.

Inside The Brickyard

Inside The Brickyard

With a glass of silky smooth Chardonnay adorning my hand, I perused the menu eagerly after the nod from Dan signalling that yes, three courses would be required. For starters, we both went for the same option (after Dan was refused his warm duck salad), which was the duck and pork rillettes. 12 hour slow cooked duck and pork was mixed with fresh herbs to create triangular slabs of a flaky, dry pate style dish. I couldn’t really taste the herbs, but the flavours of the meat definitely came through, which I enjoyed, although if I’m honest, the highlight for me was the burnt apple chutney, that had a fantastic caramel undertone and a sticky sweet texture. The chunks of apple were large enough that I had to get my knife involved and I just loved this gooey texture paired with the dryness of the rillettes. It was also served with a decorative salad garnish, which I ate anyway, as well as sharp shards of crackling which I passed on to Dan after seeing his adoring glances at the crisped up and crunchy morsels. The dish was served on small, rectangular black slate plates, which I actually found rather difficult to eat off – it wasn’t really that easy to cut the food on this style of plate and it was also a smidge too small for my liking. On the whole though, the flavours and combinations were delightful and it was also the ideal size for whetting my appetite for the main event.

Steak and Chips

Steak and Chips

Usually I spend eons oohing and ahhing over what to pick when I order dinner out, but after only one read through of the menu, something had already caught my eye enough that I simply had to have it. I opted for the pan fried loin of venison, partly because it is a meat I enjoy yet rarely have, and partly because of the blueberry and chocolate port wine jus that was served with it. The strips of dark meat were nestled against a circular bed of spinach, with a decorative smear of celeriac puree accompanying it. I even pushed the boat out with a side of dauphinoise potatoes that arrived at the table in a dinky burnt orange ramekin, complete with melted cheese topping and sprinkled with chives.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Dauphinoise Potatoes

The venison was simply stunning. Venison to me tastes very much like an excellent steak, with a denser and firmer texture that has a much richer meaty taste and texture to it. It was served in wonderfully thick slices adorning my plate meaning I could really get stuck in to the perfectly cooked meat. I think the sauce was incredibly imaginative and a truly inspired partner in crime for such good quality meat. I could actually really taste the chocolate, which only enhanced the delicious depth of flavour that was freshened up with the pep of fresh fruit with the lively hint of blueberries now and again. This combined with the decadent port wine base of the sauce really hit the spot for me and I found the mixture absolutely faultless and so tasty with my venison. The spinach was pretty much just boiled really so nothing really to comment on there and the celeriac puree was so inconsequential and small on the plate it didn’t really enhance or detract from anything or add much to the overall dish.

Banana and Toffee Cheesecake

Banana and Toffee Cheesecake

I’m really glad I went for the side dish, as portion size wise, I don’t think it would have been filling enough for me without it. Granted, the majority of the dish was the wonderful meat, which they were very generous with which is rare in fancier restaurants, so that was a big plus point, however there wasn’t that much else on the main plate to fill me up. The thinly sliced dauphinoise were really yummy to eat, however it was a lot dryer than I was anticipating, as I was expecting that under all the fluffy cheesy topping I would reveal layers of sliced potato drenched in a creamy white sauce. To be honest, the sauce seemed pretty non-existent although I could see remains of it in places that still added to the general flavour of the potato. It was still really lovely to eat though and I did enjoy them, it just wasn’t entirely what I was expecting and not really what I believed dauphinoise potatoes should be about. On the whole though, I adored my main course and could quite happily have eaten it all over again if I had been presented with it. That venison was so divine and the perfect choice for me.

Apple Pie and Custard

Apple Pie and Custard

Dessert was the completely delectable choice of banana and toffee cheesecake, served with small spodges of what was labelled as vanilla ice cream, but tasted more like plain old vanilla cream to me, due to the light whipped consistency and texture. No matter however as the cheesecake was brilliant, each mouthful a pleasure to devour, and it was also nice and light so I didn’t feel overstuffed afterwards. The mousse was bubbly and bursting with toffee tones, streaked with buttery banana which is a fabulous combo in my book. The biscuit base was perfectly fused together as well as being soft yet crunchy so that was lovely, especially with the dried chocolate lines decorating the top of the cheesecake that had a satisfying crunch to them. It was also a decent sized slice so I wasn’t left longing for more. This really hit my sweet spot and was the ideal finish for my meal.

View across to the bar

View across to the bar

Dan also enjoyed his meal, opting for the same starter as me, but then moving on to a traditional 10 ounce sirloin steak for his main course, with the most decadent chips I have ever seen – needless to say I had no qualms pinching one for my plate. They were incredibly thick with a natural chunky cut and a home fried exterior that was the perfect level of crispiness for me, with beautifully soft and fluffy potato inside. Served with these spot on chips, the steak also came with the classic tomato and mushroom combo. For his dessert, Dan went for the apple pie, which came with a tall and slim white ramekin holding smooth pale custard, flecked with vanilla. The pie used a light short crust pastry which guarded the gooey apple innards.

Elegant table lay out

Elegant table lay out

So, for the three courses, a glass of wine and a coke, our meal came to approximately £73, which is tad more than I would usually like to pay, as this works out at about £36 per person, when I usually try and aim for a maximum of £25. Granted, this is a special birthday meal out so the extra cost was perfectly justified, especially when you consider the excellent quality of the meal, as well as the different food options available which enabled me to try some imaginative combinations that I loved. My favourite course was probably the main course, although it was a photo finish with that phenomenal cheesecake for dessert. The wine was the idea accompaniment as well and really hit the nail on the head in terms of depth of fruity flavour and smoothness. Our waiter was civil and took our order efficiently, however he always seemed in a rush despite the restaurant being pretty empty and he didn’t really inject any friendly personality into his service which is a shame. He came across as if he couldn’t be bothered which is a complete contrast to the well thought out, planned and executed menu. All in all though, I would heartily recommend The Brickyard as it has a fabulous atmosphere, wonderful food suitable for all the family and a handy location. Definitely a place to save for a special occasion though.

Me enjoying the wine!

Me enjoying the wine!

 

Homeward Bound: Braza, Romford, Essex

Cold Buffet

Cold Buffet

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.

Table

Table

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.

View of the buffet

View of the buffet

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.

Carving the meat at the table

Carving the meat at the table

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.

Hot Buffet

Hot Buffet

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.

Food Card

Food Card

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.

Tequila Sunrise

Tequila Sunrise

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.

Piled up plate!

Piled up plate!

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.

Creme Caramel

Creme Caramel

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.

Bit overboard on the side dishes...

Bit overboard on the side dishes…

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.

Watch your meat cooking

Watch your meat cooking