The recent Whitsun Bank Holiday was in fact such a grey and sunless day that it required a certain something to perk it up. The perfect antidote to a drab London day was to visit a small corner of Brazil in London in the shape of the traditional barbeque restaurant Rodizo Rico…
I went with my friend G who is the only other person I know in London with such carnivorous tastes as myself, because let’s face it a churrascaria de rodizio is a disappointing night out for a non meat eater. The appeal lies in the unlimited quantities of freshly grilled meats that arrive at your table every few minutes and much as I love grilled vegetables, they simply wouldn’t cut the mustard here!
We arrived about 9pm on the Bank Holiday evening at the branch in Islington and were struck by how busy the place was. Most tables in this sizeable restaurants were taken, mainly with big groups of Portuguese speakers. However we had little problem getting a table for two. There are no menus at Rodizio Rico. Instead you choose one of the two meal options (meat or vegetarian) for a set price, take a plate and serve yourself side dishes at the extensive buffet, then wait for the passadores or waiters to bring your grilled foodstuff to the table and carve it for you. You then proceed to see just how much food you can put away at this all you can eat feast!
Both of us had limbered up for our meat fest all day by having only an early and very light lunch, so we were more than ready by the time we picked up a plate and headed for the buffet. Most of these dishes are cold and range from fresh, crunchy salads to big bowls of traditional black beans and rice and delicious looking little croquettes and cubes of fried cassava and plantain. Having eaten here years ago, I knew not to overdo it on the side dishes in case I spoiled my appetite for the meat, but it was hard to resist such delightful looking carbs completely.
We got settled with our plates of side dishes, just having time to sample a few of them before a waiter appeared at our table with some delicious looking chorizo sausage. We didn’t decline. It was plump and juicy with a paprika kick and rather good. It set the pace for the chili chicken sausage that was next up. I am particularly fond of chicken sausages and this was a superlative specimen. Moist and tasty, there was no hint of the dryness that can plague these lower fat bangers.
The sausages were a great start, but things began to get very interesting when the slabs of grilled meats began arriving. Expertly sliced according the cut of meat, we sampled hunks of lamb, slices of roast pork and ham, tasty little chicken wings and chunks of skirt steak basted with thyme and garlic sauce. Everything was flavoursome and tender and our plates were piled high in no time.
We thought we could take no more when a skewer of the pinkest centred chargrilled rump steak appeared at our sides. Both G and I like our meat rare enough to be rescued by a good vet usually, so we couldn’t resist this beautifully cooked meat. My knife went through it like butter and it was incredibly tender and tasty. We made a note to refuse further sausages and wait for this one to come round again to make the most of it!
No sooner had I resolved to keep my appetite for the rump steak, one of the house specialities came round in the shape of barbequed chicken hearts. I have often dreamt about these divine little morsels since I last ate here several years ago and there was no way I could turn them down this time. I gratefully accepted a portion of about 10 while G plucked up the courage to try just the one. However once he’d tried one of these soft, yielding juicy little bites of savoury heaven, he couldn’t wait for the skewer to come round again. We agreed that one of the reasons British people tend to shy away from offal is that we don’t tend to cook it very well here unlike Portuguese speaking nations. The more I eat offal like this, the more I am tempted to try cooking it myself…
Our insatiable appetite for meat began to flag around then and when the waiter came about 10.30 to tell us that the buffet would be cleared away in about 10 minutes, we couldn’t bring ourselves to heap anything new on the plate. As I’ve mentioned, the side dishes were heavily carb based, so quite filling. We had also realised that the meat, while utterly delicious, was quite heavily seasoned and to counter the saltiness, we were on our second litre bottle of sparkling water. It was very refreshing, but probably taking up valuable meat eating space in our stomachs!
We made good work of our plates though, accepting more of the rump steak and chicken hearts as they came round again and finding a space for another piece of the amazing garlicky beef too. I managed to finish all my black beans, but was defeated by the extra cassava I had picked up. G was unable to manage the garlic bread that had arrived earlier on a skewer and was daunted by some of his sides too. Eventually, despite the best efforts of a very charming waiter, we could eat no more and our knives and forks went down. We had eaten incredibly handsomely and abundantly for £22.50 each which I think is good value for the quantity and quality of the meat. Drinks however are pretty pricey with a litre bottle of water costing £4 each and beer around £3.50 for a small bottle of Becks. They have a good cocktail list though and do a mean capirinha from memory.
Rodizio Rico would be a great place for a group of meat eaters to have a night out so you can all try a bit of everything without ruining your appetite! It was buzzing with chat and enjoyment, even on a Monday night, without being so loud you have to yell at your dining companions to be heard. The food is great and the sheer novelty value of unlimited meat is hard to beat. I’ll be back for the chicken hearts alone once I’ve recovered from the meat coma of the other night!