I’ve never been to Rio but you know they throw proper parties down that neck of the woods, and from what I’ve heard that’s also very much true of Manchester’s newest Brazilian joint Cabana. I didn’t manage to make it down to the launch of their new restaurant in the Corn Exchange the other week but a few people told me it was some night, from the bits they can recall anyway – tales of free flowing drinks, spicy meats and a carnival atmosphere. I’m not averse to a caipirinha or two myself, so thought I best go see what all the fuss is about.
A couple of people have mentioned to me the atmosphere in the Corn Exchange has been a bit flat as it’s been filling up with new eateries, specifically the central area which has felt a bit empty. I think now they’re just about at capacity the building is starting to buzz with life a bit more, and with places like Cabana in there they’ll not struggle to keep that vibe going. You definitely get that intangible feeling of good times from the layout and décor, and I suppose those cocktails we had didn’t do any harm either. When I arrived my companion for the evening had taken the liberty of ordering me a classic caipirinha, no complaints here it was bang on the money. We also grabbed at some nice nibbles in the form of fresh guacamole and corn chips.
For our starters we went for the Cabana coxinhas and ¼ ribs to share. Most of the food on the menu is pretty shareable, I reckon this place would probably be a good shout for a date, especially with those potent cocktails… The coxinhas were little breaded croquettes filled with shredded chicken and served alongside a spicy mayo, a certifiable highlight. The ribs were good and sticky in a wet guava rub.
We switched to ales for our mains and Devassa, a hoppy Brazilian craft beer. It proved a good choice to wash down the 10 oz Rio ribeye and spicy malagueta chicken that we split along with a plethora of well executed sides. The steak was a bit more well done than I’d asked for but the chicken was particularly succulent. I enjoyed everything else we got as well; cassava fries were chunky and slightly sweet, Rio beans dark and rich like feijoada, sweet potato fries battered and crunchy. The biro biro rice was topped with crispy golden caramelised onions and then finally stir-fried spring greens with a slice or two of garlic. As the menu had promised, it was a total feast.
Truth be told I’d have to admit to half expecting our desserts to be a bit of an after thought to be honest. Quite to the contrary though, I’d dare say your local tea shop would’ve been proud serving up these cakes, my mate’s got a fair sweet tooth as well and he seemed suitably impressed. First up was the the Cabana cheesecake, a creamy banana and caramel combo topped with roasted almonds. Then the slightly more grown up nega maluca, a Brazilian flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce that was bitter, dense and moreish.
Bellies full then we left more than satisfied with our evening, I definitely saw enough other treats to try that must warrant a return visit too. There’s a couple of nice surprises on a menu that isn’t ALL about the meat like most Brazilian places seem to be. If you’re looking for somewhere to have some fun on the side with your food, I’d give Cabana a shot.