Carioca exterior Leyla Kazim COVERWritten by  ANDRE JACKSON

Standing out in Brixton Village is a challenge for even the most visionary of restaurateurs and chefs. Going up against the existing established ‘golden triangle of trendiness’ that is Honest Burger, Franco Manca, and Champagne + Fromage is no mean feat. But if there was ever a cuisine capable of sticking out its chest and announcing itself in the discerning foodie haven that is Brixton Village, it is Brazilian.

Having changed its name from the slightly confusing Prima Donna to Carioca late last year, the rebrand and a new menu has breathed new life into this exciting venture. Named after the vivacious people of Rio de Janeiro (the word originally meaning ‘white man’s house’), Carioca is fast earning a reputation for serving fine Brazilian food.

Carioca Bahian Fiscakes Leyla Kazim

The décor

Those who have visited Brixton Village will be aware that the surroundings are not what make any of these restaurants. Spaces are small and seating can often be rather intimate. While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it does add a certain charm to the place as a whole. Carioca actually manages to use the small space quite well, offering seating both inside the restaurant and outside in the market street, with little need for awkward table-sharing. As expected, Carioca is laced with bright colours and dreamy images of Brazil, but the lack of emphasis on the décor as noted allows for more concentration on what’s really important: the food.

Carioca Beef Empanadas Leyla Kazim

The Menu

Brazilian cuisine is often accused of only catering for the carnivores amongst us, validated by the fact that there is no word for ‘vegetarian’ in Portuguese. But Brazilian head chef Lucy has made sure that Carioca does offer a few veggie alternatives (not that we tried any, with so much quality meat on offer). Beginning with three starter plates all perfect for sharing, we dove into beef empanadas, Bahia fish cakes and cured Portuguese chorizo from the grill. Each plate radiated warmth, with a light spicing for the more delicate British palate.

The chorizo had been grilled in honey and was served with warm sourdough bread (not traditionally Brazilian but extremely trendy) and complemented the myriad flavours that came from the Jamaican patty-like empanadas and the fragrant fishcakes.

The meat frenzy really began with the main courses, where we opted for the chargrilled spare beef ribs with Brazilian churrasco sauce, and Carioca’s signature dish – the fantastic feijoada. The ribs, served with cassava potato chips, are slow-cooked in the oven and finished in a charcoal grill with a touch of applewood-smoked salt. They are meaty, flavoursome and satisfyingly filling, but
the show was well and truly stolen by the national dish of Brazil, that feijoada. A stew of beans, pork ribs, chorizo, lean pork and beef, it’s a true carnivore’s dream. Accompanied by greens, plenty of rice, and a dusting of spiced farofa (toasted cassava flour), it’s a dish that gives you every element in every single forkful – a real stew, bursting with earthy flavours from the beans and the smoky pork. With just the slightest bit of room left for dessert, a slice of one of co-ownerMaurilo’s homemade cakes was a nice personal note to end the meal on.

Carioca Spread Leyla Kazim

The drinks

The BYOB policy adopted by much of Brixton Village is in operation here, so they’ve kept the alcohol options simple – offering a typically Brazilian caipirinha, cocktail, which was sharp and strong in equal measure. Other than that, the standard wine and beer offerings are available.

The service

Quick, friendly, and lively best describes the service at Carioca. Waiters are keen to walk you through the dishes and give you a bit of background as to how they’re made and what to pair them with. It’s surprising and commendable that they’re able to be so attentive when there are only two serving at a time and it’s often busy.

The verdict

Perfect for a quick lunch or a long dinner, Carioca is a welcome addition to the ever-changing foodie landscape that is Brixton Village. High-quality Brazilian food is strangely difficult to come by in London, making Carioca all the more
enticing. Offering traditional dishes in a homely environment, this restaurant has more than made up for its national football team’s failures in Brazil last summer.

T: @CariocaBrixton | FB: Carioca-Brixton


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