A unique dining concept from Brazil
How many restaurants have you been to in your life? 10? 20? 120? Doesn’t it sometimes get a bit… samey? Not the cuisine, but the ritual: starters, mains and puddings, all piled onto porcelain in calculable succession, chomp chomp chomp, wash it down with vino, cheque please and out into the night. Then the same next week, and the one after, and again, and, and…
Sometimes it’s nice to try something new. As the global village has grown ever smaller, we in the UK have been introduced to a multitude of new ingredients and flavours. But other cultures can show us different ways to dine out as well – just look at conveyor belt sushi restaurants, a novelty unlikely to ever wear thin. The latest concept gaining ground comes to Britain all the way from Brazil: rodízio.
In a rodízio restaurant, you pay a preço fixo (fixed price) for an all-you-can-eat meal. A help-yourself salad bar provides the sides, but the main event is the meat – served on skewers straight from the spit and brought to your table by gauchos (waiters), who slice it right onto your plate (with a knife the size of a sword!). The gauchos flit back and forth from the kitchen constantly, and to indicate whether or not you’d like them to serve you, each table has a double-sided card – turned to the red side shows you’d like a rest, flipped to green means you’re ready for more.
Bodega Steakhouse is Harrogate’s first rodízio joint, opened in a swish underground spot in Princes Square in November 2015, and it appears to have been a hit from the get-go. My girlfriend and I visited on a Friday night; she pointed out that the phone never stopped ringing with bookings throughout our visit, and by the time we left there wasn’t a spare seat. The novelty factor no doubt plays a part, but quality and authenticity help too: our waitress Michelle explained that almost all staff are either Brazilian or Portuguese, and that everything – even the extensive contents of the salad bar – is freshly made and cooked in-house.
And what of the food? Non-carnivores are well catered for – we were jealous of a delicious-looking salmon on the neighbouring table – but really, Bodega is all about the meat. There are numerous cuts and preparations of it on the dinner menu, 14 varieties in total. Reader, I tried them all.
Niggles? Chicken heart is a delicacy I’m in no rush to try again, and I found the lamb’s mint coating a tad overpowering and incongruous. But the rest ranks amongst the best cooked animal flesh I’ve ever devoured. Juicy pork in honey and cinnamon! Chicken thighs, so savoury, so soft! Picanha, a Brazilian cut of marinated steak, completely delicious and the deep purple colour of beetroot! Even the sausages were sublime.
Then I had a traditional pudim de leite (caramel flan), because you need something sweet after all that meat. Then I swigged my traditional caipirinha cocktail, and began to give serious consideration to moving to Brazil. Then I remembered that I don’t need to. Because whenever I fancy authentic South American flavours and a break from the boring formula of restaurant dining, there’s a place that has me covered – and it’s right on the doorstep in Harrogate.
Bodega Steakhouse, 11 Princes Square, Harrogate, HG1 1ND. Tel: 01423 536 365