Our visit to Cabana came about by chance, as our initial dinner plans were scuppered by our intended venue’s no-bookings policy, a 1.5 hour wait time for a table, and our grumbling stomachs. As we traipsed the streets of Soho searching for an alternative, growing slowly more dispirited with each overflowing restaurant we passed, my dining partner had a sudden brainwave. Ten minutes later, we were pushing open the door of Cabana, a bright, quirkily decorated Brasilian barbecue restaurant where we were quickly shown to a table. Cabana is tucked away from the street, in the shiny new Central St Giles Piazza office development, so even though we arrived at peak time on a Saturday evening the restaurant was almost deserted. If this restaurant review helps to drive more people there outside of office lunchtimes, that can only be a good thing.
We began our Brasilian feast by sharing two starters – salmon ceviche and Brasilian cheesy dough balls. The dough balls were just what they promised to be, with a thick, chewy texture that resonated with tangy, cheese flavour in every bite. The salmon hadn’t been marinated quite long enough to merit being called a ceviche – chilli and lime dressed sashimi would have been a more accurate description, but it was tasty nonetheless.
For main course, we followed the menu’s recommendation and went for Cabana’s speciality: barbecued skewers. Several different meats (and one veggie option) are available as whole or half skewers, and the suggested serving size is one whole or two half skewers per person. I opted for half pork tenderloin with a parmesan crust, and half Portobello mushrooms with halloumi cheese, while my dining partner chose half pork & papaya sausages, half pork tenderloin, and (slightly greedily) another half spicy chicken and red peppers. All of the meats were impressively presented on the giant skewers on which they’re cooked, and slid expertly onto our plates by the waitress who brought them to the table. I was thoroughly pleased with my choices – the pork tenderloin was meltingly tender and subtly seasoned, the parmesan perfectly pitched; the mushroom was incredibly succulent and contrasted well with the chewy saltiness of the halloumi, and although there was a slight excess of olive oil it didn’t unbalance the dish.
To accompany our meal, my dining partner and I shared a couple of side dishes from Cabana’s broad selection. Our sweet potato fries were light and crisp on the outside, with a delicate dusting of paprika that really brought out the sweetness of their soft, fluffy middles. The Brasilian Homeslaw is marketed as a carrot and mango coleslaw. Although pleasantly crunchy and dressed with just enough mayonnaise to be moist but not so much as to be sloppy, I was sadly disappointed by the relative lack of mango – in a generous bowlful of slaw, my dining partner and I found a mere four slivers of it. Another point to note is that this slaw is made without onions – presumably because they would clash with the mango – which gives it a very mild flavour. I personally found this quite refreshing, but imagine that slaw-traditionalists might not be so keen.
Despite being almost full to bursting from our skewer banquet, neither of us could resist the frozen yoghurt for dessert. My dining partner enjoyed a natural yoghurt with acai berry sauce, while I went for the slightly naughtier option of peanut butter yoghurt topped with Brasilian peanut candy. This was an intensely nutty treat, the thick smooth yoghurt delightfully peppered with the grainy sweetness of the candy.
The service we received at Cabana varied with the staff who delivered it. Our orders were taken by a slightly sullen waitress with comically long false eyelashes. To drink, I initially asked for an Amazon iced tea – Cabana’s take on an iced tea, made with mint and apple juice. The waitress asked whether I wanted this spiked. When I asked “with what?” her response was “Cassasha” [sic]. When I looked at her slightly quizzically, she sighed, rolled her eyes and said “err… alcohol”. Despite the questionable description, I accepted the spike of Cachaça, and was very pleased with the result – a smooth, slightly tart but highly refreshing drink that cleansed the palate nicely. I was, however, rather glad that our food was brought out by a different, much friendlier waitress who was happy to pose for a photo with one of the giant skewers, and whose eyelashes were of normal length and not in danger of dropping off into our bowl of homeslaw.
We left fully satisfied with our Brasilian feast and given the sheer quantity of food we got through, it’s pretty clear that Cabana offers decent value for money (£29 per head excluding tip) and despite a few hiccups on service and slaw, the overall experience was a good one. Final score for Cabana? A steady three and a half Forks-Up.Cabana 7 Central St Giles Piazza London WC2H 8AD T: 0207 632 9630