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REVIEW | Cabana Brasilian Barbecue, Corn Exchange

A few caipirinhas later...

Laura Fell visits Cabana Brasilian Barbeque in Manchester’s Corn Exchange and discovers the meaning of ‘tudo bem’

Brazil. What do you think of when you hear that word? Samba, caipirinhas, Copacabana beach? Or what about carnival, Christ the Redeemer or, maybe, Ronaldinho’s teeth?

“Cabana isn’t
like Bem Brasil
or Fazenda, where
you’re supplied
with an endless
supply of meat.”

Founders Jamie Barber and David Ponte want to ‘share a bit of the real Brazil’ with Manchester and in doing so make Cabana their homage to ‘tudo bem’ – the Brazilian outlook on life – which translates as ‘everything’s good’.

I called in on a wet and wild Manchester evening to find out if, indeed, everything’s good.

Arriving at the newly refurbished Corn Exchange with that ‘I could eat a horse’ expression that I tend to sometimes have, I was greeted and seated in a cage-like corrugated metal booth. Letting my eyes adjust to the colourful, yet dim lighting I was taken aback by the décor – wood – clad walls, oil drums and barrels gave off a beach type vibe – the type, I’d imagine, you’d get on your jollies in Rio de Janeiro.

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Kicking the evening off with 2-4-1 caipirinhas – a must try here – I looked over the menu and ordered some Brazilian street food to share. After all, communal food and eating with pals is what Brazilian culture is all about.

Their guaca-molho, in case you can’t guess, is their take on a homemade guacamole. Cool and mushy that, when dolloped onto their crunchy corn chips, made an exceptional snack.

The tiny chunks of sharp, creamy Parmesan indulgently dipped in wild honey were clearly a crowd pleaser and the chimmichurri dip was a vinegary, garlicy pot of pleasure which my warm chargrilled pitta mopped up.

The main course arrived in the form of waiters wielding sword-type skewers laden with churrascaria-style barbecued meats. Watching them carefully and quite skillfully sliding the meat off the skewer and on to my plate was perfect Friday night entertainment.

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Now before you ask, no, Cabana isn’t like Bem Brasil or Fazenda, where you’re supplied with an endless supply of meat. Here you simply order your dish and that’s what you get, just like any other restaurant.

I opted for their best-selling spicy malagueta chicken – a flame-grilled, stickily marinaded chicken with red peppers. It was hot, spicy, and chargrilled, yet still soft, tender, and juicy – a real delight to eat.

With rice and beans a Brazilian staple, the biro-biro rice was an excellent accompaniment. Long grain rice is fried with garlic, herbs, spring onions and shallots, and packed with flavour. The sweet potato fries with a light paprika dusting were also on the money.

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I was persuaded to try the chocolate raindrop doughnuts for dessert. These little doughballs filled with chocolate sauce are little drops of bliss.

A few caipirinhas later and I was samba-ing out of the place like something from the carnival – minus the scantily-clad feathered costume, of course. Manchester on a wet and windy November night just isn’t the right place.

Tudo bem, Cabana! Tudo bem!

The Corn Exchange, Exchange St, Manchester M4 3TR

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