Carioca

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address:   25-27 Market Row, Brixton,  SW9 8LD

http://www.primadonnabrixton.co.uk

This is formally Prima Donna and has now become definitely authentic Brazilian so it now has a USP (unique selling point).  It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not much has changed except the menu since its earlier incarnation. There are a few tables inside and they are not crowded together so you can hear yourself think above the music – much more Brazilian than previously. There are also tables in the market corridor.

Breakfast is a full English or with a twist (smoked iberico pancetta, free-range scrambled eggs & baked tomato slices on ciabatta – showing multiple influences again as iberico is from Spain and pancetta from Italy). You can be very conservative with the hamburger made with Brazilian beef (seems a long way to go for that ingredient). But we arrived in the evening – 7.00pm to miss the crowds. There is a fixed price two course menu and we chose from that one as it had all the interest we needed. It also did offer an excessive choice, which is something we are both wary . For starters there were – spicy chicken wings. braised beef empanadas, beetroot and blue cheese salad and Pao de queijo with choizo (a sort of cheese roll usually made with cassava flour but we didn’t try this one). The main course were Feijoada described as Brazil’s national dish. A stew made from black beans cooked with an assortment of meat (chorizo, pork ribs, beef and pork); Chicken Caipira – braised chicken; Arepa, which is a flatbread made of maize filled (or they say stuffed) with pulled beef and vegetables; and finally Courgette, Potato and Leek Frittata, which is an explanation in itself. THe main menu also has more grilled items like spare ribs and steak and cassava chips.

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We chose the empanadas and beetroot salad to start and the Feijoada and Chicken as the main courses. The beetroot salad we cannot fault. It looked pretty on the plate and the salty cheese cut the sweetness of the beetroot and the little nuts (it said sunflower but they tasted like pine nuts). The dressing was aged balsamic vinegar and I thought all balsamic was aged so in the next iteration of the menu they need to say how many years for us to be impressed. The beef empanadas were hot in temperature but not in terms of spiciness. Empanadas look like small Cornish pasties but the pastry is made of cornmeal and they are fried rather than baked in the oven. I could have done with a little more spice and the beef was more “pulled” than braised, so it was a bit stringy. I still enjoyed them and three was really one too many but my companion wolfed down the remainder.

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It is very difficult to make Feijoada look pretty. It looks like a cassoulet and is a dish to use up those leftover pieces of meat in a filling stew. Traditionally it is served with white rice and oranges but here it came minus orange. This dish came with farofa  – according to Wikipedia this is an essential ingredient when serving Feijoada and typical recipes use raw manioc flour to be toasted with butter, salt, and bacon until golden brown. It tasted like corn and not that interesting but clearly authentic. The Chicken Caipira is again traditional and comes from the landlocked states of Brazil, especially Goiás. It consists of braised chicken which is seasoned with ginger, garlic and spring onion.  The meat was very easy to get off the bone and the sauce which has coriander in it went well with the rice. But the spices were definitely subtle and perhaps a little more ginger would have made it really zingy. Portions were large but not overwhelming and there was certainly enough on each plate for us not to even consider a dessert.

carioca02We washed this down with water, one capirinha, a beer (Brahma of course) and glass of wine. I didn’t like the first glass of tempranillo so they replaced it with a Chilean Merlot which tasted, as the description said, full of blackberries. The total bill came to £40.76 without service.

The definitive choice of name and menu means that more of South America is now represented in the Market and this complements the hefty Colombian presence in Brixton Village.

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