If you couldn’t make the Olympics, but you still want to eat like you’re in Rio, we’ve found some of the best places for Brazilian fare on home turf.
With the Olympics underway, Brazil is in the spotlight. Here in Australia, we’ve long embraced Brazilian food – and why wouldn’t we? Brazilians love barbecue, we love barbecue; it’s a match made in meat-lovers heaven. That said, Brazil has a diverse mix of indigenous, African, Portuguese, and to a lesser extent, Chinese, Dutch, German and Italian citizens. That makes for one helluva fusion cuisine. So, while Australians can experience the churrascaria Brazil is best known for, vegos, seafood fans, and those with a sweet tooth don’t have to miss out. There’s more to Brazilian cuisine than meat. Here are some of our favourite cafés and restaurants serving up Brazilian fare on our home turf.
Amid the never-ending tide of foot traffic beneath Town Hall station is a little café serving up home-style Brazilian food. Cafecito is somewhat incongruous here, surrounded as it is by run-of-the-mill food-court fare, but it has clearly made an impression. The place, which every day serves its slow-cooked feijoada: pork-rib stew with black beans and chorizo served with cassava flour and rice, is always packed. Other Brazilian favourites include cheese bread (pao de queijo) and pasteis (like an Argentinian empanada) plus there are new specials daily.
Shop 25, Town Hall Square, Sydney, NSW
Chefs at BahBQ spit-roast choice cuts of meat over natural ironbark to infuse it with a delicious, smoky flavour. Yes, this is churrasco, the style of Brazilian barbecue that’s become hugely popular (and omnipresent) in recent years. Waiters move around the tables with skewers of different cuts of meat and diners choose what they fancy in a style of service called espeto corrido. Meat-wise, you’re looking at Brazilian cuts from lamb ribs to scotch pork, and of course the Brazilian must-have: chicken hearts. Leave room for some sides, too, which include grilled pineapple, cassava chips, black beans with bacon and cheese bread. And if you don’t fancy the grilled goods at all, there are other options, such as moqueca, a northern Brazilian seafood curry, a vegetarian burger, plus haloumi and prawns from the fire.
35-37 Albany Street, Crow’s Nest, NSW
Ovo Café is in the Oxford Square shopping arcade. The uninspiring location hasn’t dimmed its fiesta vibe, but it does mean you can almost always nab a table. The delectable cheese bread here is made with tapioca flour meaning it’s gluten free. Other Brazilian classics such as feijoada and bobo de camarao (prawns in a tomato and coconut sauce) round out the menu, as well as ever-evolving daily specials. Apart from its home-style Brazilian meals, Ovo’s dessert game is on point. The carrot cake is unlike any you’ve tried before, with a coconut filling and iced with Brazilian chocolate. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t miss the weekend dessert buffet.
Shop 13, Oxford Square, 63 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, New South Wales
SEE ALSO: Five of the Best Experiences in Rio
Little La Paloma, tucked away down Albert Lane in Brunswick, is old-school in the best way. It’s authentic, from its décor – the record player isn’t an affectation, it’s used to play old salsa records when there’s no fùtbol on – to the food. The menu is small but here it’s about quality over quantity. Things aren’t strictly Brazilian, they’re more pan-Latin American, with Argentinian empanadas, Spanish tortilla and Brazilian feijoada all featuring. Also popular are the crusty rolls, which are smothered with avocado and mayo and filled with cheese, salad and pastrami, and the churros with dulce de leche that regularly sell out.
259 Albert Street, Brunswick, Victoria
Fancy dining in a treehouse? We’re fairly certain this isn’t how it’s done in Brazil, but these private dining areas in the Kent Town Hotel sit above the main Jungle restaurant, which is a straight-up churrascaria. The décor is all papier mâché rocks and fake trees (and a giant gorilla) but the menu is dead serious.
There are two ways to do it here: a la carte or churrasco extravaganza. The barbecue option is a series of eight meats carved by the in-house master butcher. There’s a vegetarian alternative to the protein-heavy offerings from the grill that includes zucchini, feta and mint fritters and linguini with fresh vegetables. Sides include cassava fries, whitebait with chipotle mayonnaise and polenta fries. The a la carte menu features modern Australian cuisine influenced by Brazilian flavours such as salt-and-pepper squid with salsa.
76 Rundle Street, Kent Town, South Australia
Lapa, the only Brazilian restaurant in Fremantle, is named for a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro famous for its nightlife. While the real Lapa is probably in the throes of an Olympic party to end all parties, the Freo restaurant isn’t too far behind. There’s a lively atmosphere and, on weekends, Brazilian music and dancing. In terms of the meat, there is picanha com alho (garlic steak), xixo gaucho (southern Brazilian style kebab) and frango apimetado (parmesan chicken) among the usual suspects (chicken hearts). The Endless Feast is the choice for many, which only ends when diners flip their cards over to the red side to indicate they can’t take anymore. A la carte options include the Lapa Famous Meat Roll which is a choice of lamb, chicken or beef with Lapa sauce, tomato and melted cheese and grilled cod with carreteiro rice and palm heart salad.
96 High Street, Fremantle, Western Australia
Navala is a combination of two Portuguese words na and vala, meaning “in the trench”, which is a description of a traditional Brazilian cooking method. Cowboys in the south of the country would stick skewers of meat in blazing trenches of fire and cook them until tender. We’re not sure what the trench situation at Navala is, but as with all churrascarias, the main attraction at this riverside restaurant is the meat. To wit, beef rump, lamb leg, lamb rump, chicken hearts, Brazilian sausage, whole suckling pig, pork belly, coconut fish and more. The proteins come to the table on giant skewers and are sliced, still sizzling, onto your plate. Sides include kale, coconut rice, crumbed banana and black beans. The condiments are many – think chimichurri to house-made barbecue sauce.
Riverside Centre, 123 Eagle St, Brisbane, Queensland