Last night I hung up my Mummy hat for the evening and headed out into town for the opening of Cabana Brasilain Barbeque in Newcastle. while it is a chain restaurant (with 9 other restaurants around the country), I hadn't heard of it and have never actually eaten in a Brasilian restaurant before, so I went with a completely open mind. Considering how little I get out these days they could have served me gruel and I'd have enjoyed it as there wasn't a toddler hanging off my leg!
That being said I was blown away, the restaurant itself is on Newgate Street, right next to The Gate, which to be honest is an area of Newcastle I tend to avoid (unless I am wandering past en-route to Nudo), but I was shocked at how much it has changed since the old Co-op closed down, and there is a bunch of new restaurants/bars and a swanky new Premier Inn!
We got there nice and early so managed to grab a comfy booth near the entrance, The interior of the restaurant was spot on, it had that industrial feel that restaurants tend to love these days, but the vibrant colours and textures really gave it that lively south american feel, the DJ was also pumping out some amazing tunes (I am sure I heard a crazy remix of the Macarena at one point)which had me mum-dancing in my seat (much to the embarrassment of my lovely friend Katie, who came with me).
Shortly after getting settled and downing my glass of sparkly we were greeted by the lovely Michael and his tray of classic Caipirinhas, which were quite possibly my perfect cocktail, sharp and bursting with lime. We also tried the Raspberry and Mango variety, but both were a little sweet for me, although Katie much preferred the raspberry. They were pretty potent though!
We also got a little selection of appetisers, a bowl of spicy mixed nuts, some salt fish-cake type things and some cheesy doughballs. The salt-fish was a little bland if I am honest (perhaps in comparison to the nuts) but the doughballs were incredible! We were all being really polite and one sat in the basket, no one wanting to take the last one, but I just couldn't resist and unapologetically nabbed it. No regrets.
By this point Nyomi from Nomipolony joined our table, and had regaled us with her hilarious smear test anecdote, so we were definitely feeling the party spirit. The lovely Michael (seriously Cabana, give this guy a pay rise) kept us well stocked with a selection of cocktails and some delicious brasilian lager. We sadly missed out on the prawns and haloumi which we spotted doing the rounds, but we made up for it by eating a lot of chicken! The BBQ and Maguertta varieties were my favourite. There was also some incredible cassava fries with malagueta mayonnaise which we managed to snag an entire plate of - thanks again Michael.
I may have had a couple more of the classic Caipirinhas, as well as some wine. I momentarily forgot that I had a full day of solo parenting the next day and threw caution to the wind. The atmosphere was electric, and there were even some traditional samba dancers tearing up the dance floor!
I had a little wander about, checking out the toilets (a crucial part of any review), which were lovely although, as cute as the tiny mirrors were, I do love a full length mirror in a bar, the fear of having your skirt tucked into your pants is always real. I also spotted a nice stack of highchairs, which was good to see.
I did ask to see the children's menu too, which I was actually really impressed with. While expensive at £6.95 (I consider it expensive for a toddler, I am sure its standard for older kids) it was hot on healthy eating, and boasts ingredients which are low in salt, and only using naturally occurring sugars; which was great to read. For the price you get a cucumber and sweet potato hummus starter, a choice of mains from chicken breast and burgers to a mild coconut curry or baked sweet potato. You also get a choice of side (corn, fries or rice), and a choice of dessert (fro yo or apple slices with a honey dip). All in all for a kids menu it sounds delicious and a bit different. I am keen to go back with Zoe to give it a try.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by Cabana, while it does have aspects which aren't dissimilar to places like Nanados and Las Iguanos, it has a slightly funkier vibe and a broader menu selection. There was actually a copy of their cookbook on the tables which I tempted to buy now, having sampled the wares.
I think with places like this, the success is really in the staff and atmosphere which Cabana has nailed. Even though Michael was our favourite, all of the other staff were also super friendly and more than happy to go out of their way to help.
We will certainly be heading back once the new restaurant business dies down. I'd love to hear if you've visited Cabana, either in Newcastle or elsewhere...