It’s good to be hungry when you go to Raizes – Brazilian food takes no prisoners and I’m told by those that know that this is the real deal. An ex-pub has been turned into a simple, bustling and very friendly restaurant, with plain wooden furniture, a huge Brazilian flag (just in case you were in any doubt) and the most charming and helpful service imaginable. It would be hard to find a more engaging smile than that of Joaquim, our waiter.
This is not delicate cuisine by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly is tasty. I would normally run a mile from a menu with photographs of the dishes (also available on the website) but if like me you’re not familiar with the food it’s really quite helpful. It does make you realise this is not cuisine for slimmers, however: most of the starters are deep fried, battered or based on wicked things such as belly pork. We shared a coxinha (Brazilian chicken pastry) and a kibe (beef croquette) at £2 each. Both were very tasty though the kibewon the top prize, and either would have made a full meal for many. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to offal but my companion reports that coração de galinha – fried chicken hearts, £4.50 – are also very good. The selection is mostly meat-based though there are a couple of fishy options – isca de peixe (battered fish gougons, £5.30) or bolinho de bacalhau (cod fish cake, £5).
Main courses (all meat-based) come complete with the traditional accompaniments. We shared a dish of feijoada (£7.50), a classic mixed pork meat and black bean stew, served with rice, toasted cassava flour (the Brazilian equivalent of polenta), sauted greens and orange slices. It was fabulous, with tender pork and sausage that warmed not just the cockles, but I was grateful I wasn’t trying to eat the whole dish – this must be a growing teenager’s paradise of a meal. There are lots of beef dishes on offer too, with a variety of steaks – a 12oz sirloin for £12 has to be brilliant value in anyone’s book and on the strength of our meal, I bet it’s good. Other options include a mixed meat skewer (£9.20) including steak, chicken breast and Tuscan sausage and grilled pork chops (£6.90).
There are some salads (£6 – £6.50) and I bet they’re good too, but watch the cheese and dressings if you’re looking for something on the slimmer side.
The short wine list is exceptional value, starting with an Argentinian Trevento shiraz at £10.50 a bottle and a couple of good Chilean reds at £14.40. There are whites too, and a Chilean rosé, but with this menu the reds are always going to take top billing.
We had a terrific, atmospheric evening at ridiculously low cost for London, and I’ll definitely be back. There’s even live music Friday to Sunday, if the buzz of the place isn’t enough for you.