Review - The Brazilian, Hull

I make no bones about it, I’m not a huge fan of the Brazilian restaurants that have proliferated around the region in recent years.
Churros with a choice of dips. (Dave Lee).Churros with a choice of dips. (Dave Lee).
Churros with a choice of dips. (Dave Lee).

Specifically, I don’t like that rodizio-style skewers-of-meat-carved-at-the-table-on-a-plate-of-terrible-watery-salad affair. This form of dining has its place – it seems to be very popular with hen dos and office parties, for instance – but I’ve never fallen under its spell.

Certainly, the couple of rodizio places I’ve eaten at in the East Riding have left me underwhelmed. They tend to feature meat of dubious origin, a poor salad bar and at best an average selection of drinks. I get that this way of eating can seem like fun when you’re in a large group, but stuffing yourself has never struck me as being particularly amusing. Especially when what you’re stuffing yourself with isn’t great.

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When news reached me that the rather wonderful marina-side building in Hull once occupied by 1884 Dock Street Kitchen was to turn Brazilian, then, I struggled to raise much interest. Then I discovered that it was the new venture from Julian Ogino-Stamford, owner of the entirely superb Ogino Japanese restaurant in Beverley. I have huge faith in Julian. I’ve never had anything but glorious food in Ogino and if he felt that Brazilian was the way to go, I was convinced that he’d do the job right.

Inside at The Brazilian. (Dave Lee).Inside at The Brazilian. (Dave Lee).
Inside at The Brazilian. (Dave Lee).

And he has. The building in which we now find the Brazilian is (as it was under the previous ownership) probably the largest dedicated dining space this side of Leeds. This was something that constantly hamstrung Dock Street Kitchen as getting an adequate number of bums on seats during the daytime was a trick they never mastered. This left the restaurant occasionally feeling a cavernous and lonely place.

Julian has, somewhat cunningly, negated the effects of the large space by using the decor to subtly divide the dining rooms into smaller areas. Rather than dividing walls, he’s used big plants. This, along with the just-the-right-side-of-tacky decoration, means that everywhere you are seated feels like a much cosier space than has been achieved previously.

The menu, too, has been cleverly put together so that, yes, you can go the endless skewers of meat route but there are excellent vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian dishes, should you wish to avoid suffering the notorious meat sweats.

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I’ve long suspected that many rodizio restaurants buy in their salad. The salad bar (which is where your dining experience usually begins) seems to consist of a dozen or so containers of various leaves and pulses swimming in a puddle of their own condensation. Highly unappealing.

At the Brazilian, all the salad (mesa do mercado) is freshly prepared in the kitchen and refreshed constantly. Very good it is, too. Various veg, grains, seeds, fruits and sauces are kept on ice, allowing you to tentatively pick or explosively gorge as you desire.

When the meats start arriving (served by the traditionally-attired gauchos) you recognise the quality immediately. The emphasis is on beef, with seven choices including sirloin, tenderloin, rump and ribeye. These are interspersed with eight other various meats, including pork collar, chicken hearts (which I’m too squeamish for), venison and gammon. As many of the cuts as possible are sourced from Yorkshire and all of them are juicy and flavoursome, my favourite being the garlic and mint lamb.

You are, of course, allowed to go round the salad bar and meat options as many times as you like for your £29.50 but, after 15 meats are paraded in front of you, I doubt many people will make it past one cycle. To get diners in during the day, the rodizio price is much lower until 4pm – £16.95 in the week and £19.95 at weekends. A few of the meats are missing from this option but it’s definitely good value and a smart way to fill the huge dining space.

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For those who don’t like or eat meat, there is a solid selection of veggie, vegan and fish main meals. Lentil meatballs with quinoa and coconut curry, pan-seared hake with tomatoes and asparagus or Brazilian stew with tofu and grilled lime are all excellent options among around a half-dozen others.

The drinks are similarly impressive. There is a full cocktail (and mocktail) menu and if it’s a very warm day – as it was when we visited – there are alcohol slushies. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had three.

That leaves the puds, which are also rather marvellous. We had a very decent crème brûlée and some churros, which were coated in cinnamon sugar and came with chocolate, berry and salted caramel dips. A nice, calming way to finish, after all the carnivorous delights.

The Brazilian, then, is nothing new in concept but it is by far the best rodizio-style restaurant I’ve ever eaten at and was even good enough to convince me it’s a form of dining that can work if it’s done right. Julian Ogino-Stamford has another success on his hands and Hull finally has a going concern occupying its largest restaurant. Win-win-win, I reckon.

The Brazilian, 4-5 Humber Dock Street, Hull, HU1 1TB. Tel: 01482 222260,; opening hours: 12-10pm every day except Monday.