Opening night at Bossa Grill, the all-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurant, marks the latest in a raft of newly opened restaurants in Leeds this year: Banyan, Lost and Found, Polpo, Turk’s Head, Iberica, Ox Club, Mr Nobody, the list goes on.
Brazil is cattle country where they famously barbecue meat on a grand scale, so it’s no surprise that Bossa Grill serves plenty of meat, eight courses to be precise, and it fits neatly alongside its neighbours the Latin American Las Iguanas and the ribs and sticky chicken vibe of Red’s True BBQ. Committed veggies may want to pass by Cloth Hall Street for the time being.
If you’ve been to Fazenda, Bossa’s older sibling at Granary Wharf, you will know the score. A team of waiters tour the floor carrying fearsome knives and skewers of meat, hot off the grill, to slice at your table. This continues through those eight courses – the “rodizio (rota) experience” – until you signal for them to stop by placing a red card (a bull’s head, red on one side, green on the other) to indicate enough is enough or bring it on. Not very sophisticated, but that’s the deal.
Certainly eight courses of protein sounds like a meat lover’s dream. Add to that chips, coleslaw and a raft of sauces in plastic bottles ranging from Brazilian ketchup to the cloyingly sweet rosemary mayo, and you are getting a lot for your £17.90. I don’t know how they do it.
Perhaps by getting a lot of customers through very quickly. We would have been out in 30 minutes if we hadn’t slowed them down. Within five minutes we were brought bottled tap water, Brahma Brazilian beer on draught and a big, fruity Brazilian Tempranillo. Then came lightly spiced chicken wings, more warm than hot off the grill, a bucket of fries dusted in paprika and a rather gloopy coleslaw of cabbage, raisins and sweet corn.
We are nowhere near finished when pulled beef from a metal bowl arrives, slow cooked in the mighty open-fired oven on view in the kitchen. Then it’s chicken thighs followed quickly by drab slices of overcooked pork belly with a cream “requeijao” sauce, the least successful dish. In fact, if they can’t improve on this showing, I’d take it off the menu. Then a decent chorizo sausage followed by slices of rare rump steak.
It’s all at a whistle-stop pace, the meat coming in such quick succession from the eager team that we have to send them away. We’re not up to speed with the traffic light palaver. But different waiters continue to swing by offering us their giant skewers. More pulled beef? More pork belly?
Is it unfair to gripe about too much service never mind too much food? The team are so enthusiastic we put it down to first night excitability and possibly under-employment as the cavernous room – 110 covers – is about one third full. Fair play, however, for taking back a well-done lamb skewer and getting the kitchen to produce a rarer one.
It’s not just a meat blow-out. There are eight side dishes at a bargain £2 each. We had a very good plate of grilled and salted padron peppers finished with a good squeeze of lime and a dish of feijoada. This Brazilian national dish is a deep, rich and gently spiced black bean stew available with pulled beef or, as I had it, without. It was finished with a sprinkle of cassava meal and tiny red and yellow chillis and it was excellent. I’d have liked the ovos picantes: caponata, cassava grains again and cheese sauce topped with a fried egg. It sailed off to another table and looked good, but by now the all-you-can-eat was turning into far more-than-you-can-eat.
Given it was their first night, Bossa ran pretty seamlessly. At around £20 a head plus drinks, it’s a cheap if noisy night out. With high ceilings, bare clattery tables and loud music, the acoustics are not set up for a serene or intimate dinner.
According to their social media, Bossa is a “new fun Brazilian concept… the kind of cool, casual restaurant you would go to if you live in Rio”. I’ve never been to Brazil so I can’t claim to know how authentic this place really is. There’s an enterprising drinks list with plenty of South American brands in wine and beer. Otherwise it’s not hugely Rio, I suspect, judging by the chicken wings, chips and insipid belly pork. I’ve certainly had better cuts of meat in South American styled steak joints in Leeds and elsewhere. But if you are looking for a reasonably priced, lively night and you’re in a hungry, carnivorous crowd, Bossa could well be your man.
• Bossa Grill, 2 Cloth Hall Street, Leeds LS1 2HD; 0113 243 8610, bossagrill.co.uk; open daily 12-10pm; price: around £70 dinner for two including a bottle of wine and service.