I’ve never tried Brazilian food before, so when I hear that an authentic churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) has opened in Cardiff, I just can’t wait to go there.
Sitting beneath the Maldron Hotel on Cardiff’s St. Mary Street, Viva Brazil is the third opening from the group that most recently launched in Liverpool in 2010. The traditional restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat dining experience featuring 15 different cuts of meat and poultry, slow roasted over a charcoal grill (pictured below) and a salad bar boasting over 20 different Brazilian side dishes and traditional meal options.
The interior décor of Viva Brazil creates a warm, cosy ambience. The walls are painted red and the floors are a polished, rustic wood. Vintage silk lampshade chandeliers hang from the ceiling and wall lights are attached to the pillars, projecting a vibrant glow over the restaurant.
Upon entering Viva Brazil, we are greeted immediately by a friendly waitress who shows us to a table. As we have never visited before, she kindly tells us how to order our food.
A team of passadors (carvers) walk the busy restaurant with large cuts of beef, chicken, pork, lamb and sausages, which they carve at the table. Each table has a red disc reading ‘no’, and a green disc reading, ‘yes’. When we are ready for the passadors to start bringing us food, the waitress explains that we should turn our discs over from red to green. In addition, we can serve ourselves as many times as we like at the Salad Island.
As the waitress leaves our table we are approached by a confident, smiling bartender who offers us a drink. Viva Brazil serve over 100 wines and claim to have one of the best cocktail menus in Cardiff. We’re not sure on what to order, but the waitress recommends we try a caiprinha – the national drink of Brazil, this cocktail is a concoction of cachaca rum, freshly squeezed limes and sugar. We follow her advice and she proceeds to mix the cocktails together in front of us at a mobile cocktail station next to our table. They taste just as refreshing as they look!
We decide to head to the Salad Island before turning our discs over. This isn’t just your average salad bar – far from it. There are a wide range of dishes on offer, including options like chicken with olives, beef rib stew with cassava, gourmet pasta salads, delicious vegetable sides like cucumber dressed in herbs, fresh fruit and a selection of cured meats, regional cheeses, flavoured oils, breads and sauces.
To complete the selection, when we return to our table a waitress serves us a basket of popular Brazilian snacks, including deep fried banana and polenta (the serving was larger than shown below – they just looked so appetising, we forgot to take a photo before tucking in)!
With our plates laden with food from the salad bar, we seize the opportunity to turn our disc over from red to green. No sooner have we made the switch, the (rather dishy) passadors are making a beeline for our table armed with juicy cuts of meat and poultry.
The passadors carve each cut of meat at the table in front of us (, and we each have our own pair of mini tongs to hold the meat as it is being carved. I love how Viva Brazil involves diners in the serving of food, encouraging us to engage with staff and giving the dining experience a personal touch. The team are very friendly and they seem to be very happy in their work (even when I ask them to pose for photos)!
Each time the passadors serve us a different cut of meat, they stamp our table record so that we can keep track of which meats we have tried. There are fifteen meats in total: fraldinha (flank steak); picanha (cap of rump); curacao (chicken heart); frango com pimenta (chilli chicken); linguica (Brazilian sausage); alcatra (rump steak); costela de porco (pork ribs); frango com bacon (cheese and bacon); picanha com alho (garlic cap of rump); presunto defumado (smoked gammon); cordeiro (leg of lamb); costela de boi (beef ribs); coxa de frango (chicken leg); contra-file (sirloin steak) and pescoco de porco (parmesan pork).
All of the meats are tender and flavoursome and I always think that meat tastes better when it’s been cooked over charcoal. I am particularly fond of the steaks…
…but the parmesan pork is equally as tasty (might have to experiment with this myself!)…
…and the Brazilian sausage is of a high quality with a good, meaty bite to it.
I manage to work my way through all 15 cuts of meat on offer, although I have to pace myself towards the end by only eating one mouthful of each meat. I’m rather apprehensive about trying the chicken hearts but I really want to tick off all of the meats and so I tell myself to grow up, and I try one. They are rather small – how bad can they really be? I chew… and I chew… and I chew some more, before ‘chickening out’ (oh, the pun!) and discreetly transferring it to a tissue. I’m sure it is probably cooked to perfection and some people may well enjoy eating chicken hearts – I’m just not one of them.
As I finish eating the final cut of meat, I am somewhat relieved to turn our disc back over to red. We are both feeling rather full and when the waitress asks if we would like to see the traditional Brazilian dessert menu, we politely decline her offer.
Our visit to Viva Brazil has been so enjoyable, on so many levels, that I can honestly say it is one of the best restaurants I have ever visited. Above all, my favourite part of our experience has been having the opportunity to engage with the waiting staff in the serving of our food, enabling us to see exactly what is going onto our plates.
The waiting team deserve a big mention, because their excellent customer service skills play a vital role in helping Viva Brazil to achieve the success that it has. Even when the restaurant gets really busy they stay cool and calm, the meat just keeps on coming and they remain attentive and approachable.
The quality of the food is fantastic. Every cut of meat is of a very high standard and as it is cooked slowly over charcoal, it has a very unique taste.
The value for money is about average – lunch (served until 5pm) costs £13.95, whereas dinner costs £23.95, with seafood and desserts priced separately (except for on Sundays, when dinner is served with dessert at £19.95). Salad bar-only and vegetarian options are also available, alongside other combinations.
I am definitely going to be going here again – and again, and again, and again. Having already sampled all of the meats on offer, on my next visit I think I will probably eat more of my favourite cuts and leave out the ones I’m not as keen on, and I’d like to leave room for another trip to the salad bar – or a dessert. I recommend booking beforehand as Viva Brazil tends to get very busy – the highest number of customers they have ever served at one time is 674!
St. Mary Street,
02920 220 255
Monday to Sunday: 12.00pm – late
I was invited to Viva Brazil as a guest and our food and drinks were complimentary.