In September Westfield Stratford City, the largest urban shopping centre in Europe, opened with the promise of plenty of eateries.
The usual chains like Jamie’s Italian, Tossed, Yo! Sushi, Pizza Express, Pret a Manger, Giraffe, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, were to be expected. For the truly unadventurous shoppers there are Greggs , McDonalds, Nando’s, KFC and Subway.
With just one other branch in Covent Garden, Cabana caught my eye and soon I organised a food blogger get together to celebrate the end of the year and Christmas.
If you were hoping for a quiet meal in a peaceful setting, you ain’t gonna get it here. The venue has an energetic feel to it with bright, loud coloured posters pasted on the wall, naked pipework and a high ceiling which contributed to the noise factor.
Overall the street food-style starters were mediocre at best. The Brasilian Cheesy Dough Balls (£3.95) that came with a Marie Rose-like sauce were not as fluffy or cheesy as expected. We sent out a search party for the four cheeses that were supposed to be in the Crispy Pastels (£4.65) but came back empty-handed. My Chopped Salmon Ceviche (£4.75) lacked the lime and chili kick and tasted suspiciously fishy.
Funnily enough, the ugliest starter, Sweetcorn Pamonhas (£3.35) received the taste prize. It is grated sweetcorn steamed in coconut milk with a hint of cinnamon, served wrapped in a corn husk and you can add chili salt to your liking. Some said it was too sweet, but it suited me just fine.
Cocktail-wise the Bacana Berry (£2.95) outshone the icy, lacklustre Cool Colada (£2.95). All cocktails can be spiked up with Cachaça (£1.95).
The Skewers, i.e. main courses, are served “rodizio”-style. Unlike in Brazil where you can eat as much as you like for a fixed fee, skewers are colour-coded according to price – green (£3.35), blue (£4.50), yellow (£5.45) and orange (£5.95) – think Yo! Sushi.
The ceremony of meat began when a green disc, which is red at the back, was placed on our table signalling to the waiters to start bringing us the mostly meaty skewers. Traditionally chicken hearts are served but maybe London clientele would be too squeamish for it.
The sweet Honey & Date Chicken was a bit dry but the Chili and Cumin Lamb perfect. The sheer portion size of the excellent Butterflied Pork Tenderloin with a Parmesan Crust and satisfying Portobello Mushroom topped with Haloumi Cheese left everyone in awe. Pregnant ladies who are past their due date should try the Spicy Malagueta Tiger Prawns which is hot enough to induce labour. Six quid for three measly prawns are ridiculous though.
Best of the lot was the Sticky Baby Ribs which was falling off the bone and slathered with a drool worthy sauce.
Cassava Chips (£3.45) is a rare sight on British menus and we definitely had to order it. A bit dry, almost chestnut-like, on its own, it matched very well with the delightful chimichurri dip provided and the Sweet Potato Fries (£3.45) were just as good as Giraffe Bar & Grill’s. No one was impressed with the canned palm hearts in the Tomato Salad (£3.65).
On paper the Roasted Pumpkin and Avocado Salad (£6.95) sounded promising and its presentation was stunning in the big white bowl. However, on closer inspection there was a miniscule amount of avocado and the first bite revealed that the chef has gone overboard with the salt. A disappointment.
Unlike many restaurants, Cabana came up with a great plan for dessert – just have a very limited amount of menu items and execute them very well. All frozen yogurts (£3.95) – natural, peanut butter and caramel – were delightful and the toppings (45p each) made them even better. By fate, since Caramelised Cashews weren’t available, I discovered the best topping of all – Pacoquinha (Brasilian Peanut Candy). The Cabana Cheesecake (£4.95) wasn’t too shabby either.
Wondering what my fellow diners thought of the meal? Check out what they said:
6/10: The meal had its ups and downs.
8/10: Portions were huge except for the prawns.
6/10: Friendly and attentive but we were forgotten after dessert and after 10 minutes of waving, attempting to get the staff’s attention we succeeded.
7/10: Brazilian rustic with a lot of character.
7/10: Vibrantly busy with fun in the air.
6/10: The desserts alone are good enough an excuse to visit Cabana. If I went back I’d definitely go for the ribs and sweet potato fries again and end with the caramel frozen yogurt with Pacoquinha topping. Trust me. Just try it.
P.S. I was a guest of Cabana.
Cabana Westfield Stratford City
5 Chestnut Plaza
Westfield Stratford City