Fazenda

Fazenda, August 2020

To write about Fazenda post apocalypse feels like writing about a new restaurant, more so than anywhere that I would consider visiting for pleasure. I’m not going to overlook the struggles that all restaurants have faced in the last eight weeks to reopen, but I’m specifically referring to the model that this business previously ran on. This is a place that pre-COVID involved having the whole cuts of animal carved at the table, whilst the gaps in between were filled with trips to a vast salad bar; the latter simply not possible at present, whilst the former has its own issues. When the government closed restaurants part of me feared that we’d never see Fazenda again.

They are back and it’s clear that they’ve considered the right way of going about things before they did. They’ve dropped a lot of covers – 50 or so – meaning that tables are well spaced and mostly behind screens, and whilst the meat is still carved, it is done from a safe distance with individual prongs to collect it as flops from the skewer. The biggest change is with sides and the wine, now accessed via a link and ordered from phone to table by a dedicated server.

I think I preferred the new way. I think. Certainly not the face masks and the distance, but the side plates that are now cooked to order and have improved. After the opening board of cured meats, cheeses, and other bits, we get mushrooms pan fried in lots of garlic and a little cream that benefit from fresh preparation, as do fries straight out of the fryer dusted in parmesan and a little slush of truffle oil. We both love the dinky balls of mozzarella and tomato dressed in the spiky green of chimichurri, and the red peppers roasted until the skin blackens and makes the flesh sweet throughout. Perhaps the Brazilian black bean stew isn’t quite as deep a flavour as I remember, but that’s okay because now we have a purée of sweet potato so soft it could be baby food. That purée is given bags of character with feta and mint, crunch from sweet potato crisps, and would be ordered again later in the night.

I’m well aware that very few customers book Fazenda off the back of the side dishes (RIP salad bar 2018-2020). Its draw for most is the meat, and so it should be. Over the two or so hours we eat long slivers of rare beef sirloin and rump that glisten a ruby haze when cut, and generous chunks of fillet cooked almost blue. Lamb cutlets are smokey, tender bites whilst Brazil’s favourite cut of beef, picanha (rump cap is as close as you’ll get here) is cooked with absolute precision. Indeed all the meat is nailed-on for accuracy tonight. I’ll be nitpicking if I told you that the sausage was way too salty, which it was, but fine for pointing out that the gammon was correctly high in salt. Pork collar with honey was all kinds of excellent.

Front of house was flawless from start to finish, and I’ll fight anyone who tells me that there is a better place to drink the wines of South America in Brum than here. The price of £34.50 per person in the evening can quickly spiral when desserts and booze are factored in, but this is money well spent. We leave the restaurant and head to the hotel over the road for an extended night cap. In a world where every movement is restricted I’m pleased we are able to still have these experiences. Fazenda, it’s great to have you back.

Apologies to the A2B driver I had drive us around at 1am looking for a pool table

Fazenda, Birmingham

My first experience of Fazenda was at the opening party. It is all a bit of a blur to be honest. I remember being on a table with people far cooler than me, and Foodie Boys whinging about his shoes, and my wine glass being topped up about twenty times before the meat arrived. I recall the table descending into chaos with darts chants and a very detailed chat about what our dart nicknames and entrance music would be, and then singing those entrance musics. And then singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ because thats what people at the darts do, except I am not at the darts, I am in a smart restuarant in a smart part of town. We left early to find a dart board, except we never found a dart board, we found more wine at Grace and James and I woke up with a really bad head and bottles of wine I dont need in a paper bag at the bottom of my bed. Anyway, I never took any pictures and I didn’t eat much food.

I am aware that even by my low standards this makes an awful blog piece at present, so I go back on a week night when my phone is being fixed at the Apple Store. I hope they don’t check my pictures unless they like Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright and Daryl ‘Superchin’ Gurney. The room is huge; a basement space that has the whiff of a costly fit out, with bottles of wine filling the spaces within the bare bricks, and animal hides in various guises as furnishings and ceiling decorations. There is a buffet bar in the centre of the building, with cheeses and cured meats, stews from continents afar, soft breads, snappy bits of bread, fish, grains, and pulses, to make up for the skewers of animal who no longer have them. I usually hate buffets, though even I manage to fill my plate with cheese stuffed peppers, a kind of black bean casserole with nuggets of pork, couscous, and slivers of salty Parmesan.

The meats almost all impress. They come cooked as promised; the red meats rare towards the core, the bits of chicken and pork given further time yet still retaining its juices. The trademark picanha, a cut from the rump, is tender and full of flavour, the sirloin deeper in beefy notes with thicker layers of fat. The high points are unexpected: bone in chicken thighs protected from the heat by bacon, and lamb which is seasoned to within an inch of it’s life. The rest of the meat can be labelled as ‘good’, with the exception of the gammon, which is too salty and over-smoked.

I don’t have dessert for two reasons; the first being that it is not included in the £32.50 price, and, more importantly, I’m properly stuffed. This is a difficult one for me to judge: personally the concept is not to my taste; I like my food from a menu and cooked to order. On the other-hand they do everything well, and I’d have no problem recommending it anyone looking for a potentially huge feed in smart surroundings. There is clearly a desire for an up-market all-you-can-eat meat feast and for that, Fazenda do it better than anyone else in this city. I think they’ll prosper.

7/10

Images supplied by Fazenda