Walking down Bondi Road in Sydney, is the same as taking a round-the-world trip: you will find Turkish and Thai, Indian and Israeli, Chinese, a chicken shop and the list goes on. Today I decided to visit Brazil.
Cafe Brazil has been around for a while and although it is located rather centrally, I always walked past it, I guess due to fear of the unknown.
But today was the day that I finally stepped into the screaming green cafe and was met with Portuguese songs playing in the air, a table full of Brazilians and a lot of photographs and magazine cut-outs stuck onto the wall. It was indeed atmospheric.
Looking up at the menu board I was a bit confused as everything seemed to be written in Portuguese, luckily the take-away menu shed some light on the dishes. As I wanted to take my meal home and was not feeling overly adventurous, I decided to get the X-Churrasco/Cheese Steak Roll, Fried Polenta for authenticity and Rissole de Camarao (Prawn Rissole) because it sounded kind of good.
Coming up to the front desk, I must admit the waitress was not particularly enthusiastic, or perhaps it’s a cultural thing, I ordered my meal. From here the 30 minute wait began. Yes, for something fried, something that I’m pretty sure was microwaved and a sandwich, take away, I stood around for half an hour.
This provided me with some excellent people watching time (looking at the positives…), where I was able to make two observations: the people (duh!) and the food (also kind of duh). Now people and food might be exactly what you would expect in a cafe, but these factors were interesting in this case. Except for two Aussies (and me) who each ordered a take away coffee, the rest of the crowd was Brazilian. And the place definitely filled up at 2pm on a Friday as my 30 minute wait progressed. This is a little odd to me as the location is so central and every other car-less surfer would surely be passing it every other day. But perhaps they were like me and Brazilian was a little more alien to them than the pizza place next door.
Next observation was that EVERY meal that was served was exactly the same (seriously, why did my poor sandwich take so long!). All the home sick Brazilians ordered the Feijoada: black beans stew with a variety of meats (dry beef, chorizo, smoked ribs) served with rice, Chinese broccoli, cassava flour and a slice of orange. At $14, it didn’t seem like a bad choice and perhaps I will try it if I venture here again.
Having seen the same plate pass my eyes for the 10th time, I diverted my gaze to the other products on sale. This must honestly be every Bondi Brazilians dream as the cafe stocks lots of local goodies as well as a shelf full of baked goods. They also sell frozen products for those who want to take Brazil home.
Wanting to complete my meal with a Brazilian beverage, I chose the Guaraná Antarctica can, which I soon discovered contained… Guaraná. I didn’t actually notice that big caffeinated word because it was all in fancy writing and it was actually the ‘Antarctica’ bit that drew me in. You see I’m not so good with caffeine, but after having the entire can (the natives were drinking it by the 2L bottle), I survived. It’s actually quite delicious and nothing like ‘V’ or anything else that contains the berry in high doses. I actually thought it was just carbonated water and the ‘Antarctica’ was to show it’s pureness, but the berry/ almost cherry sweet taste, was definitely not water. It was perhaps closer to carbonated juice than it was to soft drink though, as the bubbles weren’t too strong and the sugar wasn’t as intense as you would find in your standard Cokes and Fantas.
Alright, back to food. Finally I received my order (yes the lady did apologise for the wait) and the walk home began.
Now perhaps I’m not that good with my meats, but when I saw the word steak, for some reason I imagined this brown piece of meat, slathered in dripping sauce with grill marks exposed. Instead I got this:
I must say I was a bit disappointed as I actually had to look inside the roll to see if they remembered to add the meat, but nonetheless I tried to make it look as attractive as possible for it’s big blog debut.
Now the roll actually turned out to be quite good. It had just the right amount of mayo, the lettuce was crunchy, the French roll was fresh and the cheese was very complementary to the steak itself. So if you’re on the go, the $8 is more or less worth it for this roll, although the 30 minutes is perhaps not.
The fried polenta was most definitely not a hit with me. Maybe I’m just not used to it, but the texture was not really my thing. The squares were quite oily (yes I know they were fried) and the crumbing was a little harsh for me – kind of like they were dipped in corn flakes, which I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. The inside is full of little balls,very mini rice like things for those, like me, that have no idea what polenta is. It was indeed a struggle to finish all of them.
The prawn rissole was actually really nice. the texture was great – lightly crumbed on the outside and gooey on the inside and surprisingly contained whole prawns (I think I expected more of a mash). Thumbs up for this one!
Overall my experience was unexpected. I think that next time I might visit Cafe Brazil with a couple of friends in the evening and order the Feijoada with a couple of Caipirinhas as I think that this place heavily rely’s on atmosphere for those whose Portuguese isn’t up to scratch.
X-Churrasco/Cheese Steak – $8.00
Fried Polenta (side) – $3.00
Rissole de Camarao – $3.50
Guaraná Antarctica – $3.00