Fazenda, The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:19 19 January 2016
Thought cowboy food just meant a mess of beans? The South American cowboys do much better for themselves, as a stylish Manchester restaurant demonstrates
At the end of a hard day of cow-punching, the South American gaucho would light a big pit fire, skewer hunks of meat and cook them slowly in the flames.
Then he would take his large knife and carve off slices as it seared to perfection.
All of which sounds a world away from a chilly winter’s night out in Manchester’s food and finance district, Spinningfields. And yet the essence of Fazenda - which has come to Manchester following successes in Leeds and Liverpool - is that gaucho experience: fifteen cuts of meat are cooked in the time-honoured pampas fashion, then brought to your table and carved by passadores (meat chefs). Want more meat? Show a green card next to your plate. Time to regroup? Turn that card red.
Fazenda has allusions to the rustic in the flashes of raw wood in the decor and the cunning chandeliers which resemble rings of lit candles. But mostly it has the kind of 21st century urban style that, in these cosmopolitan times, you’re as likely to find in Barnsley as Brasilia.
Fazenda is unashamedly a carnivore’s paradise. But don’t neglect the salad bar and buffet. It boasts some intriguing cooked meats, cheeses, sushi (not a gaucho delicacy, I’m betting), lovely tiny sweet red peppers, giant cous cous salad, a mango coleslaw, a stew using what look like huge butter beans and, best of all, Feijoada, a Brazilian black beans, pork and beef stew, which reminded me of bonfire night black peas.
Onto the meat feast. The lunchtime selection includes Picanha (rump), Alcatra (rump with garlic), Presunto (gammon), Costela ou Barriga de Porco (pork ribs or belly), Frango (chicken thighs and chicken breast wrapped in bacon) and Linguiça (a spicy sausage).
Evening service brings the added delights of Filet Mignon (yes, fillet steak), Bife Ancho (rib eye), Contra Filet (sirloin) and much more, including the must-try Brazilian specialty Coração de Frango (chicken heart).
It takes an awful lot of chicken hearts to fill a skewer and the resulting meat is, as you may expect for an organ which spends its life beating more than twice a second, slightly chewy.
The procession of other meats which came my way were uniformly succulent and delicious, from smoky slices of fillet to spicy little sausages. Be sure to slather some of that meat in chimmichurri sauce - a fresh and zingy combination of parsley, garlic, oregano, oil and vinegar. And if you can find room for it, there’s a very tempting array of desserts and cheeses.
Prices range from £17.30 for lunch, Monday to Friday, to £29.20 on Friday and Saturday evenings. There are vegetarian, pescetarian and even vegan options. What would the gauchos make of that?
Fazenda, The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3AP, 0161 834 1219, www.fazenda.co.uk