SOMETIMES it takes a while for a restaurant to grow on you. Fazenda is a bit like that for this Taste of Manchester critic. Ambience, service and wine list have always been attractive and I’ve been prepared to say no when the procession of meats being carved onto the plate became somehow intrusive for an intimate dinner.
Above all, there was that air of all-inclusive buffet about the starters. From guacamole to sushi to hummus to Uncle Tom Cobley’s sweet potato wedges and your neighbours in the salad bar queue piling it high like Homer Simpson on a carb bender.
Then long before you had made a real dent in it the Passadores (meat chefs) are doling out the Full Brazilian – pichanhas, alcatras, cordeiras, fraldinhas, beautiful meats all grilled medium rare, still hot (mostly) when sliced.
Old hands, of course, know how to resist those chunky linguica sausages to save room for choicer cuts (one of the staff once told me the bangers were the fave in Liverpool, rib-eye in Leeds, Manchester punters more fickle, but can’t imagine the skewered chicken hearts coming up fast on the outside).
]But maybe restraint in the face of such culinary generosity veers on the prissy. As if they were forcing you to do karaoke, zumba or a communal birdie dance against your will. This is one of Manchester’s best places to go as a bunch, neck caiprinhas and loosen up.
I did just that at a recent function hosted by Portugal’s national airline, keen to promote Lisbon as a hub for air travellers to Brazil and beyond. Hence the Rio Carnival style dancers.
I’d forgotten about the ordering system about flipping a card on the table from red to green to keep the meat coming. Oblivious, mine stayed on green!
The same system should have applied to a beautiful, dark, oaky Douro red, Churchill Estates Grande Reserva 2013, which stood up well to the smoky meats and the Chimichurri coating my pichana (cap of rump).
Confession, now I’ve come to terms with this ‘unleash your inner gaucho’ concept, which works much better than at rival Bem Brasil: my favourite meat of the entire evening was the pork and beef buried among beans in the traditional Portuguese stew, fejojada. Homerlike, I raided the salad bar for more, posing en route for a selfie with the dancers. Maybe I’m now ready for a visit to Menagerie.
Fazenda, 1 The Avenue, Manchester M3 3AP. 0161 207 1183. Lunch weekdays £18.50 ahead, weekends £20.50 (concessions for children); dinner £31.20.