CAFÉ RIO & BOTECA CARIOCO: FLYING DOWN TO FITZROVIA
Imagine, if you will, it is 2075
The scene is outside a museum in what once was London’s fashionable area of Fitzrovia but is now the district of Tesco’s Community Block Living Area A.
A portly man stands on a hovering platform before a crowd who murmur in anticipation as he pulls on a short length of chord to reveal a blue plaque which reads simply
“In a café on this site Hermano Segundo sat to eat and drink while he worked on his seminal literary works "Don't Do that your Majesty. I am not that kind of boy" and "It's meant to be incomprehensible, stupid" which led to the declaration of world peace, a cure for cancer and the confirmation of Frank Zappa as a saint of the Catholic Church”
The crowd cheer and spontaneously begin to sing the national anthem which Majumdar wrote in a quiet moment in between meister works
“Put your hands in the air, for Britain”
Wave them like you just don’t care, For Britain”
All the while ‘making shapes” with their hands as had become required by law in 20020 after a certain Pete Tong became Prime Minister in a surprise landslide victory.
OK, well perhaps that is not how it is going to be, but since my supper with my good chum Max last night was spent discussing literary aspirations and trying desperately to persuade our parents that we were not idle loafers, it’s nice to dream.
As it happens, Café Rio on Grafton Way is a very nice place to sit and dream. A Brazilian café that was recommended to me by another chum, Claudia, it offers, along side standard café items, a wide range of savoury Brazilian pastries, the enormo portioned Brazilian baguettes and, apparently ,one of the best examples of the Feijoada in town. All in a small, bright little cafe presided over by cheery Brazilian women who cluck around making sure you are enjoying things as you should.
We arrived there a short while before it closed so stuck to sampling one each of the savoury pastries. Particular favourite was the Quibe which was a larger version of the Middle Eastern Kibbe which made us think they must originate from the same gene pool. Minced beef with spices and olives running through it, one of those would have been enough on its own but we also ordered Coxinha and Pastel which came with a varied mix of meat and cheese fillings.
Elegant? No, but at £1.80 a pop, filling and substantial enough for two impoverished wannabees on a budget.
After paying the bill which came to all of £12, we decided to take our literary musings down to Fitzrovia’s latest Brazilian offering on Charlotte St. Boteca Carioca has been getting good reviews all over the place and I can see why. The food is accomplished ( with one or two poor elements ) and the service is charming and laid back.
Unfortunately, the room is a killer. Dark and gloomy, it is like eating under a fire blanket and it certainly douses any level of good humour the moment you walk in.
Still, we had eaten some starters at Café Rio, so moved on to main courses here. First, some Pao de Queijo, Brazilian cheese bread which was a real disaster. Hard as bullets and as tasteless as an Austin Princess with go faster stripes. Horrible. Max ate them, but then he is poor and will eat anything for fear it will be his last meal for forty eight hours.
The main courses were better. The Feijoada was as good as I have tried. A dense, dark stew of black beans with hunks of meat and sausage. None of the hooves, lips, noses and arseholes of the original slave dish, but rich and satisfying.
A moqueca came with large pieces of halibut and a spicy sauce that went well with coconut rice.
More than ample portions and, at £13.50 a pop, not over priced.
While we ate, the p.a system serenaded us with what I can only assume was traditional Brazilian funeral music which further succeeded in bringing our good humours down to the point that I can’t imagine rushing back there again no matter how tasty the food.
I think, next time I want to compare notes with a fellow bald man of letters, I will probably fly down to Café Rio.
For the record, if they ever do decide to put up a blue plaque for me can it please read
" he died at the age of 100 while watching his beloved Rotherham Utd of whom he bacme chairman when his books sold one million copies and when the film rights were sold to George Clooney's production company. He left behind his 20 year old wife, an olympic gymnast, Jeanelle from whose breasts it is believed he was snorting coke at the time of his death."
Now that's a dream