Fazenda, Leeds – Restaurant Review
by Matt Callard
Fazenda takes some explaining – and food snobs take note – this review contains the words ‘all you can eat’, ‘service-to-customer interaction’ and ‘buffet’. But wait! This meat lovers’ feast might just be the carnivores’ carnival some of you have been waiting for.
A relatively new Brazilian steak house in revamped Granary Wharf in Leeds, Fazenda is, whatever you might think of the food, a whole-new-dining-experience. But if it’s an intimate evening of hushed sweet nothings you’ re hoping for, you’d be better off at Burger King.
Yes, the place is lively, and relies heavily on service-to-customer interaction (if ever personable serving staff are needed it’s here), and if you’re a first-timer said interaction will commence with a walkthrough of the Fazenda concept.
“Chunks of meat”
There are no menus and for £25-ish you can eat as much of their cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork, as well as pay as many visits to their salad bar buffet, as you like. You’ll be given a dual red/green sided token and, once you’ve grazed the salad bar, you can flip the token to green and the serving staff will miraculously and continuously appear to offer delicate slivers of meat on tall metal skewers, all prepared in authentic Brazilian gaucho barbecue style.
When you’re sated (or fancy a rest), flip the counter to red and the serving staff will avoid you like the plague – leaving the Meal Mole kind of wishing the counter concept could be transferred to some other irritatingly over-attentive restaurants in the process – but I digress.
Now, when these skewered chunks of flesh first arrived at the table I thought I’d immediately discovered Fazenda’s fatal flaw – my partner insists on her meat medium done, whereas I like it rare. But here’s the clever bit – the chunks of meat have been cooked differently on three sides, from rare to well done, thus catering for all meat preferences. Phew!
Cue more interaction as the server explains which cut of meat they’re presenting, cue thoughtful nodding, cue ‘yes please’ you’d like to try, cue carving of the meat which you take from the skewer yourself with some tongs. Oh yes, I should’ve mentioned, you’re given some tongs.
So, finally (finally!) I hear you cry – you can try the meat. And honestly, it’s fabulous. Certainly they’re not flaking on quality. If good meat is prepared well and served as you like it – then what’s not to love?
The servings come thick and fast. You’ll make your way through various cuts of beef, from melt-in-the-mouth picanha (rump), to tender fillet, to juicy rib-eye. You’ll no doubt find a favourite and it’s a good culinary test to sample the different flavours and textures on offer. Minted lamb, juicy gammon and delicate chicken will also be offered – and there are even a few wild cards thrown in (chicken hearts, black pudding, sausages) to keep your meat-meter ticking over.
You might feel slightly English and uncomfortable at constantly saying yes to each serving you’re offered. But truly you’re never made to feel like you’re over-indulging. And I have this on good word from one couple who really DID over-indulge!
“Star of the show”
You can refresh your plate with another trip to the salad bar if you wish. There are some good offerings, including black beans and a vat of crumbly parmesan. But you’ll excuse the Meal Mole for not attempting every last morsel. There was a little ‘buffet fatigue’ on show. But isn’t that kind of inevitable? And really, you’re not here to eat lettuce. Comically, Fazenda do actually offer a vegetarian option. But you’d have to be spectacularly cruel to drag a veggie in here.
It’s not all perfect. Garlic is lashed everywhere. This sometimes overwhelms the delicate meat. The one solitary fish portion we were served was pale, watery and utterly lost next to the meaty overload. The pork loin with Parmesan didn’t make an appearance all night. Plus, the constant nodding and ‘yes-please-ing’ before every new serving can become tiresome pretty quickly. But this is, alas, a necessity of the concept.
But the meat is good; very good. And when the star of the show is performing as well as this, who cares about the rest of the cast anyway?
Fazenda, Waterman’s Place, 3 Wharf Approach, Granary Wharf, Leeds, LS1 4BR
0113 400 1183