By Benjamin Joseph
Botafogo is a Brazilian restaurant in Huddersfield town centre where you hold all the cards.
Nestled in John William Street just a short walk from Huddersfield Railway Station and a minute’s walk from Byram Arcade, you will find Botafogo, the Brazilian Rodizio-style restaurant where unlimited prime meat is front and centre of their offering.
Named after a small upmarket region in Rio De Janeiro, Botafogo has been serving up this unique style of dining in the town centre for over 10 years.
I had gifted my dad a voucher to a similarly styled restaurant in neighbouring Leeds for Christmas. So when the opportunity came to visit Botafogo and write my thoughts, I dropped him a quick text to see if he was happy to give it a try instead. He again accepted the invite to be my guest for the evening.
Upon entering you are met with a brightly lit, colourful, modern and relaxed interior somewhat resembling a South American cantina. It is vibrant and in-keeping with the theme of the restaurant but the lighting is somewhat jarring in its brightness.
The music was coming out of old-timey radio speakers and consisted of Brazilian pop songs, including a fantastic Brazilian cover of David Bowie’s Starman (O Astronauta de Marmore – Nenhum De Nos).
Upon checking in for our booking and being seated, the server came to introduce herself and talk us through the menu.
She was new but well-trained and friendly. She carefully explained how the menu works and took our drinks orders. I opted for a pint of the ‘Bota Beer.’ I’m always drawn to a self-named lager and this was served in a Bramha glass.
Bramha is a Brazilian lager brand and I somewhat suspect the beer I received was indeed Bramha. It was well priced, light, crisp and a perfect accompaniment to the meal, nonetheless.
Now on to the main event. All the food; desserts and peppercorn sauce (£2.50) omitted, are included in the pricing (£27.10pp).
Once our drinks arrived at the table our canapes arrived shortly after, consisting of traditional Brazilian cheese bread (pao de queijo) and beef empanada (pastel de carne). Both were a nice little taster of what was to come.
The cheese bread is made with tapioca flour which makes it dense and chewy, but don’t let the description put you off – it is a mouthful of pure cheesy goodness.
Following our canapes our server showed us to the salad bar. When compared to the similarly styled restaurant in a neighbouring city, the salad bar is somewhat limited but, let’s be honest, we’re not here for the salad!
It should be said there are three vegetarian options available at £23.90pp. These include coconut stew, spinach pasta and a pescatarian option of cod risotto should you wish to bring a non-meat-eating guest.
There are still a variety of traditional South American sides such as feijoada (a delicious rich pork and black bean-based stew), herb rice and several traditional mayonnaise-based mixed salads, though I have never been a fan of mayonnaise-based salads.
Amongst the more traditional salads and sides, you can find a plethora of familiar faces, such as mixed leaf, freshly baked bread and a variety of mixed salad vegetables and condiments.
Sure to be something for everyone, and to top it off when we return to the table we are greeted with a miniature basket of fresh chips with sea salt and herbs.
The salad and chips, like the meat, are also unlimited and you are welcome to return or reorder as many times as you like.
The way the meat is brought to the table is the unique element of rodizio dining, the grill chef or ‘Gaucho’ (Spanish for cowboy), will bring each meat one by one to the dining area and carve it table side for you.
You are welcome to ask for specific meats, but I find it best to be greeted with a surprise each time and save the suggestions for seconds once you’ve had a chance to try everything.
Each diner is given a double-sided card with a green side and a red side. Ironically the local football team in Botafogo (Brazil) were handed a few red cards in their last outing!
Thankfully red doesn’t mean it’s time for an early bath here, it’s just an indication to your Gaucho to slow the pace and leave you to your meal. The green side pretty much indicating “bring it on.”
It can be intense at times and I do recommend utilising your card effectively to prevent being over-faced.
I made the mistake of being left on green and then turning down a couple of options as I was holding out for something in particular. The Gaucho walked off looking disgruntled as if this was a personal slight. Chill out, Cowboy!
The first meat we were brought was the grilled Linguica (Portuguese chorizo). This was wonderfully rich and packed full of paprika and garlic notes. Pair this with the feijoada and chips and you’ve got a nice little starter plate of Brazilian sausage, chips and beans.
Quickly following on we had the beef shoulder and minted lamb. The minted lamb was my personal favourite of the evening, it was soft and tender and the mint glaze was not too overpowering or vinegary as some mint sauces can be.
Next, we had the grilled pineapple and gammon. Both cooked beautifully and pairing well. The grilling of the pineapple caramelises the natural sugars and takes the edge off – a far cry away from the tinned ring of pineapple you may find on your gammon in your local!
In quick succession, we had the chicken thighs, sirloin and honey-glazed pork. The chicken thighs were crispy and boneless. I believe these were fried rather than grilled given their colour and flavour, though this step made them extra juicy.
The honey pork was sweet and tender and the flavours complimented each other very well. The sirloin was cooked to a medium, slightly more than my usual preference, but seasoned well and tender, nonetheless.
The star of the meats, however, was the Picanha, a traditional Brazilian steak cut, from the rump with a think fatty “cap.”
The cooking process renders down the fatty cap and this makes the meat extra juicy and flavourful. I paired the Picanha with a little ramekin of their homemade chimichurri (South American herb vinaigrette).
After we had both filled our boots with all of the offerings the thought of a dessert was daunting. The choices consisted of churros, Brazilian chocolate cake or a selection of ice cream and sorbets. We opted for the ice creams and sorbets as they seemed more manageable at the time.
The flavours of the chocolate and toffee ice cream were deliciously rich and particularly enjoyable. The champagne sorbet was not to my taste and I likened it to a frozen bottle of perfume.
Thankfully the mango sorbet was fantastic and made up for the champagne version. The only downside to all the ice creams and sorbets was that they had all crystalised and were filled with ice throughout the scoops. The apple sorbet, in particular, was like solid ice. That was a shame but easily rectified by the restaurant in the future.
The experience on the whole is playful, and you can have a great time being able to sample all of the different meats and sides in various combinations.
The meat is grilled and seasoned well and you will not leave hungry. There are some minor areas for improvement, but overall my evening at Botafogo represented good quality food and good value for money and I would certainly return.
Botafogo, 37 John William Street, Huddersfield, HD1 1ES. Website HERE. Tel. 01484 535440
Mains per person: £27.10
Ice cream 3 scoops: £4.90
Sorbet 3 scoops: £4.90
Bota Beer: £4.75
10% Service Charge Optional