Sometimes it’s hard to remember what life in Leeds was like before Trinity opened; if you spend any time in the city centre then it’s hard to avoid walking through or around it (Leeds is not a big place) and it’s fast become a feature of days and evenings out. I know there have been some mixed reactions to its arrival, and not every effect it’s had has been a positive one – but I do think it signalled a bit of an upswing for Leeds. In the last year so many new restaurants have opened (not just in Trinity) and that trend seems like it’s set to continue for now. The latest arrival on the scene is Cabana – a Brazilian barbecue restaurant from London that’s finally made it up north to our fair city.
Right opposite the entrance to Trinity Kitchen, you can’t miss the bright colours of the sign – which signal the kind of eclectic, fun atmosphere you’re going to find inside. We dined on a weekday evening and whilst not packed to the rafters it was pretty busy and the music was energetic without being exhausting, if that doesn’t sound too middle-aged of me. The seats are made from recycled jeans and there’s a stand in the middle which, in a previous life, was a pop-up in Covent Garden. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic about the food, which is all you really want from a place like this, isn’t it?
As with most Brazilian places, this probably isn’t the place to bring your veggie friends – the menu is meat-heavy with a focus on skewers – beef, chicken, pork or lamb in varying combinations. The starters are a little more interesting – and difficult to choose. We sent the waitress away at least three times because we hadn’t made up our minds yet about what to order, plumping at last for the ‘Spicy Malagueta Prawns’ and the ‘Crispy Cheese Pockets’ to share between us. The Malagueta is their signature sauce and you can buy it in bottles to take away if you fancy – it’s got quite a kick but not so much that you can’t taste the prawns (or indeed, of whatever else you’re eating it with). I have to say, though, those crispy cheese pockets were divine – comfort food in the best way, with a light salsa to make them feel a little bit less indulgent. Cheese + Pastry – it’s a winning combination in my books.
The main course arrived before we’d even finished our starter – which I don’t feel you can complain about, really, but a little breather would have been better. I’d opted for the 8oz hanger steak which arrived on a ‘skewer’ (which looked a little bit like a weapon…) – and was then placed on a plate before me. It’s a little gimmicky, perhaps, but fun – and the steak was juicy and tender. I’m usually a fillet steak kind of girl (which makes me sound kind of fancy, I know) but I this was meatier and more robust than my usual, which I enjoyed. Emma went for the Picanha Beef Burger (with extra cheese, natch) and the exclamations of joy from the other side of the table confirmed that it was definitely a good one! We opted for some ‘Farofa and molho’ to go with our meals – a kind of spiced breadcrumb and a fresh salsa; the breadcrumbs went well with the steak but I think another sauce would have been better than the salsa for me (perhaps the chimichurri). The sweet potato fries definitely trumped the regular ones too, if you’re wondering.
If that hadn’t been enough of a feast, we shared some Chocolate Raindrop Doughnuts for pudding – fried dough stuffed with Nutella. I don’t think you need me to tell you that they were damn good. However, I’ve not yet mentioned the Caipirinhas and I think they deserve some airtime because they were my favourite thing about Cabana. Between us we tried four of the flavours – Strawberry, Classic, Passion Fruit and Pineapple – and all of them were delicious. The strawberry was my definite favourite, probably because of my sweet tooth, but the classic was a strong contender for the best version in Leeds. I’ll definitely be back for another one of those sometime soon.
Cabana is, in my opinion, good value for money. Our meal would not have been cheap – starters, desserts and cocktails do add up – but if you just wanted to pop in for a refresher after a day of shopping then you could spend less than £20 a head, so make of that what you will. I’ve not got kids but I do think it would be a good place to take them – there’s a dedicated kids menu and it’s a really fun place to eat with a laid back vibe. How Brazilian!
Disclaimer: We dined at Cabana for free in exchange for a review, but I am always honest with you. Especially when it comes to Caipirinhas – they’re my favourite and that strawberry one really was excellent. I’ll be heading back there, for sure!