We should all be eating less meat and better meat
Cookery Quote
Never eat anything bigger than your head
Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble

Meatier Matters

Every way we turn there’s someone else banging on about the recession. But strangely (and this phenomena was equally prevalent in the boom times) restaurants still divide into two broad classes. There are restaurants that are doing well and restaurants that are doing badly. One discernable trend, however, is that the public is growing every more meat obsessed.
Steak houses have been springing up like garlic mushrooms, we have the Palm from New York. We have Goodman’s, allegedly backed by Russians. At Maze, Jason Atherton sings the praises of his mighty broiler and grain fed American beef. The Gaucho Group quietly goes about its business opening on Charlotte Street with big steaks and black and white pony skin décor. John Terode punts rare steaks at Smiths of Smithfield. What’s a little un-nerving is that the high prices (and none of these places is in the economical category) don’t seem to put the punters off. It seems that when times are tough we turn to meat whatever the cost. Alert carnivores will also have noticed that churrascarias are set on conquering the capital. The churrascaria, or Rodizio, is a Brazilian invention and it works like this – roving carvers come round to you table and slice you a portion from a skewer of grilled meat. In Porcão in Rio de Janeiro you get to choose from fifteen different cuts of steak including Brahma bull hump (it’s a little on the fatty side); then there are half a dozen pork choices, chicken wings, chicken hearts, lamb and you are encouraged to eat away steadily for as long as you want. Think cheapo “Chinese eat as much as you can buffet” but charge a bit more and offer decent beef. It’s this combination of good beef, good prices and the greed factor that convinces the customer. Whammy….2009 has seen a flurry of churrascaria openings in London, Rodizio Rico on Westbourne Grove is the exception, a genuine old-timer, but it has been joined by
All of which sets the scene for Fogo, a new entrant that opened in Ealing mid-way through November 2009. It is billed as a bar a grill and attempts to bring the churrascaria into the fast food, chain-restaurant arena. When asked why Ealing was chosen as launch pad for this new concept the owner replied that it seemed the perfect suburban site particularly as the national roll-out was more likely to be in the north of England than London. Bolton was mentioned as a possible next step. At Fogo your meal starts with a dozen little bowls of salad – houmous, coleslaw, tabbouleh, beetroot served with hot pitta bread. So far so Turkish. Then the carvers come round. First up it is chicken thighs, then gammon ham (it’s impossible to barbecue ham successfully, it just gets drier and saltier); lamb –shish kebab sized pieces, really tough; spare ribs; a desperate seafood skewer with an unhappy and ammonia cal prawn and some tasteless squid; pork sausages. And then, when at last the beef comes within range there’s topside (pretty good, very juicy); the famous picanya – disappointingly dry; and ribeye (like the lamb, in chunks).
A meal here costs £19.95 per person without drinks. Sure, you can eat as much as you want but that doesn’t morph into “great value” if the stuff on offer is less than appealing. The Fogo concept has moved some way from the original and even in these straightened times being able to stuff yourself with meat only appeals if that meat is delicious. In the current marketplace customers like plenty of meat, and they like good value, which should guarantee Fogo a rousing reception. Eat the meat and pay the bill, however, and you have to suspect that without radical changes Fogo probably won’t succeed. Not even in Bolton.

Charles Campion

Fogo, 45 The Mall, Ealing, London W53TJ (www.fogo.uk.com)
Porcão, Pr Belo Jardim, 285, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil +55 21 24 68 82 05

Charles Campion - Monday 29th March 2010

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