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Pau Brasil

Jonathan Schofield gets enthusiastic over the Meat Men of Brazil

Written by . Published on November 13th 2007.

Pau Brasil

In seven years of reviewing various restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs I've never eaten so much food as I did at Pau Brasil. Nor have I ever seen so much meat. But then this is a churrascaria, or steakhouse, so maybe I should have guessed.

There is a set price of £12.50 at lunch, £19.50 for dinner. Kids get it all for £8.50. The set price gives you the freshly cooked meat plus salad, cooked vegetables, rice and pasta as well as a choice of two stews, fish or meat. Dessert, unless you want to pay extra, comes the Latin way as sliced fruit, unamended and unadorned. You also get a little plastic counter which is green on one side and red on the other. Place it down green and meat appears, turn it red and the meat recedes.

The Meat Men passed before my protein enriched eyes like mythical beasts in some hallucinogenic tribal ceremony upriver in the Amazon. For a minute I imagined one of them was Sting with a sword.

The restaurant occupies a nineteenth century pub at the end of Lever Street. This is a brave site, as close to the back-of-beyond as central Manchester gets - despite the burgeoning development all around. At least it's got maximum noticeability strategically positioned on the daytime traffic jam that is Great Ancoats Street.

The interior is split between the restaurant and the bar, which comes complete with a huge mural of Rio at night. The city that is, not the footballer. The kitchen is strung along the back wall. Down the centre of the restaurant is the salad and stew counter. The tables and chairs are the only negative, too solidly wooden, too hard to shift and too cramping for a six-footer. Otherwise this is a good-looking place.

The split in the roles of men and women is amusing. Women can be waitresses and managers, sitting people down, taking drinks orders, or asking if everything is ok and arranging things. The male of the species carry, cut and cook meat. These are the meat men: no actually they're the Meat Men, they deserve capital letters. They come to the table with vast skewers of meat and slice it off for you - all Conan the Barbarian like, except with crisp white shirts and red neckerchiefs. I fancy that when they're in the bosom of their families, their boy children ask, "Dad, what do you do?" "Son," comes the manly response from the normally taciturn gent, "I am a Meat Man. It is a noble profession. One day you can be Meat Man too."

First up we tried the traditional Brazilian cocktails, the Cairpirinhas (£6). Mine was the Alagoas, a mix of blackberries, raspberries, mixed with sagatiba cachaca and sauvignon blanc. This delivered a fresh, clean and suitably exotic flavour.

Foodwise my companions and I jumped in head first. This is what I had. First the lettuce, olives, pasta, tomatoes, green beans, rice with corn and peas, a little of the excellent stew with bits of tripe in it, the fine salmon stew with a superb coconutty stock, and a big ladle full of cabbage - solid, tough, lovely cabbage, perfectly steamed.

Then I tucked into cup of rump steak, rib-eye joint, chicken with bacon, crispy chicken, pork ribs, lamb with herbs, lamb shoulder, tough rough lovely sausages, beef something or other, pork and such. Help. But I loved it. It was simple meat, simply prepared and all good stuff. It was medium rare when it needed to be, juicy and succulent when required. You can see how it's cooked quite clearly. Jorge, the sturdy chef, takes the meat and bayonets it with a skewer and places it over a flaming grill after energetically rubbing many of the cuts with salt. One side is given more time over the flames then the other so you can choose how you like it when the Meat Men arrive. I couldn't fault a single piece of carcass that passed before me.

After Round One we rested, turning our counters to red. We sat rubbing our stomachs agreeing that Pau Brasil was seriously entertaining, a well-executed simple idea with good quality food. It provides something fresh on the Manchester scene and it'll suit anybody, parties, couples and families.

We could have left it at that but hey, it was a set price so we went for more. You can see how America got so fat on supersizing. Humans are greedy, they eat way beyond satiation. If the food's available and in front of you, then you munch. So like mountaineers on the final push to Everest's peak, we turned our counters to green once more. Round Two. The Meat Men gathered like vultures giving flesh back to their victims. It got anxious, sweaty almost, a competition between friends to eat the most flesh. The Meat Men passed before my protein enriched eyes like mythical beasts in some hallucinogenic tribal ceremony upriver in the Amazon. For a minute I imagined one of them was Sting with a sword, singing throatily, "Every little thing she does is meaty."

We devoured (the only appropriate word) more steak, chicken with bacon, crispy chicken, pork ribs, lamb with herb and so on and so forth. We became stiff with meat. "Engorged," suggested the rude one.

Finally, we turned our counters red and paid the bill. Then we did the only thing left to us. We went outside and exploded. With tremendous force. Parts of Ancoats regeneration might have to re-regenerate. It was the passing vegetarians I felt sorry for.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Pau Brasil
58 Lever Street
Northern Quarter
M1 1JF
0161 923 6888
Mon-Sat noon-11pm

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AlfredoNovember 13th 2007.

Went on a Saturday night with some friends and we were told that we had an hour and a half to have (swallow should I say?) dinner, one of my friends arrived half an hour late so she had only an hour to eat "as much as she wanted". Not impressed! also it took half an hour to get a cocktail and a glass of wine after requesting them twice and had to keep asking the waiter to bring more food. Sorry Pau Brasil, you shouldn't say your moto is "we have no limits" and the first thing you say on arrival is that customers have to eat in 90 minutes, completely contradictory.

James KayNovember 13th 2007.

After reading the reviews on this site, I felt really positive about Bem Brasil (Deansgate) and had no hesitation in dragging my friends from their south Mcr suburbs, but I have to agree with last 'meat eater' post. If the restaurant put on a 'show' for the food-critics then I can understand it, but generally speaking, it's a bit rubbish really.We arrived just before 8pm and was served food that I expect at a friend's bbq; sausage, lamb chop, chicken thigh. This was followed by a host of the cheapest cuts (the beef rib was sour and was left). We asked the 'Mgr' in the oldest, scruffiest, shiniest suit, if we could sample the 'chicken hearts, garlic 'Rib-Eye' et al, but was told they weren't on the menu. The supposed 'piece de resistance' was a cut of rump that was so tough, I was embarrassed that I'd recommended the place.The concept is great... but...I'm sorry guys... the food is overpriced tat!£30 with a drink... definitely won't be going again!!

gorNovember 13th 2007.

I got the meat sweats

CrackNovember 13th 2007.

Fantastic food, extremely fully and satisfied tummy... but they really should ask if you've been there before and explain how it works! We used our 'meat tags' as coasters for the first 20 minutes!!Other than that great experience and lovley settings!

superdog500November 13th 2007.

there is a wonderful small chain of restaurants in both brazil and argentina called Barbacoa that does the green/ red poker chip thing. It was quite simply the best ultra-meat meal I've ever had. Can't wait to try this one...

hugeNovember 13th 2007.

but was he as tasty as the meat?

meat eaterNovember 13th 2007.

Went to the sister place on saturday night ,expensive crap ,if you askme ,sausages, chicken wings ,are you having a laugh! You only get the steak after youve waded through cheap cuts of lamb and pork. the wine list is so epensive £32 for a south african wine, Piss off its crap ,We didnt get offered a desssert . Its a bit like anexpensive nandos.

naomiNovember 13th 2007.

Fantastic!! best tasing meat/steaks in town. I have been to a restaurant similar to this in Brasil, so when I saw this one opening, I had to try it to see if it was the same and it is! And for £19.50 it definately is good value for money. The caiprihna menu is also one to try!

NitaNovember 13th 2007.

Absolutely my favourite restaurant - the caipirinhas are spot on, the salad is perfect for trying to convince yourself that at least you're eating some greens, and the meat is to die for. I'd also recommend the Passionfruit Milk pudding (that's what the waiter told us it was called) - a perfect way to end the meal if you've got enough room. But you can always share if not!It's the place to go to impress someone and the music is as lively as the atmosphere. If you're going on a Friday/Saturday you definitely need to be prepared and book a table. Superb. I'd have given it 19/20, if only because you end up eating far too much!

shiela MitchelNovember 13th 2007.

I was there on Saturday and the meat was delicious. HOWEVER, paying £20 per head I expected a bit more class than what I saw. Having the bar man offering and then taking off his top at the table was a bit lower than I had expected. If that's what Saturday night's are like there I suggest you let people know before hand!

Rob HodgsonNovember 13th 2007.

Went here on saturday night and it was amazing. Good fun, amazing MEAT and soooo much of it! All cooked to perfection it was well worth the 19.50 set price. Although turning your little card to red doesnt seem to work! They still keep coming!

ktfairyNovember 13th 2007.

Excellent - I've been waiting for a review of the new Land o cakes - it looks good and I would have ventured in already if it wasn't for pesky Xmas drinks with importnat people from work having started to take over my life already! Can't wait to find a free night to get in there and have some MEAT.

Big DanNovember 13th 2007.

I pooed meat for a week

CarlaNovember 13th 2007.

This place rocks! We've been a few times and the waiters are so helpful and polite. The atmosphere is great. I've even seen footballers in there! £20 for all you can eat is hardly expensive. You have about 7 dinners in one sitting. You will eat until you ache! Chicken/rice/salad/steak/sausages/lamb/pork/olives/ stew you name it you WILL eat it on your visit here! All I can say is GO !! it's a real bustling place.We're even going there for our xmas office party. Bring on the meat!

kadurjNovember 13th 2007.

I gotta disagree with Alfredo there. Sat is one of the busiest but best nights. Great Brazilian music, helpful waiters, great bar staff. That place gets rammed and the way the people work, alwways a smile on their faces, even with clients who expect the world in their hands. Had a great time. Did have to wait just s little while for my caipirinha, but it was worth it. As for the 90 minutes to eat, I was told. Try going on a week day then you can stay as long as you want. I had plates and plates with the relaxing atmosphere. Definately recomment it to all again and again. Thanks to all staff!

ktfairyNovember 13th 2007.

Hoorah! Managed to convince a work party to go here last night, and it was fantastic. The meat does not stop coming and is very tasty. The buffet in the middle was well stocked and delicious - I recommend the slightly dodgy looking dark stew with the black beans, quite a few people were being put off by the look of it - they missed out! An excellent concept that everyone should go and try - this is going to be huge.

Sarah Louise JonesNovember 13th 2007.

Definitely the best newcomer to Manchester! Absolutely the food to tantalise your tastebuds, excellent value for money, great relaxing surroundings and superb service...An all round fantastic unique dining experience....the taste of Brasil! Obrigado! xx

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