The Best Brazilian Restaurants In London
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
While significant numbers of Brazilians have lived in London since the 1990s, the past decade has seen the population swell, and Brazilian restaurants are more common than ever. Once, all-you-can-eat churrascarias (often of dubious quality) were practically the only culinary representation, but these days restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and butchers showcase a more nuanced version of Brazilian cuisine.
That cuisine blends influences from all over the world, as a result of colonisation by the Portuguese, Europeans from Italy, Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe, and more later followed. More enslaved Africans were taken to Brazil than anywhere else. Later, Syrians, Lebanese, and Armenians arrived, as did huge numbers of Japanese. Indigenous Brazilians have long been overlooked, but their culinary legacy is finally being acknowledged and Brazilian food incorporates all these and more.
From spots where sizzling picanha is king, to cafes flogging freshly made, cheesy pão de queijo, to modern fine dining blending British and Brazilian produce, South America’s largest country is finally gaining the culinary traction it deserves.
The first thing you’ll notice at Frigideira is an admirable commitment to making the place look Brazilian. Portraits of Pelé and (the OG) Ronaldo adorn the walls, there’s a large beachy mural of Rio de Janeiro, and TVs blare Brazilian pop. A collage of photos of visiting Brazilian Premier League footballers shows they have made the Kensal Rise spot their second home. Judging by a packed Monday lunch service, so have most of London’s Brazilians. Frigideira’s menu spans the classics—feijoada, moqueca, fried snacks galore—and there’s even a parmegiana section which, frankly, more restaurants should introduce. But this is the spot for huge steaks and strong caipirinhas. Picanha is the favoured Brazilian cut and here an “individual” portion contains two whole, perfectly cooked slabs.
Tucked away on a quiet street off the Kilburn High Road, Kaipiras is the closest you’ll come to a Rio de Janeiro boteco, a small bar serving stupidly cold beer, in London. Here Portuguese ones are on tap, Brazilian classics like Antarctica are by the bottle. Several different cachaças line the bar and bottles of wine cost less than £20, making it a top drinking spot. But the food more than matches the drinks—practically everything is worth ordering. The beef rib stew, with glistening fat still attached to the meat, is a hit. It’s also worth seeking out dishes from Bahia, the northeastern state most heavily influenced by Africa. The moqueca, a seafood stew laden with palm oil, is regal.
There are two branches of this north west stalwart—the other in nearby Kensal Rise—which for two decades has served local Brazilian families, delivery drivers, builders, and everyone in between. The Harlesden cafe—smaller, more cosy, minimal canteen-style seating—is the perfect spot for a quick espresso (add bags of sugar for a true Brazilian experience) and a snack. Brazil’s greatest hits are present, from pão de queijo, which can be used to make an unbeatable sausage sandwich, to some of the best spicy, nutmeg-laden kibe, a treat made popular in Brazil after significant immigration from the Middle East. Most pastries are made in-house and the brick-sized slabs of chicken and olive pie stand out.
Grab one of Filó Dining’s outdoor tables in the late afternoon sunshine, order a caipirinha or a pint, and you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’re at a bohemian São Paulo bar, not in Islington. Inside it’s a pub-cum-restaurant and exudes fun, with colourful murals and Brazilian flags adorning the walls. Portions are generous and dishes feature Brazilian classics with modern twists. Pork ribs are rubbed in molasses atop moreish creamy cassava. Minas cheese, which chef Aline Quina makes herself, is salty, squeaky, and drizzled with truffle honey. A “ceviche” of palm hearts, mango, and avocado is a rare good vegan dish at a Brazilian restaurant. The star is feijoada—rich, creamy, with all the trimmings. Go when there’s live music and you’ll probably stay, snacking until closing time.
Billing itself as Brazilian, Portuguese, and Mediterranean, Mazal 76 in Willesden is a cut above in terms of choice, with Brazilian dishes you might not find elsewhere. It’s a simple spot, with streams of people nipping in for a quick coffee or a takeaway box. But stay a while to savour the excellent cooking and for uniquely Brazilian dishes. Escondidinho is a bit like shepherd’s pie, here made with dried beef and a cheesy cassava mash. Chicken with pequi is stellar. A rich, complex stew where the chicken is somehow both tender and crisp and the pequi, a fruit popular in central Brazil, adds a funky, sour, almost cheesy taste. Eaten alongside pirão, a cassava paste popular in the north of the country, it’s a sign of the emerging regionalism creeping into London’s Brazilian restaurants.
Brazilian cuisine was one reductively painted as merely barbecued meat, but most Brazilians are indeed meat lovers and Fine Cut Butchers in Bermondsey is the place to go. As the name suggests, the restaurant is tucked behind one of London’s best Brazilian butchers, through an almost-secret door. With a narrow strip of patioed floor and a small charcoal grill that the waiters will occasionally tend to, it feels like a backyard in São Paulo. The standout is a “starter” of picanha: perfectly cooked, with a mountain of creamy-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside cassava chips and fried onions. It’s a huge, delicious pile of drinking food.
Fine dining in Brazil once focused on French and Italian cuisine, but in recent years chefs have begun to explore and promote the country’s huge natural bounty. Alberto Landgraf is one of the movement’s leading lights, bringing his take on modern Brazilian cuisine to a swanky spot in Marylebone. Bossa is plush, with leather banquettes, moody lighting, and bar seating along the open kitchen. Brazilian and British ingredients are blended to stunning effect. There are fancy takes on Brazilian classics, including feather-light crab pastel with savoury açaí sauce, and roasted bone marrow with tapioca and cashew nuts. Despite the eye-watering prices, there’s a casual, Brazilian atmosphere—more trainers than brogues. Order a few strong caipirinhas and you’re guaranteed a good time.
Set within the grand Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Da Terra’s dining room is light, airy, and elegant in a very minimalist east London way. Although fancy, the vibe is casual, as is the Brazilian way. Local seasonal produce is treated with the utmost care, blending them with Brazilian delicacies to create an homage to Brazil, Britain, and Italy, where chef Rafael Cagali’s ancestors hail from. Prawns might be served with palm hearts, chicken with tart tucupí, a brilliant baba made with cachaça instead of rum. The aged turbot moqueca is a highly cheffy take on the classic, turning the tomato, coconut, and palm oil sauce into a delicate, frothy broth that might scare traditionalists but is delicious.
Reem's, also known as Brazilian Street Food, began life as a stall on Brixton Station Road (where it still returns a couple of times a week). Now it's in the centre of Brixton Village Market, where Colombian caffs and butchers, Sierra Leonean delis, and Caribbean joints sit alongside wine bars and Honest Burgers. Follow the big Brazilian flag waving invitingly to a tiny spot, about 90% kitchen with two outdoor tables. The £10 buffet is the biggest pull. While dishes rotate, there’s always brilliant feijoada, which can be topped with farofa and enormous, crunchy pork scratchings. Stroganoff, a Brazilian favourite, comes in a creamy white sauce with the correct amount (a hell of a lot) of garlic, crunchy matchstick potatoes, and white rice, showcasing Brazil’s admirable commitment to double carbs.