Why can’t I find a good churrascaria in the UK?

Churrascarias work so well in Brazil and the USA but somehow this unique kind of restaurant simply does not seem to catch on in the UK. Why?

First, a very big disclaimer: I have not been to every churrascaria in the UK. So this is a general impression gathered from visiting only some 9 or 10, and only in London. So if you own a churrascaria and I have not reviewed your place, don’t worry, if yours turns out to the rare exception, I will shout it from the rooftops.

What are Churrascarias?

In simple translation ‘churrasco’ is a barbecue. So a churrascaria is a ‘Barbeque-ry’, a grill house. But they are oh so much more than a grill house. They are temples devoted to meat with a very peculiar serving mechanism. Most Churrascarias boast a very wide grill with 2 rows of rotating spikes laden with every kind of beef one can imagine. Waiters pass by the grill, grab a whole spike, a small plate to collect any dripping juices and a machete-sized sized knife and then bring the spike to your table where they will slice the meet directly onto your plate. A good waiter (also known as the Passador) will follow your exacting instructions on how you’d like them to cut your churrasco: Thin slices, thick slices, with or without fat, well done or rate, etc.

There’s no limit to the imagination of the churrascaria chef when it comes to what one might find on the spike. From prime cuts of beef to crocodile meat or grilled cheese! Some of the most prized beef cuts are: Alcatra (sirloin), Picanha (prime rump steak), Maminha (stripsteak), Costela (ribs).

The cassino of the restaurant world

Like a cassino, the secret of a Churrascaria’s financial success depends on maths and crowd control. Typical churrascarias server more than 1,000 covers per meal. These are huge, noisy restaurants, where families, friends or work colleagues host big reunions. Service is usually very fast and waiters are usually very efficient. They’re also extremely good with children. Everything is geared towards getting you to consume a huge amount in a very short time. Once you’re full, there’s no way you’ll be wanting to stay in this noisy environment for long. The food is top class and of huge variety, but even if you’re a seasoned Churrascaria vulture like me, you’ll never manage to break the bank. The house always wins!

It’s easy to see why the formula would achieve similar results in the USA, and if fact there are a few chains of Churrascarias making a roaring trade there, in particular Fogo do Chão, with almost 20 houses all over North America.

A tall order

Unfortunately the concept just does not translate to the UK. The beef is too costly, the real estate square footage is astronomical and there simple aren’t the types of life-long professional waiters over here. But that has not stopped a few intrepid restauranteurs from trying to adapt it to a smaller scale. It simply does not work. The food variety has to be scaled down, the staff per customer ratio is way lower and the houses are tiny (with the possible exception of Rodízio Rico at the O2). That usual symtoms are: overcooked and tough meat, waiters who are too keen on giving you a huge chunk at a time, tired accompaniments and inconsistent service.

Some of the houses still manage to impress the locals who have never been at a proper churrascaria but most do nothing but annoy the usual Brazilian abroad.

I will be spending most of this summer going through as many houses as I can and trying to find one I’m mildly happy with. But in the meantime, here’s a short list for you to try.

London Churrascarias:

London (UK)

Amber Grill Rodizio
47 Station Road, Willesden Junction, London NW10 4UP
Tel. 020 8963 1588

256 High Road, London NW10 2EY
Tel. 020 8451 8902

505 Garratt Lane, London SW18 4SW
Tel. 020 8871 3875

Buffet Brazil Putney Bridge
26 Putney High Street, London SW15 1SL
Tel. 020 8780 1750

La Carrilera
160 High Road, London N15 4NU

La Pampa Grill
4 Northcote Road, London, SW11 1EH
Tel. 020 7924 1167

Rodízio Preto  Victoria
72-73 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1DE
Tel. 020 7233 8668

Rodízio Preto Putney
31-33 Putney High Street, London SW15 1SP
Tel. 020 8788  4388

Rodízio Rico Bayswater
111 Westbourne Grove, London W2 4UW
Tel. 020 7792 4035

Rodízio Rico Islington
77-78 Upper Street London N1 0NU
Tel. 020 7359 8059

Rodízio Rico O2
The O2 shopping area, Millenium Way, London SE10 0DX
Tel. 020 8858 6333

Further reading

– Check out the Churrascaria Review from JungleDrum.

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16 Responses to "Why can’t I find a good churrascaria in the UK?"

  1. Jon Sidnell says:

    Hey Nando

    I share your love of Churrascaria Rodizio! Me and my wife have tried a few around London – we’ve been to Rodizio Rico in Islington and the original Rodizio Preto. You’re right, neither of them really match up to the real deal – Rodizio is definitely one of the things I miss about Brazil! Of those two, I’d say Rodizio Rico seemed to have the best range of meats and buffet food – we definitely plan to go back there sometime soon!

    Looks like you’ve missed a Rodizio in London off the list – Comida on South Molton Street, just off Oxford Street. During the day it’s a bit cheaper than either Rico or Preto. I’ve been there a couple of times and found it fairly good both times.

  2. Tatiana says:

    I’ve been 3 times to Preto Putney. The first 2 times (October and December) were really great, but yesterday I was absolutely shocked. The buffet was a bit poor: no heart of palm, no fried cassava, and the cheesy rolls were well baked but had no taste. There was basically just 3 types of meat coming to the tables (every 5 minutes). Without seeing the chicken hearts after 1,5 hours waiting, I asked the manager if they had it. He said it was coming soon. Asked him again half and hour later, he said he never talked to me before. Then he came with chicken hearts completely dry and almost burned. I said it was too dry, and he told me he would come back with RARE chicken hearts (obviously being sarcastic). I said I didn’t like rare chicken hearts, and he just left. Had to wait 30 minutes (twice) for my soft drink to come, despite the number of waiters not busy at all. Complaint to the hostess, and the waiter who took my order came to my table in a very rude manner, asking what was the problem. I said it was a problem to be discussed between the management and me, not between the two of us, then he gave me a pat on my back and said the problem was me. My friends were just as shocked as I was.
    I went there to eat something different, but next time I’ll just go to a normal steak house. And now I understand why last year it was always fully booked, and now there’s no queue at all… Really sad.

  3. Francisco Roquette says:

    I agree with Tatiana about Preto in Putney. I was there with a group of my co-workers back in december for a celebration and the servers and “gauchos” were just plain rude.
    I think it comes down to poor management of the staff. The buffet was just average, meat wasn’t that great. One passador oferred me one type of meat then i asked for it again they said it was not on the menu. same Story with chicken hearts and ribs took forever.
    Last year was always full because they sold it very vouchers at groupon.

  4. Eddie g says:

    None of the churrascarias are any good in the UK. The meat preto and RR use is generally cheap nasty and frozen and bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the great restaurants of Brazil and even the USA. One day somebody will open a great churrascaria in London with fresh meat from quality Longhorn cattle and meat that has not been frozen. That person will deserve every success, they will need to charge double or treble the price of the current pathetic churrascarias that can be found in London, we will be pleased to pay for the quality

  5. Nina says:

    In case anyone is planning on visiting NYC and a churrascaria while there-Churrascaria Plataforma is the best one. They have few churrascarias and rodizios in Queens as well as Little Brazil in Manhattan offers a range of brazilian restaurants. I am sure Nando probably knows all this but I figured I’d share anyway with everyone else. I live in NY and happened to come across this site so maybe if anyone else from US finds themselves here this can be helpful.

  6. Cat_G says:

    In Manchester we have 2 restaurants that are a chain (can you call 2 restaurants a chain?) called Bem Brazil. They are really hit and miss. We have taken friends and been ourselves about 6 times and 50% of the time it is brilliant food served with friendly service and a great choice from the grill and the buffet. The other 50%? I wouldn’t like to talk about it!

  7. Tomas says:

    Have any of you tried Fazenda in Leeds? That one is the best one I’ve tried in the UK. It reminds me of Fogo de Chao in America.

  8. Newton borges says:

    Well, i’m disappointed with the steakhouses from London. looking around for a good BBQ, friends told me about a New restaurant in Ipswich – Suffolk. The name is Rio’s Brazil Restaurant. I went there like curious and now, I usually back 2 times per month with friends and family. You must try… I noticed that they are opening a new restaurant at Swindon. The quality of meat is superb, passadors very polite. Of course something could change, but at the moment, it’s one of the bests restaurants I found and the quality worth my trip…

  9. Bernardo David says:

    Being a Churrascaria lover myself I have been in many of them across London, Brazil and the USA and have to say that UK ones are usually below par… Incomparable with the ones in Brazil or USA.
    I have found one though that might be a good try. I haven’t been there yet as it is up north but I plan a visit as soon as I am near one of the locations. They have 6 locations in different towns up north. Here is their website http://tropeiro.co.uk/ , looks very nice indeed.

  10. Liam says:

    Nina! what a great shout.. when visiting good friends who live in nyc they could not wait to show me Plataforma.. what an amazing meal!

    london is dragging its heals with this one no doubt !

  11. lucie says:

    Guys im from CZ and i can recommend you restaurant ambiente brasileiro in Prague.Its fantastic buffet, perfect service.Every minute when you turn your button from red to green passadors are coming with different kind of meet, fish, chees, seefood, ananas.It inpressed me too much.

  12. Richard says:

    Yesterday i went to the Viva Brasil in Cardiff. The best Rodizio ive been too outside Brazil.


    I have been to many places in London and I have always regretted going, I thought maybe I built up the Churrascaria’s from Brazil in my head but no! This is the second time I been to Viva Brazil, and it is the most authentic Churrascaria I’ve been to in the UK and the meat is to die for! Rodizio Rico and Pretto simply pale in comparrasion.

  13. arif says:

    Went to Nabrassa last night I’m Earlsfield. It was 3 of us and cost £80.00 with just cokes. The food was yuk! Hardly served any meat whatsoever, maybe 2 cuts of beef, chicken thigh, chicken hearts and burned garlic bread on a skewer, is garlic bread a brazilian dish…. er no…. They stopped serving us any meat after serving every meat once, instead they so called waiter and manager went out for a cigarette. Seems like they just want the money and no food. This was the 3rd time for me in 2 years… However I have no intention of returning again…

  14. Ricardo correia says:

    We have two brazilian restaurants one in Southampton
    And one in Bournemouth if you guys like to try it
    We had lots of visitor from London and they say
    We are a lot better than them.
    Is call casa brasil.

  15. admin says:

    We’ll make sure we pop in when we’re in town. What are they called?

  16. Linden says:

    Another vote here for Fazenda in Leeds, by far the best churrascaria I’ve been to in England so far. To be clear, I’ve not been to a sizeable number of them around the country since I live in London — as a point of reference, I don’t mind Preto in the West End every now and again, but I won’t eat at a Rodízio Ríco any more as I think they became victims of their own success — but was eating at the Islington branch of Rodízio Ríco when it first opened/didn’t suck, go fairly often to whatever’s nearby/accessible nowadays, and have also tried restaurants while travelling, in places such as Sheffield (Tropeiro: average) and Cardiff (Viva Brasil: below average).

    Fazenda is still a little way off in terms of authenticity (as another point of reference, I’ve been to Brazil nearly twenty times in the last 12 years, and perhaps the same again of Portugal, so have a notion of how it should be done, hehe) but it’s really enjoyable despite that. There are a few things serving there that I’ve never seen in BR but are damn tasty nonetheless; I’ve been up in Sheffield and considered a 40 min train ride to Leeds just to eat there, that should tell you something… :)

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