The concept for Viva Brazil is a simple one. Meat. Lots of meat. Fourteen skewers of roasted protein carved tableside for your pleasure. There is chicken, pork, lamb and beef, all dictated by a singular table card that indicates the speed and quantity of the meat: Green to go, red to stop. It’s so masculine an experience it should come with a hairy chest and a spritz of Brut. Initially I was surprised to see any females there, yet there were plenty, all tucking in and dispelling my marginally sexist stereotypes as total tosh. Inside, it was easy to see why: Once a bank, it’s now one of Birmingham’s prettier spaces for dinner, the high walls washed for bright yellows, greens, and blues. Low lighting dangles down towards the tables, whilst natural light pours through the large arched windows onto the patterned tiles. Two days in from opening and they were heaving, turning tables and politely reminding us that the area is ours for two hours. It’s going to be a success – there is no doubt about that – which makes my opinion even more irrelevant than usual, and why I’m happy to let loose on the disdain.
Lets start with the salad bar, where traditional Brazilian dishes are metaphorically dragged over the same coals that the meat is roasted above. From here we try an insipid pork and black bean stew and another stew that has been labelled as beef but is very clearly chicken. When we go back for a second time, it is beef, though the working muscles have not been given enough cooking time and are tough to point of inedible. Better are spiced beetroot, and a salsa with the astringent whack of vinegar at the back, both of which were capable accompaniments to the meat being delivered tableside by polite and well mannered staff. We like cassava flour flavoured with bacon and apricots, and just cooked potato’s spiked with garlic. Other stuff did not fair so well; the low point being a cheese, olive and sundried tomato mixture which highlighted a shortfall in the produce quality.
We try all of the meats and are not surprised with the same level of inconsistency. A leg of lamb is super stuff, the savoury exterior a lovely contrast to the sweet meat. So too is the picanha – the thinly sliced rump of beef beloved of Brazilians and Portuguese alike. Here the slithers of meat are a pert pink with a deep bovine flavour. We like the sausages, less so the answer of “sausage meat” when I asked what they are made from. We assume pork and move on. The rest is a collection of the average and the bad. The average being overcooked chicken morsels wrapped in bacon, spongy bits of overly smoked gammon, and pork belly coated in parmesan that starts well and quickly loses interest. From the bad pile is chewy flank, a garlic rump cap that tasted of nothing but salt, and overcooked chicken hearts which did nothing for me other than make me reminisce over restaurants who know how to properly handle offal.
There was dessert options at a fiver each, though we settle for the inclusive cinnamon roasted pineapple, which is an unexpected highlight of softly caramelised goodness. The price for the unlimited meats (and pineapple) varies on the time and day you choose to be disappointed on and can rise as high as £25 – a scandalous amount for what was a wildly inconsistent meal. Perhaps it will get better as it settles in to its new home. Lets hope so. For me, the meal is easily summed up by the red side of the table card. Viva Brazil, No Thanks.