Diets come and go, food groups are briefly reported as being either very bad for your health or the new super-food that you simply can’t live without but, despite it all, our love affair with meat doesn’t seem to waver.
I first encountered Brazuca Brazilian Restaurant in Wakefield a few weeks after it opened last summer and called in to check it out.
To give it its full title, Brazuca Rodizio pays tribute to the cooking of the Brazilian Gaúchos’ which involves taking tender cuts of meat, skewering them and cooking them slowly on open flames.
The resulting meat is thus very tender and it retains all its flavour, allowing the different tastes of the individual meats to come through.
Up until then there was nothing else quite like it in the city and it soon gathered an army of fans - despite being tucked away down White Horse Yard in a cobbled side street far from passing trade and with an unprepossessing exterior that didn’t really encourage people to take a chance and go through the door.
Taking a friend along to a favoured restaurants is always a bit of a gamble, taking four them of them is a recipe for disaster.
But when I was asked to suggest a venue for a post-Christmas get together for some visiting friends I opted to go back the Brazuca to gauge their reactions.
Despite booking more than a week in advance we’d bagged the only available slot at 9pm on the Saturday night but had been told that if we came down half an hour before our allotted time they’d do their best to seat us a bit earlier. Which, indeed, they did.
Such attention to detail is in their favour as not all restaurants would be as understanding.
The place was packed - as expected - but although lively, the atmosphere was cordial and pleasant with no need to raise our voices to be heard, a complete contrast to some city centre restaurants (particularly in Leeds, where one has to practically shout just to be heard).
It’s all very unpretentious with rustic decor; tiled floors and simple wooden furniture. Slogans and information about the Brazuca experience are painted on the walls and everything is spotlessly clean.
You really need to be a serious meat eater to enjoy the Brazuca experience - in fact its an absolute paradise for carnivores who can eat as much meat as they like without having to move from their seats.
Wandering among the diners are the meat chefs - ‘passadores’ they are called, which all sounds incredibly evocative - who come around with their skewers of freshly-grilled meat and very sharp knives, slicing it off for you as you indicate by way of a green card on the table that you are ready for more. As soon as you need a break from the feast you turn the card over to red.
At any one time there are around 15 different meats to try. Specialities of the house include picanha (cap of rump) linguica (Brazilian sausage), file mignon (beef tenderloin), frango com tocino (chicken and bacon) and coracao de frango (chicken heart) a really tasty Brazilian delicacy; vegetarian and fish specials are also available.
Each cut was, without exception, quite superb but the ones that seemed to get the most favourable reaction all round were the rump, the beef tenderloin and the tasty little sausages.
We didn’t seem to get everything on the menu, but what we had was tender and sweet and judging by the reactions of my fellow diners - every one of the meats really hit the spot
It was actually difficult to keep track of what we’d actually eaten as the waiters circled among us but at some point one of our party realised she had not had taste of any chicken. It took a while to arrive once requested but she reckoned it was well worth the wait.
But I’m actually getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up a little bit.
When we first sat down at our table, our waiter brought over a plate of piping hot sweet potato chips and crispy cheese balls and took our drinks order while explaining the Brazuca experience.
The wine list is impressive with a good selection from Chile and Portugal. Prices start at £18 a bottle or £6.75 a glass. Despite this, and while tempted by the equally impressive cocktail list and selection of South American lagers, the majority of our party opted for glasses of San Miguel lager - the drivers sticking to soft drinks and water, of course.
Our drinks arrived in double-quick time and we were directed to the salad bar in the corner of the restaurant.
And what a salad bar it is. Nothing beats a good salad bar. A beautifully displayed selection of every conceivable type of salad, vegetables, rice and pulses.
It all looked wonderfully fresh and was constantly topped up from the kitchen well before it ran out.
It’s very easy to get carried away and pile up your plate with salad of every description, hue and colour, but to do so would probably render you too full to eat the meat - and that would be a real shame.
I remember from a previous visit that we were warned by our waiter to pace ourselves and to eat little and often - and to also leave room for the homemade desserts, which is not easy when there’s so much lovely grub about.
Whether you buy into the whole Tripadvisor rating thing or not - there’s no doubt the good folk of Wakefield have taken Brazuca to heart.
According to the Tripadvisor website this fledgling restaurant is ranked number one out of the purported 341 restaurants in the city.
The staff at Brazuca are unfailingly helpful and cheerful - interacting with the diners and helping make the evening an enjoyable experience.
Nothing was too much trouble and you only had to look up from your plate and briefly catch the eye of one of the passadores for them to come over ready to slice off a piece of meat.
Despite the advice we all ate too much meat and didn’t leave room for dessert which was a shame as I know from my past experiences they are very good.
Prices for the all-you can-eat menu (excluding desserts) are £12.95 Saturday and Sunday lunchtime; evenings, £19.95 Sunday to Thursday and £22.95 Friday and Saturday.
Our bill, including drinks, came to £30 a head which we all agreed was very good value. Nay, exceptional value. And I am pleased to report that everyone was quite delighted by my choice of restaurant and actually planned to visit the city again just to go back to there.
I’ll even go so far as to say it’s giving similar restaurants in Leeds a run for their money.
Address: 1 White Horse Yard, Wakefield WF1 1BB
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 5pm-10pm, Saturday noon-10.30pm, Sunday noon-9pm
Phone: 01924 363666