Fast food – the trick is to pace yourself
12 December, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Meat is the star turn at Charro de Rio
VEGANS may wish to flick the page, as this restaurant revels in pleasures of the flesh.
Charro de Rio is a brand new, all-you-can-eat “rodizio” in the mellow enclave of Belsize Village. This is a concept imported from Brazil: pay a fixed price (£29.95) and a cascade of “passadores” visit your table bearing sizzling skewers of meat. Or, if you pre-order, fish and a token vegan burger.
This opening is great news for Belsize Village, a neighbourhood that has historically seen its eateries come and go.
Many restaurateurs are struggling from a toxic combination of rent rises, hikes in the cost of raw ingredients and difficulties in recruiting staff.
But this postcode seems to be bucking the trend. In the past six months, Belsize Village has seen the opening of Bourne’s Fishmonger and Seafood Bar and Calici, a new Italian place.
Charro de Rio is a venture built on the success of busy sister restaurants in Whetstone.
The interior has a modern, pared-back aesthetic with walls of distressed plaster in greys and yellows. Long copper tables radiate a warm glow.
On the walls, two large cow skulls gaze out blankly. At the back, a the state-of-the-art rodizio grill pumps out the food.
For a kitchen geek, this equipment was the stuff of wonders: a large charcoal hearth with notches that rotate the skewers automatically.
Special software helps sequence their arrival at your table, so you’re always tempted by something new.
“I always explain – please go slow,” says the manager, as we slid into our comfy booth seats.
These are wise words: the food arrives in a relentless flurry. First up, a platter of salads including fried aubergine, rocket with orange, quinoa and coleslaw.
Next, dinky colanders full of chips, baked plantain with a maple glaze and feijoada, the rustic dish of rice and beans.
The passadores, dressed the part as Brazilian cowboys, roam the room with skewers and razor-sharp knives.
Grilled pineapple is the opener, to rev up your digestion. Using tongs, we relay a slice to our plates.
Then a procession of Wagyu steak, peppered steak, lamb fillet with mint, chicken wings, juicy lamb sausages and more. None disappoint – quality is high.
As you might suspect, Charro de Rio is not the ideal destination for a hushed romantic meal or discreet conversation – the interruptions are delightful but incessant.
The trick is to pace yourself and hold firm with the waiting staff. Each table has a card which you flip, like a green or red traffic light, to show if you’re ready for more.
The vibe is communal and buzzy, so this restaurant well suits a night out with friends or family.
My young guest left grinning after a dessert of churros and dulce de leche.
At Charro de Rio the meat comes first; the salads a distant second. No wonder children adore the place.
Charro de Rio
12a Belsize Terrace, NW3
020 7199 9372