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Tending the grill at Kaipiras, one of the best Brazilian restaurants in London.
Kaipiras

The Best Brazilian Restaurants in London

Silky, fatty feijoada, killer snacks of all stripes, and some devilishly inventive sandwiches

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Tending the grill at Kaipiras, one of the best Brazilian restaurants in London.
| Kaipiras

If Londoners took their perception of Brazilian food from the best known restaurants in the capital, they would think it’s a cocktail of all-you-can-eat barbecue, Cabana and Sushisamba. Only one of these reflects the food eaten in Brazil. No prize for guessing which.

Still, Brazilian cuisine is more than belly-stretching barbecue blowouts and, frankly, none of London’s churrascarias impress. But quality Brazilian restaurants are prevalent, if under the radar, perhaps because they are aimed at expats rather than non-Brazilians. Kilburn, Kensal Green and the streets near Willesden Junction, are packed with Brazilian salons, solicitors, butchers and, most importantly, restaurants. Stockwell, Stamford Hill and Stratford aren’t far behind.

Brazilian cuisine itself also emerged from centuries of immigration. Its strongest influences come from European colonisers (primarily the Portuguese) and the four million Africans — mostly from the Atlantic coast — they enslaved. Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, which consists of black beans and all the fattiest bits of pork, is typically served alongside rice, garlicky collard greens, a slice of orange and a toasted cassava flour called farofa. These ingredients and preparations share commonalities with West African cuisine today. Usually eaten on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Brazil, it’s found in practically every Brazilian restaurant in London (on any day of the week) and always a safe bet. Millions of people also arrived from Spain, Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, Japan, the Middle East and elsewhere; all influence how Brazilians eat today.

Aside from feijoada, African-influenced dishes are more common in the northeast of Brazil. They include moqueca, a seafood, tomato and palm oil stew, and acarajé, a black-eyed pea patty fried in palm oil, stuffed with a shrimp and peanut paste called vatapá and topped with dried prawns. Diners can find the former in many London Brazilian restaurants, but the latter is rare.

Indigenous Amazonian cuisines are finally being acknowledged in Brazil, too, as part of a wider movement across the country belatedly recognising traditional or indigenous culture. Spearheaded by internationally renowned chefs like Alex Atala at Dom and Janaina Rueda at A Casa do Porco, both in São Paulo, Amazonian fish like pirarucu, or the sweetcorn-yellow fermented wild manioc sauce called tucupi, are increasingly present on fine-dining menus. In London these preparations are harder to find, although Da Terra in Bethnal Green serves tucupi.

Elsewhere on London menus, Brazilian food is heavily slanted towards the dishes eaten in the richer, industrialised southeast of Brazil: hearty and heavy in meat and beans. Diners will also see stroganoff, parmigiana, and milanesa: Brazilian food is strongly influenced by Italy. And while London’s churrascarias might not be up to scratch, chicken hearts are popular in most restaurants, and should always be ordered. Many Brazilian spots offer discounts to delivery drivers, thanks to a huge number hailing from Brazil.

Finally, Brazil excels at snacks, with Lebanese and Syrian immigrants introducing kibe, beef and bulgur wheat fritters, and esfiha, flatbreads topped with meat or cheese. These and another famous snacks, the rich and savoury pão de queijo, deep-fried, filled pastries called pastel (introduced by the Japanese), deep-fried coxinhas usually stuffed with chicken, and cassava chips can be found almost everywhere, and are all perfect alongside a beer, caipirinha or guaraná.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Cantinho Do Goias

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“The little corner of Goias” is as casual as it gets. There’s football on TV, Brazilian country music on the radio and locals popping in for a snack or espresso. The owner is from the eponymous central Brazilian state, but the food is national. There’s a “Brazilian fry-up” to consider, but head here for lunch, where the jantinha — “little lunch” — is actually huge, a spread of picanha, malagueta-flecked rice, the crispest cassava fries and feijão tropeiro, a dry-ish blend of smoky bacon, farofa, collard greens, beans and a bucket-load of garlic, is among the best in the city.

Feijão do Luis

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O Feijão do Luis is the least likely restaurant on this list. Above a tourist shop opposite Primark on Oxford Street, a Brazilian flag hangs like a beacon. Head upstairs once inside the aforementioned shop and you’re greeted by a small dining room and very un-central London kitchen. A short menu is scribbled on A4 paper. There are snacks (killer coxinhas and kibes) and a few mains: stroganoff; steak with rice and beans; feijoada. The latter is perhaps not the city’s best, but silky and generously porky, served traditionally, and an £8 portion is enough for two.

Mr Ribs Restaurant

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In a nook of Stratford Shopping Centre that includes a couple of Brazilian delis, Mr Ribs is home to some of London’s best comida caseira (home-style cooking.) While the pork ribs are hit and miss, sometimes dry, sometimes crisp on the outside and juicy within, this is the place for hearty stews. Think oxtail, chicken, and a feijoada that, if a little thinner than normal, is more pork than bean. At Mr Ribs, have lunch for a tenner and be full until tomorrow.

Costa's Café & Sanduíches

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Alongside the daily specials (rice, beans, meat — of course — for £7) Costa’s serves Brazilian pizzas and burgers. Pasteis are fried to order, perfectly blistered, the pulled chicken and molten catupiry a standout. The xburger — the letter x in Portuguese sounds roughly like cheese in English — may be London’s craziest burger. Stuffed into a collapsing bun are: a spicy patty, ham, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, sweetcorn, and shoestring potatoes, which provide the same effect as the Walker’s in your school sandwich. It comes in a plastic bag, into which half the ingredients will fall. It is delicious.

Brazilian Street Food

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This street food stall is improbably well stocked with Brazilian lunch staples. Owner Giovanio Ferreira’s offering ranges from vaca atolada, a rib and cassava stew, to stroganoff and the ubiquitous feijoada. The meal box of rice, beans, farofa, vegetables, fried plantain, an (optional) fried egg, succulent pork ribs or crispy grilled chicken and garlic sauce is what to get. All the big-hitting snacks are available alongside sweets like pudim and brigadeiros, should diners still have any space to fill.

Tia Maria - Brazilian Bar & Restaurant London

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Set in an old boozer and very much retaining a pub vibe — old wooden bar, beer on tap, live music — Tia Maria is where to go for drinking food, something Brazil does superbly. The extensive petisco menu features all the classics: salt cod fritters are crisp, with soft mash and discernible fish chunks inside; fried chicken hearts and onions arrive sizzling on cast iron and are irresistible; there are assorted pasteis, the ideal beer pairing. But don’t miss the sensational feijoada: dark as bourguignon, fattier than cassoulet and more complex than both.

Da Terra Restaurant

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Da Terra isn’t explicitly a Brazilian restaurant. Then again, it isn’t not a Brazilian restaurant. Probably Britain’s most low-key two-Michelin-starred restaurant is run by the unassuming Rafael Cagali, a Simon Rogan allum who’s lived in London for years. The multi-course tasting menu features some of the most creative, subversive cooking around. Brazilian influences, both overt and less tangible, are everywhere. A taleggio doughnut that, basically, tastes like the best pão de queijo ever. Succulent chicken hearts; Arctic char ceviche swimming in tucupi, a sweetcorn-yellow sauce made from fermented manioc that’s popular in Amazonian cooking. Cagali’s moqueca might piss off traditionalists, but the foam is deep and complex with coconut milk, chilli and dendȇ palm oil. This isn’t one of London’s best Brazilian restaurants, it’s one of London’s best restaurants.

Kaipiras by Barraco

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Kaipiras is the closest thing in London to a proper boteco: wear a thong bikini and turn up the heating and diners might even think it’s Rio. The menu is extensive and basically covers all the classic dishes of Brazil’s southeast, plus six varieties of moqueca, which are stellar. A few appetisers — try the crispy fried fish or acarajé, which makes a rare London appearance — with a beer or caipirinha sometimes does the job here, but the mains, from parmigiana and a decadent feijoada to steak and onions, are pretty much all knockout too.

Mineiro Cafe

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If Brazilian snacks are the goal then Mineiro Cafe is the best spot in town. It has everything, from grapefruit-sized pão de queijo and all sorts of pastries, to freshly prepared tapioca, Brazilian pancakes made with, unsurprisingly, tapioca starch. Skip the fry-ups and opt for a range of treats: crisp kibe, flaky empadas stuffed with chicken, olives and palm hearts, and the mad but delicious grilled mortadella in a pão de queijo sandwich. ‘Brazilians like to invent mad combinations’ says the waitress. She’s not wrong.

Pizza & Esfihas Excellent

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The sfiha, a Levantine flatbread commonly topped with minced lamb, is incredibly popular in Brazil, where it’s known as esfiha. There’s even a nationwide chain, Habib’s, specialising in them. While most Lebanese restaurants in London serve something similar, for the Brazilian version head to this wonderfully named restaurant, where myriad toppings exist, from classic minced beef or chicken with catupiry to “pizza” or chocolate and strawberry.

O Brasileirao

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“The big Brazilian” may have white tablecloths but diners are as likely to see Brazilians relaxing to a post-football pint or popping in for a brief chat as they are coming for a meal. The menu spans the greatest hits, with ample starters, sides, burgers and more. The stroganoff is particularly impressive: not too creamy or sweet, generously served, and with the requisite mountain of shoestring potatoes. The fried cassava is arguably the city’s best.

BrazBQ Spetto Brazilian food

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Espetos are small skewers often sold on the streets in Brazil. In this fast-food joint they are cooked on a griddle rather than hot coals, but they’re still delicious: tender and simply seasoned with garlic and salt. Chicken, steak and sausage are all good, but don’t miss the standout chicken hearts. Cassava fries, farofa for texture, chilli sauce and a brilliantly oniony vinaigrette make the perfect companions. A range of heartier meals are available, too.

Cantinho Do Goias

“The little corner of Goias” is as casual as it gets. There’s football on TV, Brazilian country music on the radio and locals popping in for a snack or espresso. The owner is from the eponymous central Brazilian state, but the food is national. There’s a “Brazilian fry-up” to consider, but head here for lunch, where the jantinha — “little lunch” — is actually huge, a spread of picanha, malagueta-flecked rice, the crispest cassava fries and feijão tropeiro, a dry-ish blend of smoky bacon, farofa, collard greens, beans and a bucket-load of garlic, is among the best in the city.

Feijão do Luis

O Feijão do Luis is the least likely restaurant on this list. Above a tourist shop opposite Primark on Oxford Street, a Brazilian flag hangs like a beacon. Head upstairs once inside the aforementioned shop and you’re greeted by a small dining room and very un-central London kitchen. A short menu is scribbled on A4 paper. There are snacks (killer coxinhas and kibes) and a few mains: stroganoff; steak with rice and beans; feijoada. The latter is perhaps not the city’s best, but silky and generously porky, served traditionally, and an £8 portion is enough for two.

Mr Ribs Restaurant

In a nook of Stratford Shopping Centre that includes a couple of Brazilian delis, Mr Ribs is home to some of London’s best comida caseira (home-style cooking.) While the pork ribs are hit and miss, sometimes dry, sometimes crisp on the outside and juicy within, this is the place for hearty stews. Think oxtail, chicken, and a feijoada that, if a little thinner than normal, is more pork than bean. At Mr Ribs, have lunch for a tenner and be full until tomorrow.

Costa's Café & Sanduíches

Alongside the daily specials (rice, beans, meat — of course — for £7) Costa’s serves Brazilian pizzas and burgers. Pasteis are fried to order, perfectly blistered, the pulled chicken and molten catupiry a standout. The xburger — the letter x in Portuguese sounds roughly like cheese in English — may be London’s craziest burger. Stuffed into a collapsing bun are: a spicy patty, ham, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, sweetcorn, and shoestring potatoes, which provide the same effect as the Walker’s in your school sandwich. It comes in a plastic bag, into which half the ingredients will fall. It is delicious.

Brazilian Street Food

This street food stall is improbably well stocked with Brazilian lunch staples. Owner Giovanio Ferreira’s offering ranges from vaca atolada, a rib and cassava stew, to stroganoff and the ubiquitous feijoada. The meal box of rice, beans, farofa, vegetables, fried plantain, an (optional) fried egg, succulent pork ribs or crispy grilled chicken and garlic sauce is what to get. All the big-hitting snacks are available alongside sweets like pudim and brigadeiros, should diners still have any space to fill.

Tia Maria - Brazilian Bar & Restaurant London

Set in an old boozer and very much retaining a pub vibe — old wooden bar, beer on tap, live music — Tia Maria is where to go for drinking food, something Brazil does superbly. The extensive petisco menu features all the classics: salt cod fritters are crisp, with soft mash and discernible fish chunks inside; fried chicken hearts and onions arrive sizzling on cast iron and are irresistible; there are assorted pasteis, the ideal beer pairing. But don’t miss the sensational feijoada: dark as bourguignon, fattier than cassoulet and more complex than both.

Da Terra Restaurant

Da Terra isn’t explicitly a Brazilian restaurant. Then again, it isn’t not a Brazilian restaurant. Probably Britain’s most low-key two-Michelin-starred restaurant is run by the unassuming Rafael Cagali, a Simon Rogan allum who’s lived in London for years. The multi-course tasting menu features some of the most creative, subversive cooking around. Brazilian influences, both overt and less tangible, are everywhere. A taleggio doughnut that, basically, tastes like the best pão de queijo ever. Succulent chicken hearts; Arctic char ceviche swimming in tucupi, a sweetcorn-yellow sauce made from fermented manioc that’s popular in Amazonian cooking. Cagali’s moqueca might piss off traditionalists, but the foam is deep and complex with coconut milk, chilli and dendȇ palm oil. This isn’t one of London’s best Brazilian restaurants, it’s one of London’s best restaurants.

Kaipiras by Barraco

Kaipiras is the closest thing in London to a proper boteco: wear a thong bikini and turn up the heating and diners might even think it’s Rio. The menu is extensive and basically covers all the classic dishes of Brazil’s southeast, plus six varieties of moqueca, which are stellar. A few appetisers — try the crispy fried fish or acarajé, which makes a rare London appearance — with a beer or caipirinha sometimes does the job here, but the mains, from parmigiana and a decadent feijoada to steak and onions, are pretty much all knockout too.

Mineiro Cafe

If Brazilian snacks are the goal then Mineiro Cafe is the best spot in town. It has everything, from grapefruit-sized pão de queijo and all sorts of pastries, to freshly prepared tapioca, Brazilian pancakes made with, unsurprisingly, tapioca starch. Skip the fry-ups and opt for a range of treats: crisp kibe, flaky empadas stuffed with chicken, olives and palm hearts, and the mad but delicious grilled mortadella in a pão de queijo sandwich. ‘Brazilians like to invent mad combinations’ says the waitress. She’s not wrong.

Pizza & Esfihas Excellent

The sfiha, a Levantine flatbread commonly topped with minced lamb, is incredibly popular in Brazil, where it’s known as esfiha. There’s even a nationwide chain, Habib’s, specialising in them. While most Lebanese restaurants in London serve something similar, for the Brazilian version head to this wonderfully named restaurant, where myriad toppings exist, from classic minced beef or chicken with catupiry to “pizza” or chocolate and strawberry.

O Brasileirao

“The big Brazilian” may have white tablecloths but diners are as likely to see Brazilians relaxing to a post-football pint or popping in for a brief chat as they are coming for a meal. The menu spans the greatest hits, with ample starters, sides, burgers and more. The stroganoff is particularly impressive: not too creamy or sweet, generously served, and with the requisite mountain of shoestring potatoes. The fried cassava is arguably the city’s best.

BrazBQ Spetto Brazilian food

Espetos are small skewers often sold on the streets in Brazil. In this fast-food joint they are cooked on a griddle rather than hot coals, but they’re still delicious: tender and simply seasoned with garlic and salt. Chicken, steak and sausage are all good, but don’t miss the standout chicken hearts. Cassava fries, farofa for texture, chilli sauce and a brilliantly oniony vinaigrette make the perfect companions. A range of heartier meals are available, too.

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