While I’ve munched my way through more than my fair share of nachos and slurped inordinate amount of margaritas, Mexico is as far south that I’ve been in my American-style eating adventures in the UK. With ten restaurants across the UK, Cabana is aiming to change that; with a Brasilian menu, cocktails and decor, we headed over to the Corn Exchange to see if they’ve got what it takes to bring the fiesta to Manchester.
Venue & Atmosphere
It’s a Saturday night in the heart of the city and Cabana’s decor is just as lively as the party crowd gearing up for a night out. Split across several levels, from the terraces on either side, the middle restaurants through to the top bar, each part is a riot of different decor. The walls have been stripped back to the brickwork and painted with a sunny mural, metal cages are bright neons and create private booths while big steel oil drums double up as seats.
The spot appeals to all different types of people as larger groups drink upstairs and couples occupy the intimate booths. Complementing the party-vibe, there’s a loud soundtrack of chart hits playing and waiters whip from table to table offering advice or doling out drinks. It could all be a bit much, but the coupling of industrial and pared-back features such as the metal air vents that run across the ceiling and the use of crates as decoration, stop it from being too in your face.
Food & Drink
Cabana serves Brasilian street food, a meaty, flavoursome mix of dishes that range from sharers to huge mains. We kicked things off with a Rio Classic of six chargrilled halloumi skewers (£5.45) which paired perfectly with the sweet guava dip. For mains, we went for flame-grilled skewers; two arms-length skewers were brought to the table in traditional style and then served straight on the plate. Opting for best seller malagueta chicken (£10.95), it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular as thick chunks of meat are coated in a spicy and sweet sauce, which is cooled down by the slaw - a refreshing light mix of coconut strips.
If the food menu packs a spicy punch, the cocktail list is just as strong with a whole host of Brasilian mixes. Order the national drinks of Brasil, the Caipirinha (£6.95) for a sweet mix of cachaça (sweet rum), lime and sugar that is dangerously refreshing and drinkable, especially with the news that it’s 2-4-1 on cocktails all night. The rest of the menu is similarly sweet and sunny as classics are given a South American twist,; Carlos the Godfather (£7.95) was a muddle of gin, elderflower, lemon and lime, while the Brasilito (£6.95) was just a juicy as a mojito was given a South American twist.
With its rainbow colours, cool mash of urban interiors and spicy food, it’s amazing that Cabana has gone under my radar for so long. The vibe is chilled and low-key, just like the beaches of Brasil, and the news that a 2-4-1 happy hour has been extended all day makes everything all the more sweeter.