Saturday, 27 October 2007

Canela Cafe

My pregnant friend Amanda has had remarkably few cravings throughout her pregnancy, and has luckily been fairly free of bouts of sickness. That's lucky for me, too, since she's probably my most faithful dining companion, and this blog would have suffered along with her if her pregnancy had gone differently. When deciding where to eat recently, I tabled the idea of Canela Cafe, a casual Brazilian place in London. This tapped into an as-yet undiscovered craving in Amanda; her mother's family is Brazilian, and the notion of eating home-comfort food made her suddenly realize she urgently needed to have a bit of feijoada.

Feijoada is a black-bean based stew and it's about as traditional a Brazilian dish as you can get. I had never had it before, nor could I really think of any time I'd ever had Brazilian food, so I felt obliged to try the feijoada. It's a hearty, slow-cooked meal in the family of Tuscan bean soups or a cassoulet - the beans are cooked for ages with meat (usually pork - in this case, chorizo) and some flavoring, and is served with rice on the side as well as a bit of cornmeal to top it off.

With all that slow cooking, good flavors should definitely come out, but I was surprised to find my feijoada was fairly bland. There wasn't much richness to the sauce, and the chorizo was very fatty without being flavorsome. More salt added didn't do much to help other than make it more salty. Cheese bread on the side was also non-committal in its flavoring, and although was warm felt like it had been microwaved in order to make it that way.

Dessert was on the cards since there were several to choose from, and Amanda's home-comfort cravings dictated we would try the brigadeiro. She recounted to me, misty eyed, how her mother would make it at home, boiling condensed milk, butter, and cocoa powder and then rolling it into balls and dipping it in sprinkles. I must have let me attention lapse (sorry Amanda) because part of the recipe seemed to include the danger of her mother being hit by an exploding tin of condensed milk; I can't imagine that's a deliberate part of the dessert-making, since that would be either very brave or fool-hardy for the Brazilians to make it so often.

The brigadiero tasted like its ingredients, which meant it tasted like a ball of cake icing. Which is a wonderful thing in small doses, but Amanda and I each had a moment of pregnancy eating (her in reality, me in sympathy) and ordered a brigadiero each. They were big and I was nearly defeated, which doesn't happen to me often except on major holidays and when a large turkey is involved. The journey home was a struggle, and I do believe there was much reclining on the sofa when I got home in order to aid digestion.

Canela Cafe is probably best as a cafe. The coffees were nice, and there was a good variety of pastries to share with friends while you sip your frothy milky drink. Maybe because this coffee-and-cake atmosphere is so obviously appealing the food isn't given the attention it needs, or perhaps the Soho branch isn't up to the standards of the Covent Garden branch. Feijoada is exactly the kind of rich, warming dish that taps into the primal food lover in me; I'd like to sample it again (or maybe make it myself) but if there were a return trip to Canela I'd probably just stick with the cakes.


Kate said...

both these dishes are new to me. I know i could very easily love them both and i'll make sure not to eat too much ...hehe over eating really makes you feel miserable :P

Anonymous said...

I used to work near the Covent Garden one and went there a few times, each time hoping it would be better than the last because I really liked the atmosphere but sadly it was always just OK.

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this