Cabana Restaurant – Leeds Trinity Centre



Advance warning – this post contains gratuitous cocktail photographs!  

Cabana is the latest in a seemingly never-ending line of restaurants to open in Leeds City Centre. It officially opens its doors to the public tonight (20th November 2014), but I was kindly invited to the preview event. So, was it any good? Is it worth you booking a table?

Let me help you make that decision…

Do you like Caipirinhas? 

Pineapple and mint Caipirinha cocktail at Cabana in Leeds
Pineapple and mint Caipirinhas at Cabana Leeds


Cachaca-laced, icy glasses – muddled with pineapple and mint. Or how about Kiwi and passionfruit? Strawberry, maybe? Or more classic – with a hit of sugar and lime?  
I may have tried all of these.
Okay, I did try all of these. Some were stronger than others – the kiwi and classic both had a good taste of Cachaca, whereas the strawberry was very sweet. So it seemed like there is a flavour in there for most people.

Row of different coloured Cacacha Caipirinas cocktails at Cabana in Leeds
Our table tried a lot of cocktails for you. For research. Obviously.



How about some Brazilian-style street food?

Plate of Brazilian crunchy chicken coxhinas at Cabana in Leeds Trinity
Chicken Coxhinas


Brazilian cheese bread (Pão de Queijo) or pastels; pulled-pork sliders; spicy Malagueta prawns and chicken coxhinas (think: spicy croquettas) all lined up for us to sample. Every bite was satisfyingly chilli-tinged and full of flavour. 
For those of you who are gluten-free, it seemed like these guys were really well clued up – so there are options across the menu – yes, even the dough balls. Brazilian Pao de Queijo is generally made with tapioca flour, so you’re not going to be left watching your mates chow down on tasty cheesy bites, or even the pork sliders – you get to have them too. Definitely a winner for me.

But, you like barbecue meat, right?

A smiling waitress serving Malagueta Chicken at Cabana in Leeds Trinity
Malagueta Chicken, comes with your own happy waitress!

The main event at Cabana. Skewers of chicken, beef, pork or lamb that has been grilled to charred perfection.  Our favourites were the Chilli Chilli Lamb Lamb – chunks of tender lamb that sing with cumin (lots of cumin!) and chilli; and the Malagueta Chicken – sticky and spicy chicken, marinated in Cabana’s own Malagueta sauce. This was so addictive, and everyone at our table loved it. It’s clear to see why this dish is their best seller.

Okay, you don’t eat anything with a face… 

A Passionfruit and Kiwi Caipirinha on the restaurant table at Cabana Leeds Trinity
Another cocktail? Passionfruit this time.

Cabana have some good vegetarian options on their menu. It’s not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a Brazilian barbecue joint, but they offer up the staple halloumi and Portabello mushroom burger, more interestingly a veggie stew that sounds hearty and a bit different (aubergine, plantain, black beans and peppers) and a halloumi salad. We didn’t get to try these I’m afraid, but they sound good.


If you’re a chip-fiend…

Crunchy sweet potato fries with paprika, in a mini bucket at Cabana Leeds
Sweet potato fries

I find it hard to get excited over a bowl of chips. I’d always favour rice or potatoes given the option. But. Sweet potato fries at Cabana are gorgeous. Okay, this is not a time for counting calories. Fried, orangey strips, dusted with paprika. You’ll love them, I’m sure.
Cassava chips were also pretty brilliant. I’ve never had cassava before, so didn’t have a clue what to expect, but these were hearty, slightly sweet, crunchy beasts. 

Sweet tooth?

A plate of icing sugar dusted gluten free braziian chocolate cake - Nega Maluca
Nega Maluca – aka Gluten Free delight

So much dessert. Seriously. Dessert everywhere. 
We tried the (gluten free!) Nega Maluca – that’s Brazilian chocolate cake to you and me. When this came out, our table of five went pretty silent, save for the occasional ‘mmm’ noise. It was great.
Tiny chocolate raindrop doughnuts were also on offer – deep fried drops filled with Nutella. This was the only thing I tried all night that I didn’t like. For me, they were just way too greasy. To be fair, it’s not something I would ever order anyway, so maybe they’re just not to my taste. Everyone else seemed happy enough to keep popping them in their mouths.
Finally, frozen yoghurt. Cabana sell peanut butter and caramel flavours (I had a mixture of the two). Extremely sweet – tooth-achingly so, I only managed a tiny bit. It tasted lovely, but after all the Caipirinhas, meat, sweet potato fries, the chocolate cake…it wasn’t possible to fit more in. And we tried, trust me. Great effort was made. Heroic, even.

Have you made your decision yet? 

People gathered in a cabana hut at Cabana restaurant in Leeds Trinity Centre
The Cabana Hut

Would it help if I told you that Cabana in Leeds is the chain’s first outing outside of London. I say ‘chain’ but this isn’t a chain-chain. (If I keep saying chain, it’s going to lose all meaning, isn’t it?). It’s a smallish company. The people behind it are passionate and innovative – Brazilian-born David Ponté (Momo) and Jamie Barber (Hush Mayfair, Villandry, Sake no Hana and Kitchen Italia). Jamie chatted with us and told great stories about sourcing the denim fabric for the seats from São Paulo – made from recycled jeans, with the funds going to a women’s charity. Also about the chap who hand makes all the beautiful copper lights, by hand, from recycled copper piping. And the Cabana Hut, which sits in the centre of the restaurant – this was built for an event in Covent Garden previously, but rather than packing it up and getting rid, they sent it up to Leeds for it to be rebuilt as a central point for the restaurant, where large groups of people can sit together. 

Close up of a lampshade handmade from reused copper pipes in Brazil
Copper pipe lightshades

Cabana feels fresh and different. Not what I expected from a Brazilian Barbecue place (I wrongly assumed we were going to get another spin on Fazenda), it’s somewhere fun and colourful, where the staff are ridiculously nice and helpful, the food is really good, and the drinks are plentiful. The group I went with are already planning their return sometime in the next few weeks, we already even know what we’ll order. 

Another Caipirinha?

Bottle of Cabana Malagueta sauce on table
Cabana Malagueta sauce


The Cabana Cookbook displayed in the restaurant in Leeds
The Cabana Cookbook



So we’ll see you there then?

The outside of Cabana restaurant in Leeds trinity centre



Cabana Leeds is upstairs in Leeds’ Trinity Centre (adjacent to Trinity Kitchen). Find them at www.cabana-brasil.com or search the hashtag #CabanaLeeds on Twitter to see photos and tweets from the opening night.

*Food and drink provided free of charge. Yes, it meant I drank more than usual. No, I didn’t get drunk enough for it to affect my opinion of this place. Words and thoughts my own.

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6 Comments

  1. November 20, 2014 / 1:59 pm

    Looks bloody amazing & a great review Faith! I will definitely be trying this place out soon, so sad I couldn't make it!
    Rebecca xxx
    http://www.queenbeady.com

  2. November 20, 2014 / 2:05 pm

    Ah, thanks honey! It was so great – we had a fantastic night.
    We're arranging another visit really soon, so make sure you come with us – I'll send you a message when we have some dates! xxx

  3. November 20, 2014 / 4:42 pm

    All the best restaurants are going to Trinity! Can't wait to try this place out, am so in love with a good caipirinha.

  4. November 20, 2014 / 5:56 pm

    Wonderful words and all accurately true. There wasn't anything not to like here. Fantastic food, drinks, staff and place. Can't wait to return!

  5. November 21, 2014 / 2:16 pm

    I want to cry right now I am so so hungry and craving this amazing experience and cocktails :'( xx

  6. December 19, 2014 / 12:32 pm

    Ah i love Cabana! I adore the strawberry caipirinha, so delicious! Also, I'm veggie and had the halloumi and mushroom burger which i know you didn't get to try, but it was fab!

    I cannot wait to go back!

    Brill post!

    http://shebearacharmedlife.blogspot.co.uk/