As one of my favourite hobbies is eating, I am really pleased that Manchester has so much to offer by way of restaurants. I could literally travel around the world to try every cuisine, all without leaving the M1 postcode. I’ve been really enjoying getting out and about recently, and I have been making so much more effort to socialise and catch up with friends. I always love the time that I get to spend with Keeley from Phat Cupcake. We have a great bond and some great conversations. We took our latest catch up to Cabana in the Corn Exchange in Manchester for Brasilian influenced dishes and of course, cocktails.
Cabana only opened in Manchester just three years ago and whilst I went along to the soft launch, I have never actually eaten in there. Having perused the menu whilst at work, I had made my mind up by the time I got there. Walking into Cabana is like walking into a rainbow of colours and eclectic designs. From the stools on the wall, the booths that are surrounded by fairy lights and the flower walls, Cabana certainly is reminiscent of Brazil. Spread across two floors, I can see Cabana being an extremely vibrant and fun place at a weekend.
The service from Mar was second to none, and from the minute that we walked in, she was attentive to our needs and made sure we had all we needed. Small touches like water on the table, an explanation of the menu and her recommendations from the menu made for a welcoming experience.
I’m still not over my halloumi addiction and for the second time that week, halloumi has featured in my diet. The chargrilled halloumi with guava dip is affectionately known as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Brazil. The dip, although it looks a lot like tomato ketchup was a fruity yet savoury sauce. It gave the halloumi a little kick and totally transformed the plain cheese. I do think that the halloumi was missing something. The chargrilled taste did add to the flavour, but I feel that it was too solid and missed the warm, slightly melted texture that I love. That being said, I ate each piece with a thick coating of guava jam. Keeley tried the chicken croquetas; little balls of shredded chicken and spices with an delicious Malagueta mayo. The mayo was absolutely delicious and for someone who really doesn’t like mayo at all…well, I am a convert.
Whilst catching up on the recent goings on, latest launches and who’s done what in our circle of friends, we started on the cocktails. As usual, Keeley opted for a Margarita. The frozen Margarita was served frozen, and the sugared rim was replaced with a rim full of multi coloured sprinkles. I chose the Watermelon Basil Smash; Russian standard vodka, watermelon juice, watermelon purée and basil. The taste of basil in a cocktail really does enhance the flavours and I do find that I opt for drinks that feature basil. The cocktail was so refreshing and didn’t taste overly alcoholic. I could have drank several as they were that tasty.
It’s not very often that I would choose a burger from the menu, but after reading the description for the Guava-cue Bacon Cheese burger, I was sold. British beef, tomato, lettuce, red onion, mozzarella, guava-cue bacon and mayo on a brioche bun with a side order of skinny fries and coleslaw. When you don’t have burgers very often, it really heightens just how good they are. A juicy beef burger, cooked to perfection topped with the warm melted cheesiness that I wished for in the halloumi. The bacon was marinated and grilled that gave a sweet, savoury and salty taste. I did pull the bacon from the burger as I couldn’t cut through it, however eating it alone gave me chance to experience the taste fully. Crispy salad, guava jam and the brioche bun certainly gave it the extra flavours and I wolfed it down. I also really enjoyed the fries, again which is unusual for me as I don’t usually have them. The fries were topped with Brasilian steak house seasoning and the coleslaw was perfectly crunchy. Whilst I was enjoying a traditional burger and chips, Keeley went for a more traditional Feijoada Hot Pot. A twist on the Brasilian classic, the slow cooked dish was flavourful and packed with slow cook pork, sausage, rib meat and beef, sat in a black bean stew. Served with a side of Biro-Biro rice, sour cream, toasted farofa, potato matchsticks and a slice of orange to round off the the meal.
No matter how full you are, there is always room for a dessert and a cocktail. Topping up my banned dairy intake for the day (thank god for lactose tablets), I went for the Peanut Butter and Jam sundae. It doesn’t look particularly great when served in all honestly but the peanut butter ice cream was pretty amazing. The guava jam featured once again within the dessert, and the sugary sweetness was brought out by the ice cream. The menu does state that the sundae does contain peanut brittle and peanut candy, however they were either not put in, or the amounts used were so little that it was difficult to distinguish these within the sundae glass.
Keeley chose the Banoffee cheesecake topped with roasted nuts which I didn’t try but it looked great. I think by this point we were quite full, and the desserts weren’t appreciated as much as they should have bee. Three courses is quite a lot of food to get through sometimes! We managed to get through our cocktails with ease, however. The Jungle Fever cocktail that Keeley decided on was made up of rum, mango purée, lime juice and vanilla with gummy worms. The gummy worms on top were such a great touch that I was slightly jealous until I saw my Island Life cocktail in the coconut cup. Russian Standard vodka, agave syrup, apple juice, grenadine and raspberry & passion fruit purées made this cocktail taste like a grown up Um Bongo. Again, not overly alcoholic tasting and a really good palette cleanser after all the food.
For my first full experience of Cabana, I was really quite pleased with what they have had to offer and I do think it’s a great place to call in for a mid day lunch whilst out shopping in town. I would also really like to experience upstairs when the cocktail bar is in full swing and the Island Life drinks are flowing on the 2 for £12 offer.
Thank you to Cabana for inviting me down to experience the Brasilian flavour. All opinions are my own, however my meal was provided free of charge.