Review | Carioca, Market Row, Brixton

Brunch Carnaval
Carioca’s delicious Carnaval

“How soon can we go back without it being weird?”

Carioca is a sparkling gem in Brixton’s Market Row offering delicious and bright Brazilian-inspired dishes for brunch, dinner and everything in between. Run by brothers Maurilio and Eusebio (Tony) Goncalves, the vibrant hubbub of this busy little place is the perfect antidote to a chilly January morning.

Carioca has recently(ish) launched a new brunch menu with dishes with a Brazilian twist. There’s also some more familiar favourites if you’re feeling a little less adventurous (think a classic full English or blueberry pancakes). Over some very lovely coffee, we considered the Brazilian options and the occasionally surprising ingredient combinations – spiced pineapple and leeks; deep fried plantain and mozzarella (turns out we had nothing to worry about).

The staff were wonderfully welcoming and we were guided in our choices. My brunch buddy opted for a homemade maize muffin layered up with sweet fried plantain, pulled braised beef, black bean stew and a soft poached egg (the ‘Copacabana’). This was a gorgeously robust dish throwing huge haymakers of meaty richness. The maize muffin (gluten free, dontchaknow) actually tasted of sweetcorn (hurrah!) and, along with the plantain, brought a balancing sweetness to the otherwise powerful flavours.

'huge haymakers of flavour' thrown by Carioca's Copacabana
‘huge haymakers’ of flavour thrown by Carioca’s Copacabana

I went for the ‘Carnaval’ (pictured above), another maize muffin topped with sautéed strips of pepper, spiced pineapple, fried plantain, grilled halloumi and a poached egg. I know, right. It was so good. It looked beautiful (so much colour!) and it was properly spicy, but sweet and salty too. It truly was a festival of merrymaking in my mouth. Sorry.

In season - Carioca's marmalade & pecan cake.
In season – Carioca’s marmalade and pecan sponge

And because I was reviewing and because I have no will power and because we were sat right next to them and they looked (and smelt) insane, we tested out a couple of Maurilio’s homemade cakes. No regrets. After much deliberation, we chose a marmalade and pecan sponge and a slice of salted butterscotch and banana cake. The marmalade bun was sticky and sweet and seasonal. Maurilio informed us that this was a new bake he was testing out. If only my kitchen experiments were this successful. The salted butterscotch and banana cake came to our table warm with shimmering sauce shimmering and a little pot of cream. It was deeply sweet but with a light sponginess that makes it not completely ridiculous to indulge in as part of brunch. What a delight.

Banana & salted butterscotch cake
The shimmer on this guy! Carioca’s banana & salted butterscotch cake

Really, it would be weird not to go back very soon.

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