Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published June 21st 2013
Flip a Card if You Want More
Rodizio Rico @ The 02
I have only ever once tried to go to a restaurant at The 02 before, but the queues were so long that the average waiting time to get a seat was an hour and a half. This is because people go to eat before their show in the Arena. This time, however, we checked in advance, and were lucky to find that there were no performances on that night. When we got there at 6pm, the place was practically empty.
Rodizio Rico is a Brazilian all you can eat restaurant. It is named after a particular type of dining service they provide, which is typical at Brazilian steakhouses. When we arrived, we were shown to our seats, and the process was described. They do a £25 fixed priced buffet, where you go up and help yourself as many times as you like, but the waiters also come round to you with spits continually offering you different meats.
We were all given two-sided cards; if you want more meat, then you have it on one side, and the waiters will keep coming with more food, but when you've got enough, you turn the card over and they pass you by. This is a good method because it means you don't have to try and grab a waiter's attention, nor are you always getting interrupted by offers when you don't want them.
Although the system is simple enough, we were all rather confused when it was being explained to us. I saw on the menu that there was a fixed price vegetarian option for £18, so asked for that instead, but the waiter did not appear to understand. We eventually sorted it out, and he said that the vegetarian option would be just the food on the buffet, and swapped my meat card for 'V' plaque.
The buffet is not as vegetarian as first thought.
Although they have a vegetarian option, the restaurant is not very vegetarian friendly. I thought that the buffet was entirely meat-free, but that turned out not to be the case. This would not be a problem if everything was clearly labelled, but about half the dishes on display did not come with a description. What I originally thought was a vegetable lasagne turned out to be mince, the rice had chorizo sausage hiding away in there, and something that looked like it could be an onion bharji was actually lamb. If vegetarians aren't carefully, they will accidentally end up serving themselves meat. It is the same issue concerning allergies. My dad is allergic to mushrooms, and it was just fortunate that I spotted some in one of the pastas before he served himself any.
Despite this, the food was all very good. The buffet was split up between a hot and cold table. On the cold table, there was potato salad, coleslaw, olives, sun dried tomatoes, bean sprouts, and a selection of condiments. The hot table served various pastas, talapia pie, beans, rice, but my favourite ended up being the polenta and deep fried bananas, which were very moreish.
I was glad that I chose the vegetarian option, because when I do have meat, I like it well done. While the waiters were cutting slices off the skewers, I noticed that the meat looked very pink, and in the case of the beef, almost blue. Usually at restaurants where you order off the menu, you can specify how you like your meat done, but at an all you can eat, where they are serving everyone off the same spits, it is not really possible to request how you want it to be cooked. This did not, however, bother the two carnivores on my right, who were enjoying the vast selection of meats brought up to them. These included leg of lamb, rump steak, pork ribs, chicken wings, chicken sausage, and plenty of other things. My dad and friend were, however, were disappointed that no chicken hearts were brought out, as it was mentioned on the menu and is meant to be a Brazilian speciality.
I went up to the buffet about three times before I called it quits, but with all the meat coming their way, my dad and friend barely left their seats. When they were stuffed, they would turn their cards over to 'no more', but as soon as another waiter appeared with something new, the card was flipped right back again. It all came fresh straight off the spit oven, and was very hot. This was made evident to me by the fact that Dad kept asking for top ups of water (when usually he acts as if he is allergic to the stuff).
While the food price was not unreasonable for an all you can eat, the drinks were very expensive. The cheapest bottle of wine is £21, and I decided to forego my usual cocktail treat since one glass was between £6-£7.30.
Instead I decided to have a dessert. I had glanced at the dessert menu when we first arrived, but did not take much of it in, so we asked to take another look. But instead of bringing a menu, the waitress brought a display menu. Just like with the buffet, the desserts were not labelled, and because it was now quite noisy, it was difficult to hear what the waitress was saying. When I asked her to repeat, she seemed most put out. I eventually figured out that there was the choice of chocolate of passion fruit mousse, chocolate or caramel cake, and pineapple or banana flambe with ice cream. I asked to mull of this for a while, and then asked a different waiter to bring the menu instead of the trolly so that I could think about it without the pressure of someone standing and waiting for me to make a decision. He brought the trolley over. He went through the options again, but spoke so quickly, it was impossible to catch the prices. I did manage to make out that they were all in the £4-£5 bracket.
This is not what I call a pineapple flambee.
I asked for a pineapple flambe, but was disappointed with the result. A flambe is meant to set alight using liquor, but this was just a grilled piece of pineapple with ice cream on top. Nice as it was, it was not a flambe. Later, I also discovered that the scoop of ice cream was extra, so the dessert was actually £6.30. I think it is atrocious to consider that a slice of warmish pineapple by itself costs about £4.50.
Although it sounds like I have done a lot of complaining, we all had a very enjoyable time. The food was good, it was a new experience, and now that I've learnt the ropes and know what to expect, I would definitely go again.