Deborah Ross

Restaurants | 18 June 2005

Rodizio Rico in Islington

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It’s my niece Daisy’s 16th birthday and after not quite having the courage to accept my initial gift offer, one I still think quite brilliant — that we go out and get her tattooed, possibly with ‘I hate dad’ on the knuckles of one hand and ‘I hate mum’ on the other, or even ‘I really hate mum’ just to really piss mum off — she suggests that I take her out to dinner and then put her into print. She would like to be in print, she says, although I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s so she can show all her friends during one of those rare instances when they are not texting, circling Topshop or eyeing up boys in Starbucks. Okay, I say, fine. If you want to be in print I shall put you in print. In fact, no one will have ever been so in print as you. Indeed, just so there’s no mistaking her, this is Daisy Emma Ross of Friern Barnet Lane (Whetstone end) N20, three siblings, Year 11 at Dame Alice Owen, five foot four, skin all peachy and long corkscrew curls which she keeps beautifully defined with her mother’s expensive hair products when her mother isn’t looking. This’ll really piss mum off. Sometimes, I can see now, it isn’t necessary to go as far as tattooing. Although it would have been amusing all the same.

Of course, now that I have identified Daisy Emma Ross of Friern Barnet Lane N20, so accurately that no one, least of all her friends, can be in any doubt, it would be absolutely awful if I were to add, for example, a few lines on what she was like as a baby when she was so fat — she looked like a ball with a few curly wisps on top — and so, so greedy that once, when my brother brought her round, and plonked her down on the carpet near where my partner and his brother were playing Subbuteo — the losers! — she gobbled down two players and the ball before anyone quite knew what was happening. So it would be awful if I were to say anything like that, especially as all her friends will read this, and possibly the boy she is eyeing up the most, so naturally I won’t. Family loyalty still counts for something, surely.

Now, where to take Daisy Emma Ross (favourite retail therapy: browsing in the bookshop at the Tate, if only you could ever get her out of Topshop)? Eventually I decide on Rodizio Rico, a new place in Islington, reviewed in our local weekly, the Hornsey Journal. I would just like to say here that, over the years, the Hornsey Journal has brought me more joy than all the national papers combined, and I always read it right through, especially relying on the front-page splash to keep me informed on all the tragedies that nearly happened but didn’t (phew!). This week it is about a car coming off the road on Crouch End Hill and hitting the tables outside the Railway Tavern. ‘Miraculously,’ the report goes, ‘not one customer was using the popular pub benches at the time.’ This is even later confirmed by eyewitness Jessica Griffiths, 23, who says, ‘It was very lucky that no one was sitting outside the pub at the time.’ If it weren’t for the Hornsey Journal, how would I know about all the things that nearly happened in my area but didn’t?

Anyway, Rodizio Rico, which already has one place in Westbourne Grove, sounds like fun, if nothing else, as it’s a Brazilian ‘churrascaria de rodizio’ where churrascaria translates as ‘barbecue’ and rodizio means ‘rotating’ and, according to my beloved Hornsey Journal, what happens is that ‘carvers pass from table to table, slicing sizzling roasted meats from skewers onto diners’ plates’. I think this will be good for Daisy (favourite food: meat) so off we go, along with my son and my partner, who I think has yet to entirely forgive her for the Subbuteo incident but doesn’t really have a leg to stand on as Daisy’s mum did offer to return the two players and ball the moment they reappeared, as they inevitably did, but he declined. So, really, he has only himself to blame.

We arrive at the restaurant earlyish, at 7 p.m., when it’s only half-full but you can still tell it’s a lively kind of place, with thumping South American music and seemingly authentic passadors (meat carvers) wearing the Brazilian colours (yellow and green) and darting around with their spits and scarily sharp knives. We sit at a table where the deal is explained, and it is a wonderfully straightforward deal. You pay £18 a head — £23 if you want to include seafood — and for that it’s an eat-all-you-can-until-your-buttons-pop job combining the meat and the serve-yourself hot and cold buffet. Great for greedy, fat Daisy Emma Ross of Friern Barnet Lane (Whetsone end) N20, size five shoe, except that she is neither greedy nor fat any more. As well as all that peachy skin she has a gorgeous figure, the bitch. Of course, I say that lovingly, as her aunt.

We start at the buffet as we’ve been encouraged to do, and while I’m not saying it’s as bad as a Pizza Hut salad bar, it is a little disappointing. There are some hot dishes that are quite interesting, like the pot of sludgy black beans and the fried bananas, but there is a lot of padding too, with the usual sliced beetroot, quartered tomatoes and even a pasta salad, which is not only horrible and common but not even especially South American, as far as I’m aware. Regardless, we pile our plates and return to our table where the passadors come and keep coming.

It is fun, initially. The meat is impaled on long skewers, grilled on a magnificent indoor barbecue, and brought to the table where, if you like the look of it, a slice will be lopped off. There is ham (delicious), spicy pork sausage (not bad), plain pork (OK), pork ribs (better), chicken wings (excellent), chicken legs (so-so), chicken hearts (scary) and rump of rare beef which, strangely, only seemed to come round the once whereas the bloody pork never stopped. Odd, that. And as for the seafood option, which both my partner and I went for, this turns out to be a dish containing a king prawn apiece, a tiny slab of white fish and a few squidy bits. Not worth the extra tenner. In fact, Rodizio Rico is a weird kind of place because while you are sort of enjoying it — and it does get very lively later on — you’re also slightly worried that you’re being ripped off. And the desserts don’t help. We are presented with a tray of rather sad-looking puddings. My son chooses a mango mousse and Daisy a strawberry mousse. Both look like Angel Delight that’s been left hanging about too long — you know, a darker colour and all crusty on top. They are inedibly awful. I then find that although I’d assumed they’re included in the price, they aren’t. They’re nearly £4 each.

In short, this place might be worth the one visit, just for the novelty of it, but it is absurdly overpriced. The thought of £18 for all you can eat appears good, but the reality is that you probably don’t even get through a few quids’ worth. Still, happy birthday Daisy, and I’ll do what I can, love, about the pregnancy thing, but you’re going to have to tell mum and dad sooner or later, even though it’s going to really, really, really piss them off. That is, Daisy Emma Ross of ....

Rodizio Rico, 77–78 Upper Street, N1 (020 7354 1076) and 111 Westbourne Grove, W2 (020 7792 4035).