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Thursday, 21 April 2011
Every now and again, I come across a gem of place which makes me wonder where on earth I have been in the last year or so. Empório São Paulo has been open since 2009 in New King's Road, Parson's Green, but I only recently happened to find it.
The owner, Carminha de Castro, spent most of her life working in marketing, but decided to take the plunge and open her own business - an upmarket Brazilian empório (delicatessen) and café. Years of experience in her field has clearly taught her a few tricks in presentation and customer service - her shop has an impressive range of top quality produce from Brazil and other countries which is beautifully displayed, and while I was there, I saw that she had a friendly word with all the customers who walked in.
Her shop reminds me of some of the more elegant outlets in the upmarket Jardins or Moema districts of São Paulo. Decorated mainly in black, white and red, the store has fine produce from Europe, Asia and Brazil. Brazilian guaraná drinks were side by side with fine French cheeses and Champagne. Artisan breads, Italian coffee and Swiss chocolate were also stocked alongside Brazilian products.
Next, we had Feijoada (£6.50 per person). This is Brazil's national dish - a rich black bean stew made with various cuts of cured pork, including smoked bacon, chorizo, smoked ribs among others. It is served with white rice, finely sliced and fried spring greens, farofa (Brazilian fried cassava flour), and orange slices.
I am a feijoada fanatic, and not easily satisfied. However, Empório São Paulo's version was, I thought, good - the beans were well textured and tasted delicious in a rich, meaty broth. While the original version can be heavy and include various less palatable cuts of pork which were available to the slaves who invented the dish (for example, ears, snouts and trotters), Carminha wisely eschews these in favour of fine cuts of cured pork she selects herself.
Later, we had a fine cup of latte coffee. Empório São Paulo is the sole importer in London of fine Italian beans from Anhélo which are also sold in the shop. Carminha told me that the delicious chocolate brownies that accompanied the coffees were homemade, freshly baked and delivered daily to the shop by a local supplier.
Empório São Paulo has three eating areas (one outside and two inside). The basement has a children's play area stocked with books and toys, but it is multi-purpose and has hosted business meetings and parties. Carminha told me that they plan to develop this site for live Brazilian music evenings in the summer.
Scanning Empório São Paulo's menu, I was interested to find some other Brazilian favourites which I look forward to trying on my next visit. Bauru is a Brazilian ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich (£2.90 eat-in) that goes well with the Brahma beer also on the menu at £3 a bottle. Coxinhas are delicious Brazilian deep-fried snacks made of shredded chicken in a potato pastry and breadcrumb case. I really love coxinhas, and they are on sale in the shop at £1 each.
If you would like to try some Brazilian delicacies in an elegant and friendly environment, I would recommend a trip to check this place out. I will be returning, so might bump into you!