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Thursday 21 April 2011

London's Best Independent Cafés - Empório São Paulo


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.

For Sunday lunch, we started with some excellent Pão de Queijo (small, light cheese breads served fresh from the oven). These can be purchased frozen from the shop (£3.50 for a bag of 10), where she has a special Pão de Queijo freezer! For those who haven't tried them, they are the number one street snack in Brazil, which I sometimes make at home (recipe to follow soon). They can be fiddly to make, so having them frozen and freshly baked at home is the next best thing.

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!

Empório São Paulo on Urbanspoon


  1. Oooh are those the cheese balls with guava? I am STILL dreaming about the ones your sister made...

  2. The browies look fantastic. Are those chunks of white chocolate on top?

  3. Do they do coxinha com catupiry? That has to be my favourite Brazilian snack!

  4. As you know, I'm on a Brazilian vibe at the mo, and this place looks the business. The added bonus is that its also near to me! A good find!

  5. What a find. Those cheese breads look delicious. I'm quite unfamiliar with Brazilian food, so will have to check it out.

  6. I adore pao de queijo and coxinhas too and really do have to keep an eye open for this place the next time I'm in the area!

  7. Looks great Luiz - I am inspired after my trip to Brazil!

  8. OMG those cheese breads... And if YOU say the feijoada is good it must be orgasmic :o) Thrilled that you loved the place as it is owned by a friend of a friend of mine :) We should make a date to go together - you, me, N and G!

  9. nice place ! just one thing feijoada was invented by the Portuguese...

  10. I guess feijoada was invented by african slaves

  11. This place has closed down!

  12. This place has closed down, I have been there...


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