Faint-hearted vegetarians stay at home as Wychelm goes carnivore crazy, caveman style
By Katie Garner
This month saw the official re-opening of the Wychelm social calendar, with your over-excitable and over organised captain kicking off the club’s schedule of monthly entertainment and banter. For the first shenanigans of 2014, I decided to book a table at Romford’s local Brazilian BBQ joint, Braza – situated near The Brewery – for a slap up lunch at 1.30pm. Despite booking a table for 11 confirmed people, this dwindled down to seven come the afternoon due to people dropping like flies – not impressed folks, that is not the Wychelm way!
If you haven’t been to Braza, then it is definitely a place to check out, and it is ideal for large groups of people. Taking its culinary influences and inspiration from European immigrants in 1800 Brazil, Braza offers traditional skewered and grilled meats or large spit roasted joints that cook over a crackling wood burning fire right next to the bar in the main restaurant. The meats range from succulent rump steak, gammon and lamb, to chunks of thick, spiced sausage, pork belly, chicken thighs or chicken wrapped in flavoursome bacon.
Once you are seated at your table, the Braza experience is explained to you by one of the waiting staff. Each diner is given a small card, with a green ‘yes’ side and a red ‘no’ side. The general idea is that instead of choosing just one meat from a classic menu, the servers instead appear at your table, holding a long silver skewer that is spearing a form of meat. If your card is on the ‘yes’ side, they will then expertly carve slivers of the tender and juicy meat directly on to your plate. They will constantly appear at your table at regular intervals, each time wielding a brand new skewer, complete with a different barbequed meat. This way, you get a rotation of lots of different types of meat, each packed full of smoky, natural meat tastes. The meat is fantastic quality, the steak medium rare, the texture tender and melt in the mouth. If anything, these guys know their meat as this style of cooking was developed by cattle ranchers called gauchos.
Although the meat is undoubtedly the star of the show, it is by no means the main attraction. Before you even get the meat, you firstly have to fetch yourself a plate over by the buffet section. There are two main tables of buffet, one serving hot dishes, the other presenting the cold dishes, which mainly included lettuce and salad vegetables, pasta salads and plenty of oily dressings. The hot buffet showed off plenty of rice dishes as well as potatoes cooked in different ways such as roasted new potatoes or dauphinoise style. I really enjoyed the broccoli, carrot and artichoke combo served in a delicious creamy white sauce that was very tasty mixed with my rice. I also made sure to snaffle some of the cheesy bread bites, some cubes of lamb tagine and a small slice of lasagne to have with my mountain of veggies – my excuse was that I was having my dinner at lunch time! Roasted aubergines and tomatoes sat next to large breaded mushrooms, but there were also chips for those who prefer the safe option. Once you have piled your plate with the fantastically coloured array of munchies on display at the buffet, you head back to your table to await the arrival of the first pieces of meat. The server arrives, establishes that your place card is green for go, and he then goes around the table, delivering segments of meat on to each person’s plate.
Whilst chowing down on the delicious food, it was great to have a catch up with the members who did bother to turn up. Waiting for news of a hip replacement op, it was lovely to see new grandad and postie John T, who has unfortunately had to miss out on his badminton due to injury. For new member Caroline, this was her first Wychelm social, and I hope the first of many. Nick L was nervously regaling us with tales of his triathlon training, for which he has our full and undying support and admiration. The Lewis’ were also in attendance, with Janet getting a haircut especially for the occasion, and mental nurse Joel also joined the luncheon.
If cocktails are your scene, then Braza also do a rather fetching selection, with my fave Tequila Sunrise a reasonable £6.99. Most of the men folk went for traditional beer like options, as well as Welsh bird Janet, whilst Caroline went all elegant with a white wine spritzer. For me, no meal is fully complete without dessert, so we added on to our £12.99 per person buffet costs by indulging in a dessert and coffee course. Caroline and Joel both opted for the chocolate mousse, while Nick and I went halves on the crème caramel and chocolate pudding – it’s great to share! John treated himself to a white coffee and David a latte, while Janet went for the straight caffeine hit with a black coffee.
A thoroughly enjoyable lunch, I had a really great time. I always love doing the socials as it always reinforces to me how well we all get on off court as well as on it, actually giving us the chance to chat and natter with people we don’t always see on a Monday. Wonderful food, exotic drinks and fabulous company – what a way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Thanks to everyone who came along!
The March club social is currently fully booked and I have one space left for April’s social. Please speak to me if you are interested or have any ideas, although I warn you, I have enough ideas to see us through to the autumn at least!