Char & Co
Double Bay's brand new home of Brazilian churrasco and serious meat sweats. You'd better come hungry.
The Brazilians call it churrasco, but here it's just an old-fashioned meat-eating contest; a chance to earn the respect and admiration of your peers, and a whole bunch of strangers.
As you would expect from a Double Bay venue, Char & Co has a sleek, obviously expensive fitout; with beige leather banquettes, a Portuguese-style tiled bar and a lush vertical garden. On your table, you'll find your weaponry laid out at the ready: a pair of tongs and an epic serrated steak sword. If you're not really, truly hungry — do yourself a favour and come back another, more ravenous day.
Skip the beer and wine from the drinks menu, Brazil is cocktail country. Choose between a caipirinha ($17), a muddle of lime, mint and cachaça (sugarcane spirit), or a caipiroska ($17) made with vodka, lime and sugar. With the abundance of tropical fruits in Brazil, they like to mix it up, so go with the peach and grape caipiroska ($17) or better yet, the sweet and fiery chilli, basil and passionfruit ($17) version.
The churrasco ($55) experience starts with a selection of side dishes which are laid before you. There are little bowls of crisp, fluffy polenta fingers, cassava chips, cheese bread, crumbed banana fritters, potato salad, coleslaw, rocket and parmesan salad and feijoada — a traditional black bean stew. Before you tuck in, hold up. Any Brazilian knows this is a mere distraction from the prize. The kitchen is testing you. As tempting as it may seem, don't make a rookie error; wait for the premium cuts like a pro.
The menu is designed by Brazilian-born chef and restaurateur Bruno da Motta (of Crows Nest's BahBQ). Motta takes an array of different animals, rubs them in dry herbs and grills them over fragrant ironbark wood — a style of cooking developed in Southern Brazil by gauchos, the early South American cowboys. Passadores, the adorable, checked shirt-wearing meat-waiters then bring the charred skewers to your table and carve slices directly to your plate. We start with thick juicy sausages, then chicken hearts, pork neck, prawns, chorizo, glazed chicken thighs, sirloin, and rump cap — that looks straight-up amazing, I'll have two. Now breathe. Then there's haloumi, chicken wings, beef ribs, scotch fillet and pork belly. Just when you think it's over, the rotation starts again.
After we start rejecting the meat (and let me assure you, we gave it a damn good run), the crew bring over a cinnamon pineapple, which has earned a caramelised crust for its time under the flame. We have a few slices; I'm not exactly sure how many as my vision is starting blur. Then the waiter delivers the dessert menu. You have got to be kidding me. If there was any room left we would have found a piece of meat to fit. The only reason to have dessert at this point is to prove that you can, and it's with regret we turn down churros ($15) with warm callebaut chocolate and dulce de leche, and an ever-so tempting chocolate tart ($15) with poached guava, acai coulis and vanilla bean ice-cream.
At home, we pass a sleepless night digesting, haunted by the thought that maybe we could have eaten just a little bit more.