After all the buzzing of the Olympic Games in Rio, most of us felt a bit more curious about Brazilian culture and the carioca way of life. Rio de Janeiro is indeed a city of contrasts. It’s not just reflected in the people but also in its food.
A combination of indigenous, African and Portuguese culinary makes our food so popular.
Nothing can describe better a carioca way of life than chatting outside a bar/restaurant/boteco with friends and family, having a beer and some bites that we call “comida de boteco” but you may also translate as “street food”.
Luckily, we can also have this unique experience in London. Carioca is an authentic Brazilian restaurant located in the heart of Brixton that presents the best of our popular dishes. I’ve been there and done that. And the food is fabulous!
So I had a nice chat with Maurílio Gonçalves, the owner of Carioca, to know more about this successful business.
Midlands Traveller: To start with, I’d to know a bit more about your career background. Maurílio Gonçalves: I started my first restaurant in Brixton about eight years ago. It was called Brazas. We made a big success of it, our customers loved what we did and that’s where I taught myself the art of baking and desserts. It was also a big learning experience for us.
MT: How and when did you come up with the idea for your business?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Carioca was born after our first restaurant idea for Brixton market; Prima Donna. We wanted to serve the best Brazilian food in London and had this obsession that Carmen Miranda was part of the whole Brazilian glamour, fun and chic we wanted to portray.
Unfortunately, the name Prima Donna that we used to refer to Carmen was misleading for the passing customers. Eventually, after much thought, we chose Carioca because when people think of Brazil, many of the things that come to mind are landmarks or places from Rio. And so is Carmen.
MT: Why did you choose Brixton?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Brixton chose us eight years ago. We had been offered the opportunity to set up Brazas and so we left North London for South the river. And now it is the spiritual home of Carioca.
MT: And why Brazilian street food from Rio de Janeiro?
Maurílio Gonçalves: I had met so many Brazilians in the last seven years that I become fascinated with the culture, the people, and the food of course.
Lucinea, my head chef, first worked with me at Brazas and together we decided to show London what true Brazilian food was all about when we set up in Market Row but with a modern twist to suit our Brixton clientele.
MT: What does inspire your food?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Brazilian culture, good ingredients and combining interesting flavours. We like to think of ourselves as a restaurant that represents not only traditional Brazilian cuisine but also the modern adventurous eater.
We respond to customers’ needs and their interests in food.
MT: What is your kind of clientele?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Brixton itself is a very cosmopolitan area but it also attracts many types of people, be it tourists, local regulars, or people that simply are in Brixton for a concert or want to try out something new in the now-famous Market Row and Brixton Market.
MT: What do you think of having a business in the iconic Brixton’s Market Row?
Maurílio Gonçalves: We love being in Brixton. It is such a vibrant neighbourhood and we have become friends with many regulars over the years.
MT: What is your favourite Brazilian dish and why?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Moqueca de peixe. I had this in Bahia two years ago. I simply love the spices, the flavours and the smell of this dish. It was the best thing I had in a long time. We’ve had it on our winter menu before…. roll on winter again.
MT: What are the secrets to keeping the customers coming in?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Good food, and friendly customer service. Always greet people with a smile. And I make a mean Caipirinha!
MT: What advice do you have for people starting out in the restaurant industry?
Maurílio Gonçalves: You’ve got to love food, and customer service. Be prepared to work hard and always listen to what customers have to say.
MT: What do you like most about your job? And what is most rewarding about it?
Maurílio Gonçalves: Chatting to customers. I enjoy chatting to my customers, hearing their stories and ensuring they always have a great time.
MT: What are the plans and future projects for Carioca Brixton?
Maurílio Gonçalves: To get people to try our food. There is more to Brazilian food than churrasco and Carioca it’s certainly proof of that. We are actually very excited to be opening a second Carioca at Croydon Boxpark at the beginning of October and hope more people become passionate about our take on Brazilian Street food.
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