Menuwatch: Sao Paulo Bistro, Manchester

25 January 2023 by
Menuwatch: Sao Paulo Bistro, Manchester

Caroline Martins has brought her brand of homely Brazilian sharing plates to Manchester, picking up a few local flavours along the way. Louise Rhind-Tutt pays a visit

Caroline Martins spent more than a decade working as a plasma physicist in Brazil before pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a professional chef. "In my twenties I was busy with a career in academia, but I couldn't wait to get home to cook," she says. "It was a way of being creative after spending my days focused on logic."

Developing her creativity in the kitchen led to MasterChef Brazil, setting the wheels in motion for Martins' new career, which began at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school followed by a stint at two-Michelin-starred Trenkerstube at Hotel Castel in Italy. The budding chef then moved to the UK, where she worked at two-Michelin-starred Kitchen Table and one-Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle, before launching the Sao Paulo Project, her own British-Brazilian fusion concept with a 10-month residency in Ancoats, Manchester.

In late 2022, after appearing on the BBC's Great British Menu, representing the north-west, Martins launched the Sao Paulo Bistro at Exhibition, a new dining space housing three restaurants in the Grade II-listed St George's House in Manchester. The menu is a more relaxed spin on her Ancoats pop-up, celebrating Brazilian cuisine with a focus on local suppliers and producers through sharing plates.

The menu starts with snacks and canapés, including crisp Brazilian beef croquettes, created with dough made from mashed potato, which are "very Brazilian, a little savoury treat we often eat at parties", says Martins. Coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden, they're served with a biquinho pepper mayonnaise, flavoured with the "aromatic and fruity" Brazilian pepper.

The salmon for a smoked salmon mousse canapé is from the local Manchester Smoke House. "The white part is a Brazilian cream cheese called requeijão, and it's topped with Exmoor caviar and cucamelon, which we use a lot in Latin America," says Martins. Chicken liver parfait comes with Brazilian prickly pear gel and edible flowers, while the delicate cheese mousse for another canapé is made with Crofton cheese from Cumbria. Martins says the goats' cheese works because it's not too earthy, and is topped with black walnut purée and Wiltshire truffles.

A Brazilian cheesy bread – pão de queijo – is made with cassava starch, milk and eggs. "It puffs up because of the expansion of the air bubbles created by the cassava starch – and it's gluten-free, too. It's crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I use mature Cheddar to make it and serve it with a caramelised onion butter topped with Maldon salt and crispy onions."

Martins sources her Brazilian ingredients from "the godfather of Brazilian food" in the north, Mais Brasil in Salford, while also supporting local suppliers such as Northern Cure, who supply her charcuterie board.

Hand-dived Orkney scallops ("I sear the scallops then confit them in smoked butter made locally by the Crafty Cheeseman") come with heart of palm and a cassava mousseline, while a celeriac and leek velouté is dotted with little cubes of coalho, a Brazilian vegetarian cheese.

The Sao Paulo steak sandwich with cassava crisps and guava ketchup is Martins' bestselling dish. The sirloins are from WH Frost Butchers in Chorlton, where they're dry-aged for 45 days in-house. "I barbecue them to medium rare, and they're served on ciabatta with earthy, salty Garstang Blue cheese sauce," says Martins. "I wanted to give a Brazilian twist to the sort of British steak sandwich you might have in the pub for lunch."

An elegant dessert is a mousse made using Dormouse chocolate, another Manchester supplier, with basil-infused custard, coconut yogurt, salted caramel sauce, coconut candy, meringues, marshmallows and coconut granola "Dormouse imports the cocoa beans from Brazil and grind them and make the chocolate themselves. I really wanted to do something with Brazilian chocolate, but I also wanted to link it to Manchester," she says.

Martins' dream is to launch her own restaurant "with a fine dining tasting menu, something smaller with just a few tables", she says. "But we also want to keep the Sao Paulo Bistro going, and perhaps expand it across other cities. It's all about simple, delicious food. You can travel all over Brazil without leaving your chair."

From the menu

Canapés (selection of three) £8.50

  • Whipped Crofton cheese, passion fruit and black walnut purée, black truffle

  • Chicken liver parfait, Brazilian prickly pear gel, autumn flowers

  • Manchester smoked salmon pâté, Brazilian cream cheese (requeijão) Exmoore caviar

  • Northern Cure charcuterie plate £7.50

  • Baked Garstang white cheese, baguette toasts, guava jam, mixed nuts, grapes £13.50

  • Sao Paolo steak sandwich, Garstang Blue sauce, horseradish emulsion, watercress, cassava crisps and guava ketchup £12.50

Afters

  • Liquid nitrogen Dormouse chocolate mousse, meringue, marshmallow, coconut granola, salted caramel sauce, basil custard, coconut yogurt, coconut candy £8.50

Exhibition, St George's House, 56 Peter Street, Manchester M2 3NQ

www.exhibitionmcr.co.uk

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